Powerful antioxidant curcumin, and its source plant turmeric, are fast becoming highly desired by healthy cooks and supplement buyers alike. It’s not surprising, as the evidence behind the health benefits of these ingredients keeps growing. Long known to health practitioners in South Asia, it’s time to better understand what curcumin offers and how best to source it.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the flowering plant turmeric, a member of the ginger family and best known for its bright orange roots. Commonly used in Asian cooking, it has been used for centuries in health treatment in other countries, especially in ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric can easily be added to many dishes, such as omelettes, soups and, of course, curries. It’s also what makes mustard yellow. But in raw form, you have to eat a lot, regularly, to get the benefits, because the percentage of curcumin is quite low. It is also difficult for the body to absorb, so other ingredients, such as black pepper, are ideally required. Plus watch out for yellow fingers!
The health benefits of curcumin are extensive, covering a range of everyday bodily functions and proven support for several chronic conditions. For people living with arthritis specifically, the evidence is becoming stronger and stronger, so it is well worth considering adding it to your diet.
In 2016, an extensive systematic review (which means reading lots and lots of research papers) of randomised controlled trials reviewed the efficacy of turmeric and curcumin in treating arthritis symptoms. In this robust examination, the researchers found, “scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of turmeric extract in the treatment of arthritis.” The study found that in several studies curcumin/turmeric was at least as effective as pain medication. Other studies showed osteoarthritis index scores reduce significantly with curcumin/turmeric treatment.