What Is It?
Turmeric is the Southeast Asian plant (a member of the ginger family) that gives curry its distinctive flavor and color. It’s been used in traditional medicine for some 4,000 years to treat ailments like arthritis and digestive distress. It contains an antioxidant chemical called curcumin, which often gets the credit for turmeric’s medicinal qualities.
Use It For
Reducing chronic inflammation (a factor in many diseases, including arthritis, strokes, heart disease and diabetes), easing digestive upset, and support in preventing and treating some cancers. Topical turmeric treatments can reduce symptoms of skin inflammation caused by acne, eczema and burns.
Turmeric can claim millenia worth of anecdotal evidence as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. In modern science, those claims have held up well in animal, test-tube and small-scale human studies, but larger clinical studies are lacking. One possible concern: Though turmeric itself is powerful, the human body may not be able to absorb it well enough to make it effective as a medicine. On the other hand, research shows almost no negative side effects of moderate consumption, so it likely won’t hurt to use turmeric while you’re waiting for the science to catch up (after checking with your doctor, of course).
How To Take It
As a spice, turmeric is nutritious but likely doesn’t provide high enough doses to achieve medicinal benefits. As a supplement, turmeric comes in powder, extract and tincture form; follow label doses. Topical turmeric creams are also available for inflammatory skin conditions.