Turmeric, a perennial relative of ginger, is one of the most abundant herbs that we grow at Gingerhill. The long, tender leaves of turmeric, or as the native Hawaiians would say, Olena, decorate our lush gardens and orchards, rendering us one of the most picturesque Hawaii bungalow resorts. But this medicinal plant offers benefits far more significant than its aesthetic effect. Turmeric outperforms several prescription medications in treating a wide variety of illnesses and can be used both topically and internally.
Below we discuss some of Turmeric’s many uses and benefits. If you are interested in reaping these benefits for yourself, please place an order online or stop by the farmer’s market at our Hawaii bungalow resorts on the first Thursday of the month.
Turmeric and Inflammation
The most prominent compound in Turmeric, curcumin, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Not all inflammation is bad. In fact, inflammation indicates that your immune system is working the way it should, releasing white blood cells to heal injury or infection. Without inflammation, many of us would have died in infancy from exposure to viruses and bacteria. However, stress, poor diet, overuse of stimulants, and other bad habits cause chronic inflammation—the root cause of almost all disease. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic disorders all are among the many long-term repercussions of chronic inflammation.
Consuming curcumin in the form of turmeric treats chronic inflammation, thereby preventing and even healing several chronic illnesses. Curcumin operates at the cellular level to circumvent inflammatory reactions. NF-kB, a molecule capable of entering the nuclei and affecting the genetic makeup of a cell, can activate inflammation genes. Curcumin prevents NF-kB from entering our cells, pre-empting any inflammatory reactions.
In fact, turmeric is even more effective than most conventional prescription drugs in treating inflammatory conditions. Studies have found that curcumin is as effective as Prozac in treating major depressive disorder, and it’s even more effective than ibuprofen in treating pain. Turmeric also has anticoagulant properties. In high concentrations, curcumin can even replace some cholesterol drugs and steroids. (Of course, always speak with your doctor before stopping a medication.) Perhaps most significantly, consuming turmeric has zero side effects, unlike prescription drugs like Prozac that can cause sexual dysfunction, cognitive difficulties, and digestive complaints.
Turmeric and Free Radicals
Free radicals are molecules that are not paired with electrons and therefore incredibly volatile. These free radicals interact with, and negatively impact, the fatty acids, DNA, and proteins in our bodies, resulting in oxidative damage. Oxidative damage, in turn, instigates a cascade of hormonal, immune, and metabolic processes that result in aging and disease.
Curcumin is only one of the several antioxidants, called “curcuminoids,” that turmeric contains. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing oxidative damage. However, curcumin also supports the enzymatic activity of the body’s own antioxidants, providing dual defense against the negative effects of oxidation.
Because curcumin defends against the negative effects of free radicals, consuming turmeric may aid in preventing and even treating cancer. In high concentrations, curcumin has proven capable of reducing metastasis, or the spreading of cancer cells, and angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
Ingesting turmeric is an excellent way to combat internal inflammation. It can also be a great remedy for external inflammatory conditions, like acne and wounds.
At Gingerhill, we frequently use turmeric topically. In fact, one of our piglets recently suffered a large, potentially fatal wound on the side of its body. With proper bandaging and regular application of turmeric, the wound healed at an astonishingly rapid pace. We were able to save the piglet’s life without any expensive trips to the vet. Frankie is still around to delight children and families at our Hawaii bungalow resorts.
Turmeric and Your Brain
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF, is a hormone responsible for facilitating the growth of new neurons and solidifying synaptic connections in the brain. Low levels of BDNF can cause Depression, Alzheimer’s, and age-related cognitive degeneration.
Curcumin boosts BDNF production, protecting against cognitive decline and mood disorders. The benefits extend to young and healthy individuals as well, as higher levels of BDNF strengthen memory and sharpen cognition. Consuming turmeric could therefore boost your performance at work and help you complete tasks more efficiently.
Turmeric originated in India and Southeast Asia; it is therefore the cornerstone of Indian cuisine. Indeed, the primary ingredient in curry is turmeric, which is what gives it its yellow-orange hue. One of the most delicious ways to use turmeric is in Indian dishes. Unlike other Hawaii bungalow resorts, we offer exotic Ayurvedic cuisine, which is often inspired by Indian culinary tradition.
Another delicious and increasingly trendy way to enjoy turmeric is by making “Golden milk.” Golden milk is a spicy drink made with either a dairy or plant milk base. This decadent and immune-boosting drink gets its vibrant gold color from turmeric, but it also contains ginger, cayenne, and black pepper, lending a little spice to its soothing, anti-inflammatory goodness. Golden milk is great for warding of colds or winding down before bed. You can also add a little honey or maple syrup for a delicious, dessert-like flavor. Cafes near our Hawaii bungalow resorts have begun to offer Golden milk lattes in recent months.
It is important to consume turmeric properly to ensure that its beneficial compounds are available to the body. Piperine, a component of black pepper, actually enhances the absorption of curcumin, boosting the anti-inflammatory capacity of turmeric. If you are using diced or powdered turmeric, be sure to pair it with ground black peppercorns to ensure you are reaping the greatest benefit from your food.