It’s important to know that the vast majority of studies on turmeric have not examined the spice itself, but rather one of its constituents called curcumin. When you hear about the benefits of turmeric on a website or on a health news report on television, you are mostly likely hearing about the benefits of curcumin. This aspect of the health research can be very confusing!
On the one hand, curcumin is a polyphenol in turmeric with a quite remarkable set of potential health benefits. These potential benefits include better regulation of inflammation, oxidation, cell signaling, blood sugar levels, blood fat levels, and brain levels of the omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), among its many benefits. But at the same time, there are many other health-supportive substances in turmeric, and the amount of curcumin in turmeric root can be fairly small. The actual amount of curcumin in turmeric varies from species to species, growing conditions, and timing of growth and harvest. But it typically accounts for only 2-5% of the root weight and can drop even lower under some conditions. In short, we are delighted to see great studies on the health benefits of curcumin, yet since we are most interested in the spice itself (turmeric) and the potential benefits of this spice in recipes, we also realize that some of the research on curcumin doesn’t easily translate into these more practical kitchen and recipe applications. In the remainder of this Health Benefits section, we want to tell you about practical health benefits of turmeric in cooking based on our confidence in research about the spice itself.