From the dinner table to the atmosphere, we ingest pesticides, additives, heavy metals and countless other chemicals every day. Your liver’s main job is to expel these toxins from your bloodstream so you can continue to live. But if your body is overloaded with these harmful substances, your liver is going to need a boost from your diet. Turmeric is a mustard-colored spice that is being heavily studied for its role in helping your liver with the detoxification process.
History of Turmeric
Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family that’s widely used in India for its medicinal properties, as well as a food coloring and a key ingredient of curry dishes. The spice is aromatic and has a bitter taste. The plant, which grows five to six feet tall, is found in tropical regions throughout Southern Asia; its fingerlike stalk contains the spice’s healing agents.
Effect on Liver
The agent that gives turmeric its bright yellow color contains a powerful phytochemical component known as curcumin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin stimulates production of bile by the gallbladder. The liver uses bile to eliminate toxins; bile also rejuvenates liver cells that breakdown harmful compounds. For this reason, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat digestion and liver disorders.
Other Benefits of Turmeric
Curcumin has also been recognized for its anti-inflammatory, anticancerous and antioxidative effects. Preliminary studies by the National Taiwan University Hospital showed curcumin was effective in treating patients with chronic pancreatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory eye and bowel diseases, hyperlipidemia, psoriasis and cancers. Dr. Gregory Cole, medicine and neurology professor at University of California at Los Angeles, said curcumin is medically promising because inflammation and oxidative damage contribute to many of today’s diseases. “If it’s not curcumin, we need something a lot like curcumin--something cheap and safe with a long history of use and no side effects,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
How to Take Turmeric
There are several ways to take turmeric, from capsule form to sprinkling it on food. “Turmeric is one of the easiest spices to use. It has a really pleasing taste and a beautiful color, and it tastes good on almost any food you can think of,” writes Dr. Jonny Bowden in his book "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth." Bowden prefers it on scrambled eggs and veggie omelets, but you can also drink it as a tea sweetened with honey, he said. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 400 to 600 mg in powder form three times per day or 30 to 90 drops per day of fluid extract.
The American Cancer Society, ACS, considers turmeric to be safe when used as a spice in foods, but the organization says little is known about the potential risks of taking larger amounts to treat illnesses. Consuming too much turmeric may result in nausea, indigestion, gas and stomach pain, according to the ACS. Allergic reactions are also possible for those who are sensitive to ginger or yellow food colorings, ACS researchers said.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- Los Angeles Times: Out of the Spice Box, Into the Lab
- Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology: Clinical Studies With Curcumin
- "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth"; Jonny Bowden; 2007
- American Cancer Society: Turmeric