A few years ago while working through a running injury a friend told me about turmeric. My injury involved inflammation and they told me that turmeric had anti-inflammatory properties.
I had been dealing with my injury with ibuprofen, ice and compression. It’s not good to take the maximum daily dose of ibuprofen for weeks on end, so I decided to check out their suggestion.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family that produces the signature yellow turmeric spice. It has been used in Asia for thousands of years. It was first used as a dye, and later for its medicinal properties. Turmeric curcumin has been used for over 4,000 years and has recently gained popularity in The West for its natural health properties. 1
The product my friend recommended as a good source of turmeric was Tumeric – elixir of life. It was available in 12 and 32 oz bottles at Wholefoods.
I don’t think that Tumeric – elixir of life is still on the market. It didn’t show up in a Google search but lots of articles on and reviews of turmeric curcumin supplements did.
The substance in turmeric that gives it it’s healthful qualities is curcumin.
Curcumin is a polyphenol found in turmeric which provides the color and healthy properties of turmeric.
Polyphenols are antioxidants found in many foods. Antioxidants help fight free radicals which are chemicals that have the potential to cause damage to cells and tissues in the body.
Free Radicals are the natural byproducts of chemical processes, such as metabolism. Free Radicals can also be created by exposure to substances in our environment including the food we eat.
Free radicals and exercise
According to an article in Biochemical Society Transactions, intense aerobic exercise can induce oxidative stress. Burning fuel in high-intensity cardio exercise causes chemical reactions that make free radicals form at a faster rate. This isn’t an excuse to skip the gym, however. According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, frequent exercise training seems to reduce the oxidative stress initially brought on by exercise. This is because regular physical exercise enhances antioxidant defenses.
Spurred by the concern that intense exercise could cause oxidative stress, several studies were conducted to look at the effects of antioxidant supplementation for athletes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article said that supplementing high intensity exercise with antioxidant supplements produced no beneficial effects, however. Regular exercise alone was enough to build up antioxidant defenses against the initial exercise-induced oxidative stress. 2
While curcumin may not reduce free radicals while exercising, it is still beneficial in recovery.
A 2007 book The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease reviewed 1500 papers published over the past 50 years. Some of these articles discussed the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin among other pharmacological applications. 3
So there is scientific research showing the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric curcumin. From my personal experience I feel that this natural product does work.
A 2011 Huffington Post article on turmeric by Dr. Andrew Weil discusses the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin. Dr. Weil advocates eating turmeric in your diet over concentrated supplements. However he also states “On the other hand, curcumin appears to have a more rapid and dramatic effect, and may be the better choice as a therapeutic (rather than a preventative) preparation.”
Like all substances some people experience side effects at various doses. This WebMD article discusses the benefits, side effects and possible drug interactions. Turmeric is generally safe but you should read the article if you have any health conditions and plan to take large doses over a prolonged period of time.
Health on Sale
When I originally wrote this article in March of 2014 Wholefoods sold Tumeric – elixir of life. 32 oz bottles sold for $11.99 and were on sale for $8.99, so Health on Sale seemed appropriate and catchy.
I bought three bottles, Turmeric Pineapple, Coconut Nectar and Japanese Matcha . In the parking lot I popped open the Pineapple and hauled down what I estimated to be 12 oz of juice. I kind of felt like a wino who can’t wait to get out of the parking lot before getting his fix.
Similar to Dr. Weil, I’m an advocate of using food as medicine. Why take vitamin C when you can eat a delicious orange? Vitamins and minerals in their natural form are more likely to have all of the other nutrients that our bodies need to properly absorb them. The chemistry of nutrition is complex and our bodies evolved to extract what we need from food.
I’m also an advocate of keeping things simple and natural if possible. I believe getting nutrition from food is the way to eat properly. I’m not sure I’d want to eat turmeric in its natural state and apparently our ancestors felt it was best ground up in a curry sauce.
Happy Happy Vegan has a great post on turmeric and curcumin. The article has great information on ways to consume turmeric and curcumin, how to buy, prepare and store turmeric.
And going back to my preference to consume nutrients naturally, they list several recipes to help you enjoy great food and increase your consumption of turmeric.
In addition to buying ground turmeric or whole rhizomes, there are many supplements on the market. While it’s difficult to determine the potency of fresh turmeric, supplements list their potency on the bottle. But there is more to it than just numbers.
This 2019 Smart Review article discusses what you need to look for when considering turmeric supplements. If you are interested in supplements and more information on turmeric curcumin, this article and the Happy Happy Vegan blog post will be helpful for you.
Run well my friends!
1 – https://smarter-reviews.com/article/sr-history-of-turmeric
2 – https://www.livescience.com/54901-free-radicals.html
3 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321619953_The_Molecular_Targets_and_Therapeutic_Uses_of_Curcumin_in_Health_and_Disease
4 – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/turmeric-health-have-a-happy-new-year_b_798328.html
5 – https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-662/turmeric
6 – https://happyhappyvegan.com/turmeric-curcumin/
7 – https://smarter-reviews.com/lp/sr-turmeric?tr=Axm1a&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxJSM6LrS4AIV0-DICh2GsQLXEAAYASAAEgJqF_D_BwE