What do mustard, butter, cheese, and curry all have in common? An amazing South Asian spice called turmeric. Though it is most commonly used as a coloring agent, this trendy new spice also has tons of health benefits. Curcumin, the yellowish orange pigment that is responsible for the spice's vibrant color, is the medicinal agent that also gives tumeric its pharmaceutical edge. Here are five reasons to incorporate this ancient herb into your healthier lifestyle.
1. It makes a great anti-inflamatory.
Trade in your Advil for a turmeric root? Sounds bizarre, but if you're looking for a natural pain reliever, this ancient golden spice is prized for its anti-inflamatory properties. Just one teaspoon chased with a glass of warm water could help nurse your headache or decrease muscle pain—all without the extra toxicity that comes along with over-the-counter prescriptions.
2. It aid in digestion and ease heartburn.
Curcumin's healing properties date back centuries. Applying the spice to exposed wounds was a common way to help relieve pain on contact. Similarly, when swallowed, not only does turmeric help calm heartburn and help with digestion, it also works to heal the lining of the stomach and intestines that may be damaged because of constant distress. Admittedly, turmeric isn't the most appetizing of herbs if taken alone, so there are pills available to make consumption more bearable.
3. It helps regulate cholesterol.
Too much cholesterol causes a fat build up on artery walls, putting you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the United States. The best way to lower your cholesterol is through diet and exercise, but turmeric can help tame rising levels and prevent further damage. A study shows that curcumin helps your liver metabolize cholesterol at a faster rate and also helps prevent it from accumulating on your arterial walls.
4. It eases symptoms of depression.
Managing depression without prescription meds is tricky. As effective as pharmaceuticals can be, they come with a range of side effects that aren't everybody's cup of tea. Not to mention that over time, several medications tend to wear off, leaving you back at square one. A 2013 human trial concluded that curcumin's effectiveness in battling depression is, in fact, similar to that of prescription anti-depressants. By increasing the release of dopamine and serotonin—otherwise known as "feel good" neurotransmitters—concentrated doses of curcumin can help battle depression naturally.
5. It helps improve your skin.
When it comes to skincare, turmeric may as well be the fountain of youth. The amazing spice can help you dry out pimples, reverse and prolong signs of aging and protect your skin against harmful UV radiation. Ingesting it will help, but you will reap more benefits by actually applying it onto your skin. Simply mix two tablespoons of turmeric with one tablespoon of coconut or olive oil and rub it onto any part of your body for up to 10 minutes. You can also purchase turmeric-based masks, if that's more your speed. Either way, incorporating turmeric into your skincare routine is a great way to have radiant, healthy skin, all year round.