Does turmeric have medicinal benefits?

You might know it as ginger’s cousin and that bright yellow powder that is used to make curries. But can turmeric offer us more than just a delicious flavour and beautiful colour? Dietitian Rosalyn D'Angelo gives us the low down.

Like many herbs and spices, turmeric is a great source of vitamins and minerals specifically manganese (an element which helps with bone formation), iron, calcium and like other orangey coloured foods - beta carotene.

Traditional medicine is not my area of expertise, but turmeric has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent.

Can it cure cancer? The Cancer Council of Australia says that the lab studies on cancer cells have found curcumin (an active ingredient in turmeric) slows down their growth. Some animal studies have also shown it to slow the growth and spread of cancers. Clinical trials are underway to find out if it can help humans - but we don’t have enough evidence at the moment to say that it does and certainly not enough evidence to safely justify taking it as a herbal remedy.

The Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation says that there is a growing body of literature that suggests that curcumin, found in the turmeric plant may play a role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid properties. As with the claims about cancer, clinical trials are underway to further explore this theory.

According to the US National Institutes of Health, Clinical Trials Registry, clinical trials are also looking into potential benefits on kidney health, arthritis, heart diseases and diabetes. We don’t have answers at the moment… but watch this space. 

turmeric in a teaspooon

Will any one herb or spice cure or prevent a disease? We may find there could be some truth to some of these claims in the future, but there is no one magic food or ingredient that will guarantee good health. As usual, it’s all about an all-round well balanced healthy lifestyle.

My advice? Experiment with turmeric and other herbs and spices in your cooking. We always tend to reach for the salt shaker to add flavour to our food, but Australians already get way more salt than they need.
There is no salt in herbs and spices but like turmeric they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that we are learning more about every day. As well as any potential health benefits, they add a more complex and exciting flavour to your food.

Add flavour to grilled vegetables, rice, fish, lentils and even scrambled eggs with a sprinkle of turmeric. You could even try a warming hot milk with turmeric and a little honey

Check out some of my other tips on other herbs and spices like rosemary, coriander, basil, garlic and chilli to flavour your food.

Seek your doctor’s advice before taking any herbal remedy. They can cause indirect health risks when they delay or replace a more effective form of medication or when they interact with a medication that is being taken.  

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