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It seems like every few months a new product is thrust onto consumers and labeled the latest and greatest in the world of modern healthcare. In the past few months, the spice “turmeric” has garnered a lot of attention for it’s ability to fight a long list of common ailments. Today, we’re going to break down this plant and explain what the true benefits are…and are not.

Turmeric is a plant related to ginger and found primarily throughout India, South Asia and Central America. Introduced to Europe around the 13th century, the spice has been used primarily in South Asia and India as an herbal medicine for conditions including breathing problems, rheumatism, pain and fatigue. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, is said to offer protection against certain cancers, treat arthritis, benefit those with inflammatory bowel disease, reduce blood sugar, and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. We will go into a little more detail to help discern the uses that are beneficial to those looking for a health kick.

Taken orally, turmeric has been shown to treat symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, including pain and inflammation, which play an important role in overall daily functionality. In doing so, it also helps to reduce the reliance on over-the-counter NSAID’s, as well as other pain medications often prescribed in cases of OA. At this time, more research is needed in it’s role of decreasing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Preliminary studies suggest ingesting turmeric may help stabilize or even prevent colorectal cancer, but more studies need to be performed before definitive results can be published.

Curcumin has been shown to support healthy brain cells and optimize overall cognitive function. Studies of Indian populations, whose diet is high in turmeric, show that Alzheimer’s disease are very low in these groups. Again, more studies are needed to confirm or disprove the effectiveness, but research studies have shown that ingesting curcumin slows or blocks the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice.

While turmeric supports cardiovascular health and helps to balance cholesterol levels, curcumin also optimizes function of the liver, which is the body’s primary organ of detoxification. For this reason anyone with liver disease should contact their physician before starting any regimen of supplementation due to possible adverse reactions. Due to it’s ability to lower blood sugar levels, diabetics should also contact their physician before taking turmeric.

When buying turmeric, look for products standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids. For cooking, choose brightly colored and aromatic turmeric powder. As for doseage, adults can take 400 to 600 mg of turmeric extract three times per day or as directed on the product label. The dried spice is not effective for treating specific conditions but is good for general health. Since turmeric taken orally is not well digested, it is recommended that the supplement you choose be combined with either black pepper extract or piperine.

Finding the right supplement for natural health support can be confusing at times, but taking your time and doing proper research, as well as talking with your physician, should be a priority before making any decisions regarding your health.