Turmeric: understand everything in 2 min
Active ingredients and properties
|Absorption of curcumin
At the time of ingestion of turmeric, only a small proportion of curcumin is absorbed into the body 30 . On the other hand, the simultaneous consumption of pepper greatly increases the bioavailability of curcumin 31 . Thus, adding pepper to a meal containing turmeric is a simple way to increase the therapeutic potential of curcumin.
Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 1 . In one study, turmeric ranks fifth in terms of its antioxidant content among more than 1,000 foods analyzed 2 (calculated from 100 g of food). As a usual portion of turmeric is rather around 2 g (5 ml), it still contributes less than other foods to our daily intake of antioxidants. Turmeric contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds3 , but it is curcumin which is considered to be its main antioxidant compound.
- Curcumin . Curcumin is a compound in the family of curcuminoids 4 . It has various properties which have mainly been demonstrated by studies carried out in vitro as well as in animals 5 . Among other things, the antioxidant effect of curcumin suggests a protective effect against diseases linked to oxidative stress (such as cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease) 5 . Curcumin also has anti-inflammatory properties and could help prevent cancer at several stages of its development 5. These beneficial effects have not all been studied in humans and the quantities of turmeric necessary to observe them are not always specified.
Cancer . Turmeric occupies an important place in the diet of the populations of India, who consume up to 2 g per day 6 . Although no studies directly demonstrate this, there seems to be a link between the particularly high consumption of turmeric and the low incidence of certain cancers (such as colorectal cancer) in India and other Asian countries 6 . In smokers, a clinical trial has shown that the daily consumption of 1.5 g of turmeric for 30 days reduces the carcinogenic compounds present in the body 7. Other preliminary studies demonstrate a potential anticancer activity of curcumin when consumed in quantities often greater than what could be consumed daily in the form of turmeric 4 , 8 . Several studies in animals and in vitro support this protective effect of curcumin, particularly against gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers 9 , 10 . Even if the mechanisms of action still remain to be elucidated 9 , it is by its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin could exert its anticancer effects 11 . Some authors assume that the consumption of 1 tsp. (5 ml) turmericper day could provide the amount of curcumin necessary to exert a preventive effect against cancer 6 .
Gastrointestinal disturbances . Turmeric is traditionally used to treat various gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammation and stomach ulcers. In this sense, it has been shown that an extract of turmeric inhibits the secretion of gastric acid in animals, which can thus reduce the formation of ulcers 12 . Curcumin does not seem to be responsible for these effects, other studies will have to be done to find out which active ingredients contribute to these effects 12 . In addition, the daily consumption of 3 g of turmeric for 12 weeks resulted in a complete regression of stomach ulcers in 75% of subjects 13. In contrast, this study did not use a control group (placebo) and other animal studies have shown opposite effects 14 . Thus, better controlled clinical studies should be performed before encouraging the consumption of turmeric for the treatment of stomach ulcers.
Cardiovascular system . Some studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of a turmeric extract in preventing the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) 15 as well as in lowering total cholesterol in animals 15 , 16 . It is increasingly clear that curcumin and its metabolites (obtained during the conversion of curcumin to other compounds in the body) are partly responsible for these effects 15 , 17,18. These results suggest that turmeric may prevent the development of atherosclerosis and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but more studies in humans are needed 15 .
Alzheimer’s disease . Epidemiological studies have shown that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is lower in some populations in India compared to other countries 19 , 20 . One of the reasons cited to explain this observation was the higher consumption of turmeric in India, but this explanation is still not supported by scientific data. The consumption of curcumin has been shown in animals to improve cognitive deficits linked to Alzheimer’s disease, by mechanisms that are still little known 21 , 22 . Probably the different properties of curcumin (such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering properties) could be associated with this effect 23 . A study is underway in subjects suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in order to evaluate the effectiveness of curcumin for slowing down this disease 23 .
Other effects . Turmeric is traditionally used to protect the liver from various attacks 24 . Some studies have shown a hepatoprotective effect of turmeric in vitro and in animals, but no data in humans is currently available 25 . In addition, turmeric extracts have demonstrated antimicrobial properties against a variety of pathogenic bacteria, parasites and fungi, in vitro and in animals 24 , 26 .
|Is turmeric antioxidant?||Highly : the TAC index of turmeric is 1,593 umol.|
|Is turmeric acidifying?||No data available|
|Does turmeric have a high glycemic load?||No data available|
Most important nutrients
See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols
Iron . Ground turmeric is a source of iron. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in plant foods (such as turmeric) is less absorbed by the body than the iron contained in animal foods. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
Manganese . Ground turmeric is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .
|What is a “portion” of turmeric worth?|
|Weight / volume||Ground turmeric 2 g (5 ml)|
|Dietary fiber||0.5 g|
Source : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.
It has been well demonstrated that certain compounds contained in turmeric have an antiplatelet effect in vitro 27 . Thus, even if it has not been evaluated in humans, the consumption of large quantities of turmeric with the taking of blood medicines (such as heparin, coumadin or aspirin) could have an additional anticoagulant effect and increase the risk of bleeding 28,29 . People on anticoagulation therapy are strongly advised to consult a health professional to find out about the possible interactions between their medication and certain spices.
In general, the usual consumption of turmeric does not provide an undesirable effect. On the other hand, the consumption of turmeric in the form of supplements is contraindicated in certain cases (pregnancy, stomach ulcer). On this subject, see the Turmeric sheet (psn).
