Tumeric, or Curcuma longa, is a plant that has been used as a spice in places like India since time immemorial. Clay pots found near the Indian city of New Delhi were found to contain traces of turmeric dating back from around 2500 BCE, or nearly 4,000 years. The plant itself grows about 3 feet tall and has a rhizome, or underground stem that looks something like ginger, until you cut into it. Compared to ginger’s white flesh, turmeric is pumpkin-orange. The robes of Buddhist monks are often dyed their distinctive color with turmeric.
Turmeric is often used as a spice in both Caribbean and Indian cuisine. It has a pungent flavor that gives curries their unmistakable flavor and color. There are hundreds of recipes where turmeric is the special ingredient.
So far I’ve told you how you can dye your t-shirts to match the robes of Buddhist monks and make very cool golden pancakes. But the real reason you’re reading this is because you want to know how turmeric will help you live longer.
Turmeric contains several compounds known as curcuminoids of which, curcumin, a diarylheptanoid, responsible for turmeric’s unique color, is the one to know about. It is considered a super anti-inflammatory and a powerful anti-oxidant.
Turmeric is rather hard to find in its raw form. It’s not something you generally find in a grocery store or even farmer’s markets. Most people take a supplement. Here is where it gets confusing, and I will tell you that people are passionate on both sides of the argument I am about to explain. Should you buy turmeric supplements or curcumin supplements? I won’t try to answer that definitively but try to give you both sides of the story. Turmeric supplements like New Chapter’s Turmeric Force, are a “whole food” version of turmeric with the belief that it’s better to get all the supplemental value of turmeric rather than isolating only the active ingredient, curcumin. On the other side of the argument are the people who believe that to get enough of the active ingredient you need to focus solely on that, and so curcumin supplements are simply that, isolated curcumin. Personally I’ve switched between the two of them.
I started taking turmeric not so much for what it’s really known for but for one of its other interesting effects, it is a known blood thinner. When I started, I was looking for a healthy replacement for Plavix, a prescription blood thinner. I was having side effects and decided that replacing Plavix was something I really needed to do to improve the quality of my life. Just to be clear, I am not recommending anything, or telling anyone to stop taking prescription medications. I am simply telling you what I did. I am not a doctor, but a really smart guy who wants to live longer than I think I was expected. I first learned about its blood thinning qualities when I read the drug warnings when taking Plavix. Do not take curcumin or turmeric supplements while taking Plavix as it may lead to dangerous bleeding. I said to myself, “I think they are saying it’s an effective blood thinner.” And that’s where my research began.
Of course, I was concerned about my heart health and after beginning my research on turmeric (and you can assume I am also talking about curcumin here) that it had extraordinary anti-inflammatory properties. Now this got me interested on two fronts. One, I knew that it was inflammation that was part of my underlying arterial problems. I also suffer from osteoarthritis. Yes, by the time you’re done reading all my articles you won’t need to hack my medical records, it will all be in the articles. Of course I also knew by then that part of the problem was the oxidation of LDL cholesterol forming plaques in my arteries and how do you stop that? Antioxidants. So, for heart health I realized that this packed a triple punch. It solved my blood thinning problems, acted as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.
Heart health was my personal goal when considering turmeric but other people are very passionate about other things it does. There are so many, 580 according to the website greenmedinfo.com. This article is far too short to list them so here is a link to the incredible list of articles about turmeric research. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/turmeric
One of the negatives you will read when you start your own research on turmeric is that it is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. In fact, that alone is what many traditional Western medicine articles use to write-off turmeric as a healing modality. One of the answers is simple and chances are you have it on your kitchen table, pepper. The chemical in pepper called piperazine increases the bioavailability by anywhere from 1000% to 2000%. It’s one of those numbers that seems to get bigger with every article I read. Many supplements include piperazine or black pepper to increase the bioavailability of the turmeric. The method appears to be that the piperazine acts as an irritant that increases the absorption. I’ve read where people with stomach problems might consider the negative effect of piperazine on their digestive systems. I’ve noticed that New Chapter Turmeric Force does not include piperazine. I wrote to them and asked why. They explained to me that, " the full spectrum turmeric has been used for thousands of years and is easily digested and utilized." They also said, "...numerous studies indicate curcumin's activity and bioavailability is significantly enhanced when delivered in the context of the other known curcuminoids and the hundreds of other constituents in the whole plant." So that's the two sides of that story.
Summing it all up
When it comes to health and longevity turmeric is one of those products I always use in addition to many others that will undoubtedly write about in depth. I started using it as a blood thinner and learned that for heart health it’s a winner. It has purported anti-cancer abilities (killer #2) and health benefits for bones and skin. I use it as a spice. Strangely, I tried it on oatmeal with a pat of butter and a bit of salt. Mmmm. I sprinkle it on salads and I take a supplement. You will have to decide whether to take a turmeric or a curcumin supplement. Which ever I take I am sure that I’m doing myself good. Basically, this is one of my go-to supplements that I am never without.
As always, live longer,
- Email from Sarah Fiorillo,Take Care Consumer Specialist, New Chapter, Inc.