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Learning the Benefits of Turmeric Root

27 March 2018 No Comment
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Photo by Hilary Hahn on Unsplash

Turmeric is one of the most talked-about natural medicines in the world. We see numerous studies touting different benefits of turmeric root; we see our friends arguing about the benefits of turmeric root on Facebook; and we see numerous turmeric supplements and products lining the shelves of our favorite health and wellness aisles.

Turmeric is popular among holistic health-conscious folk, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t a controversial topic. Some people argue that turmeric doesn’t do much of anything in the human body, and that all the hoopla surrounding this medicinal plant is nothing more than wishful thinking. So which is it? Is turmeric a panacea or a fraud? It turns out, the reality isn’t as black and white as that question might suggest.

The Benefits of Turmeric Root

Turmeric root has been a foundational tool of Ayurvedic medicine for many hundreds of years. Its luminous orange/yellow color has been used as a dye, and its characteristic flavor make it a central spice in Indian culinary history. Turmeric root can be dried and ground into a powder, with applications for both food and wellness.

Science seems to agree that the active ingredient in turmeric (at least for medical purposes) is curcumin. Curcumin has been isolated and used in numerous studies to try to figure out how much benefit, if any, this chemical might provide to patients.

As is often the case when an ancient medicine is evaluated by modern science, the results have been contentious. Lovers of traditional methods have shouted turmeric’s praise from the rooftops, but advocates of the scientific method have been quick to counter that these claims have not been proven.

This was where the conversation stood until recently. But within the past couple of years, and even in the first weeks of 2018, the scientific search for the benefits of turmeric root appear to have struck gold.

One well-designed study found that turmeric appeared much more effective than placebo to treat certain cognition and memory issues commonly found in older adults. What’s more, drawing from the work of scores of scientists and studies, the National Institute for Health has accepted turmeric as a treatment for more generalized body issues, often related to lifestyle factors and age.

This hasn’t made the argument surrounding turmeric any less contentious, especially as certain studies appear to contradict the positive findings of others. Nonetheless, this author is of the opinion that people who use turmeric should be cautiously optimistic, and that further research is likely to vindicate turmeric’s place in traditional medicine.

No Plant is a Cure-All

As with so many herbs and traditional plant-based medicines, turmeric is hard to study in a laboratory setting, especially within the bodies of living human beings. Every human is different and will respond to medicines in different ways.

What’s more, most herbalists understand that medicinal plants do not do their work overnight, and some may not even show their worth in a few weeks. As the recent linked study on turmeric and older adult memory shows, the benefits of turmeric root may be as yet unanticipated. It’s also possible that many of its effects are better for preventing illness than for repairing it.

Because turmeric has no side effects at normal doses, those who would like to try it would be urged to take it consistently, both as a supplement and as food, for as long as they can. They would also be urged not to look for turmeric’s effects in a vacuum. In Ayurvedic medicine, a single plant is never expected to make all the difference. In harmony with other diet and lifestyle practices, however, the benefits of turmeric root may be felt over the long term.

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