A member of the ginger family, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been utilized in many ways by many cultures for thousands of years: India’s Vedic culture has been using turmeric as a culinary spice for as many as 4,000 years! Turmeric’s history of medicinal use can be tracked for about the same amount of time throughout countries like China and Africa, in addition to India.
The root’s staining yellow color has earned it the nickname “Indian Saffron” and, fun fact, it has been noted that the well-known explorer Marco Polo, when describing turmeric as a spice, compared it to saffron as well.
Medicinal Uses for Turmeric
For centuries, cultures have used turmeric for medicinal purposes like digestive support, anti-inflammatory support, and anti-bacterial support, as well as topically for the skin. Today, turmeric is also being utilized for antioxidant support, cholesterol support, and cardiovascular support.
While the name curcumin is often used interchangeably with turmeric, there is a distinction: Curcumin is a component found within the rhizome (root) of the turmeric plant itself; it is a polyphenol (plant-based micronutrient containing antioxidants) which not only assists with antioxidant support, but also demonstrates anti-inflammatory support.
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Turmeric for Hair Growth
Where your hair is concerned, the causes of poor hair health are multifactorial and may be worsened by an exaggerated inflammatory response, stress, thyroid dysfunction, hormone dysregulation, and toxicity to name a few.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties to help support a healthy inflammatory response, which can be triggered by psychological stressors, bacteria, viruses, high sugar, and toxins such as cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants. This is what helps make turmeric an important component in supporting optimal hair health.
Interestingly, it has been noted that when curcumin/turmeric is taken alone, it is found to have a low bioavailability, meaning it is absorbed somewhat poorly in the body. This is why — especially when supplementing — having another component to help drive absorption is important. One such supportive bioavailability enhancer is piperine, an active component of black pepper that has been associated with assisting in the absorptive increase.
How to Take Turmeric
While turmeric is generally regarded as safe, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new supplement. Turmeric should not be taken by pregnant women or people taking blood thinners unless it has been approved by your physician and you are under a doctor’s supervision.
Turmeric is found in everything from supplements (such as Nutrafol Core) to skin care to food and drink. A tasty beverage you may want to try either in your favorite café or by making it for yourself at home is golden milk, a velvety turmeric tea that’s steeped in tradition in both Indian and Chinese cultures.
From ancient times to modern day, turmeric continues to be incorporated into the societal fabric of various cultures for its health benefits and rich, unmistakable taste.