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The History, Health Benefits, Origin and Culinary Uses of Turmeric

Turmeric is a plant that normally grows about three feet tall, and issues grassy-looking leaves with yellow-green flowers. It is most often found in rainy, tropical climates like those found in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It is closely related to the ginger plant, and it even resembles ginger in appearance. About 80% of the total global production of turmeric comes from India, although there are many other countries that grow lesser quantities of the plant, notably Pakistan, the Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, and Central America. In addition to its many culinary uses, it is also often used to create a yellow-colored dye, and it has a number of health benefits that are being researched heavily in modern times.

History and origins of turmeric

Turmeric has been used at least dating back to 4,000 years ago in India. At that time, it was primarily used as a seasoning for foods, but it also had medicinal applications and was used in religious ceremonies as well. Ancient pots have been analyzed after discovery near New Delhi, and these plants contain residue from ginger, garlic, and turmeric, dating all the way back to 2500 BC. It is known that around 500 BC, turmeric became a very significant part of Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient Indian system that promotes natural healing, still in practice today.

In the year 1280 A.D., the famous traveler Marco Polo made mention of turmeric while traveling through China. The great adventurer identified it as 'a kind of vegetable' which had all the properties of saffron including the color and the smell, but could not really be considered true saffron. In medieval Europe, turmeric was often referred to as Indian saffron, and indeed it has often been used as a substitute for saffron right up to modern times.

Turmeric is considered sacred in the Hindu religion and it is also used as a sign of a young woman's readiness to marry and raise a family. In these cases, a string dyed with turmeric, which is known as the mangalsutra, is worn around the neck by a potential bride so as to indicate her availability. Throughout history, turmeric has been used to produce the bright yellow dyes necessary for creating brightly colored Buddhist robes.

Health benefits

There are actually quite a few health benefits which can be obtained by regular usage of turmeric, including all the following:

Reduces inflammation - people who have chronic inflammation can take turmeric to help manage the condition. It has proven very useful for preventing inflammation, as opposed to helping reduce inflammation during an active flare-up.

Improves memory - one clinical trial conducted showed that taking 90 mg of turmeric twice a day for 18 months contributed to improved memory performance in adults who had no previous symptoms of dementia. It is also believed that turmeric may play a significant role in staving off the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Lowers risk of heart disease - since it is known to help reduce inflammation and oxidation, it's very likely that turmeric will also help lower the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that turmeric may be effective at reversing the effects of heart disease when regularly consumed. Studies have also shown that healthy middle-aged adults who regularly took turmeric supplements for at least 12 weeks, maintained lower blood pressure and fewer of the conditions which lead to heart disease.

Fights free radicals - there are a number of antioxidant properties associated with turmeric, and at least one study showed that it helps to neutralize free radicals in your body. Other Studies have shown that turmeric antioxidant properties are capable of stimulating the action of other antioxidants, gaining even more protection.

Reduces pain - Going all the way back to ancient Chinese practices, turmeric has shown that it can be very effective in treating arthritis. Research has shown that turmeric extract can be effective at reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis, and is most effective when used with other treatment approaches.

Helps prevent cancer - some studies have suggested that turmeric may be effective in inhibiting and even preventing cancer growth and development. For instance, one study showed that colorectal cancer lesions were reduced by 40% when the patients regularly took turmeric supplements.

Helps fight depression - people who have depression will also normally have lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and that causes your hippocampus to shrink. Since the hippocampus is associated with learning and memory, it can also cause a person to withdraw and become more depressed. Studies have shown that turmeric is just as effective as Prozac in managing depression symptoms, and that it also helps to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin to regulate mood and other bodily functions.

Culinary uses of turmeric

Turmeric is most often used in tandem with other herbs and spices that impart appealing flavor profiles, for instance ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon. Turmeric can also be coupled with coconut milk so as to create a drink called turmeric latte or golden milk, which is a warm drink very popular in the Middle East, North Africa, and India. Turmeric can also be used to provide some color and flavor to a great many traditional dishes.

All that's necessary to give almost anything a distinctive yellow color is to add 1/4 tsp to the water when cooking something, for example when preparing rice. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric to any mac and cheese side dish to enhance the color and to provide health benefits. Turmeric normally comes in a dried powder form after it has been grated or chopped.

Many countries of the world use it as a spice blend and to create curry powder, which has been around since the 19th century. When cooking with turmeric, it's advisable to coat your pans and your utensils with mineral oil, because it has a tendency to stain any cooking equipment. After using any of these implements, they should be washed out with soap, water, and mineral oil, so as to prevent the yellow stain from adhering to any utensils used.


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