Turmeric over time
|The term ” turmeric ” comes from the Spanish who himself borrowed it from the Arabic kurkum , which originally designated saffron. It appeared in the French language in 1559.|
|A spice that has merit
In English, turmeric translates to turmeric , a word that derives from the French “terre-mérite”; this is how this plant was once called, probably by allusion to the yellow powder, which recalls mineral pigments.
Turmeric is a spice that has been traded for so long that its center of origin cannot be determined with certainty. But it is thought to come from the south or southeast of Asia, perhaps more specifically from India, from where it would have spread throughout Asia, as well as in the Near and Middle East, thousands of years ago. Its use in India dates back to Vedic times, that is to say 4,000 years or more. It was used in cooking, medicine, as well as in religious ceremonies. The Chinese and the Arabs have also used it for a long time. On the other hand, in the West, apart from its medicinal and dyeing uses, its use has never been very widespread. In medieval Europe, it was practically only the Spanish to appreciate it, perhaps under the influence of the Arabs who occupied their country for several centuries. Today it is more popular, although generally restricted to Indian or Arabic cuisine.
India is the largest producer and consumer of turmeric in the world. China, Bengal, Taiwan, Peru, Java, Australia, the Antilles, Indonesia, the Philippines also cultivate it.
Other species of turmeric are cultivated in Southeast Asia for their young shoots, their leaves, their inflorescence or their rhizome, which are used in cooking or in herbalism.
Turmeric is ideal to accompany your dishes, as for example with this recipe for soup with broccoli and turmeric .
The fresh rhizome is much tastier than the powder, but it is rarely found in the West. Look for Asian grocery stores. Buy the powder only in small quantities, as its aroma dissipates quickly.
Like many spices, turmeric is increasingly irradiated in order to increase its shelf life and limit infestations of insects or diseases during storage. People who object to this process can purchase organic turmeric from health food stores or from the organic section of grocery stores.
- In India, it is used liberally in rice, potatoes, lentils and vegetables, and it is used in almost all curry dishes as well as in chutneys .
- In Reunion, it is used to bind sauces and correct the acidity of certain dishes.
- Nasi kuning (yellow rice): this festive dish from Indonesia is prepared with long grain rice, coconut milk, chicken broth (which can be replaced by vegetable broth), turmeric, lemongrass, cinnamon, cloves, pandanus leaves (sold in Asian grocery stores), salam leaves (a plant of the myrtaceae family, which can be replaced by bay leaves) and rhizome of galangal (fresh or canned in Asian grocery stores). Put all the ingredients in a saucepan or a rice cooker. Remove the leaves before serving. Rice is generally presented in the form of a large cone surrounded by vegetables and meat, fish or seafood.
- It can color various preparations, such as pancake or waffle dough, or cauliflower, which we will first cook for a few minutes in boiling water, then brown with onions. Add a little water, a chopped hot pepper, grated coconut, turmeric, salt, pepper and cook until tender. At the end of cooking, drizzle with lemon juice.
- Or we will color the vinaigrettes and, why not, the ice creams or the sorbets .
- Piccalilli: this marinade created by the English during their occupation of India includes various vegetables (small onions, cucumber, cauliflower, green beans, green tomatoes) which are macerated for 24 hours with salt, then drained. They are then cooked with vinegar, flour, sugar (or honey) and turmeric, then put in jars.
- It will also be used in cucumber marinades , with leaves and dill seeds.
- Moroccan chicken: mix 1 tsp. flour with 1 tsp. cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. Coat chicken pieces with it, then brown for five minutes on each side in a little oil. Dilute 1 tsp. flour in broth, add to chicken with dates and almonds, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
- Indonesian Rendang : this dish based on thin slices of beef is prepared by marinating the meat for 30 minutes in a preparation consisting of soy sauce, onion, garlic, ginger, galangal, turmeric and water. Pass all the ingredients through a blender. Use only half the sauce to marinate the meat. The other half will be mixed with coconut milk and lemongrass, then heated over low heat until reduced by half. Then mix the two preparations and cook for about 50 minutes. Serve over rice.
- It can be seasoned with a soup , a cream or a velouté, for example a cream of zucchini or squash. To give it a little consistency, cook rice there before passing the preparation to the blender, and to give it a little tangy note, add a dash of lemon juice at the end of cooking.
- Pilaf: add to the bulgur pilaf, quinoa, amaranth, wild rice, etc.
Store the powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light. The fresh rhizome will keep for one or two weeks in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag.
You can grow turmeric in pots outdoors during the summer and bring them in when frost threatens.
Although it is a tropical plant, you can grow a few feet of turmeric at home if you start them indoors in January or February and put them in the ground once the risk of frost has been eliminated.
We will plant a piece of fresh rhizome or we will get a plant from a specialized nurseryman.
For container production, use a large flowerpot (at least 30 cm in diameter), filled with very rich potting soil, turmeric being very demanding. Make sure to keep the soil moist without being soggy.
Harvesting takes place nine to ten months after planting. For storage, the rhizome is boiled, then peeled and dried in a dehydrator or an oven set to very low temperature until it has lost about 75% of its volume.
Ecology and environment
Indian researchers have discovered that turmeric powder can inhibit various seed-borne diseases of rice. This plant, renowned for its antioxidant properties, could therefore reduce or even eliminate chemical fungicides and bactericides in rice plantations.