The health benefits of turmeric are numerous, says Dr. Andrew Weil.
Looking for a simple New Year's resolution for health? Add turmeric to your diet.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice, a major ingredient in Indian curries, and the source of American mustard's bright yellow color. Used as both medicine and food for centuries, accumulating evidence suggests that this relative of ginger is a promising preventive agent for a wide range of diseases, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory properties.
The National Institutes of Health lists 24 current studies on the effects of turmeric and its chief active component, curcumin. Such studies raise the question of which is better to take: whole turmeric, generally used as a powdered spice with food; or curcumin, which is usually taken as a supplement? Each has been shown to have health benefits, but unless you have a specific condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, I favor using turmeric (especially in cooking) rather than taking curcumin pills. This reflects my general belief that, until proven otherwise in head to head studies, whole plants are usually a better choice than isolates. 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.
Here's a quick roundup of recent research on both turmeric and curcumin. Read more