Super spice: Health Benefits of Tumeric

Thursday 04th Jun 2020 |

Well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has the potential to help beat those annoying exercise niggles. Here’s the science behind the super spice…

As the UK continues to face unprecedented times, many of us are determined to remain fit and active and take the best care of ourselves that we can.

A recent report from John Lewis & Partners shows a 496% increase in the sales of gym equipment, a 315% increase in the sales of yoga and pilates equipment, and a 72% increase in the sales of sports shoes, highlighting just how active the country is being during lockdown.

From workout-videos warriors to once-a-day walkers, many of us are turning to exercise to keep our mental wellbeing in check. But this sudden increase in exercise can take a toll on our bodies. 

‘Muscle soreness after exercise – also referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS – signals that you caused damage to your muscle tissues,” explains Jessica Walker, Sports Scientist and Personal Trainer. “While you create a little bit of damage every time you exercise, any workout that’s new to you or more intense than usual, will likely cause more damage and soreness.”

For anyone who exercises, recovery is key to ensure that aches and pains in muscles and joints are dealt with, fast. And whilst you may not think you’re prone to injuries, a study[i] revealed that 1 in 4 Brits are more active that before lockdown was introduced, which is inevitably going to lead to a rise in annoying niggles.

Foam rolling and stretching are two well-known, athlete approved ways of supporting the body between exercise. Many however, are also turning to natural herbal remedies such as turmeric to help heal the muscles.

Fans of this super spice include Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes, golfer Michelle Wie, and footballer Hal Robson-Kanu. And they’re not alone. The UK supplements industry has expanded by more than 30% over the past 10 years, and turmeric has played a big part in that growth.

Holly Huntley, Herbal Education Specialist at Pukka Herbs explains that exercise is a stress on the body, and why turmeric could help.

She explains: ‘When our body becomes subject to pain – such as through exercise – it influences the release of the cyclooxygenase (COX) class of enzymes. Herbs such as turmeric modulate the release of COX throughout the body, producing a balanced inflammation response.’

Why is turmeric so great?

It’s the yellow pigments, essential oils and turmerones in turmeric, which are responsible for the main therapeutic properties of this spice.

‘Turmerones have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, pain relieving and anti-depressant properties,’ says Holly. These turmerones also help in the body’s uptake of curcumin, another key healing factor within turmeric.

Holly adds: ‘‘Inflammation is totally normal after exercise. It’s your body’s response to the stress and its job is to help ‘heal’ the damaged tissues you just worked.  ‘Curcuminoids in turmeric are key medicinal constituents, which reduce inflammation caused by pro-inflammatory enzymes. They are potent antioxidants, protecting DNA from free radical damage, and along with turmerones, enhance circulation, protect the brain, rejuvenate the liver, and target pain.

Research has shown promising results in turmeric’s ability to help manage muscular and joint pain after strenuous exercise. In Milan, a study of 50 professional rugby players who all suffered from bone or muscle pain, found that taking turmeric matched the pain relief benefits of paracetamol and/or ibuprofen.

Euan MacLennan, Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs and Medical Herbalist at an NHS Practice in London adds: ‘For my clients, I care about prevention ahead of cure, looking at daily ways to look after ourselves before we reach burnout or injuries. One of the best ways to do this, is to embrace and feel the support of plants.

‘Like us, plants are complex living organisms and can support us in the most holistic and natural ways without the negative silo affects you get with pharmaceutical drugs. Turmeric is made up of a multitude of beneficial compounds, making it particularly good for looking after the body and mind.’

So, how do you include turmeric in your diet?

Luckily, turmeric is easy to find in the spice aisle of the supermarket and it’s likely to already be a key ingredient in some of your favourite Asian dishes, such as dal or tikka masala. More recently, turmeric is cropping up in drinks in the form of shots or increasingly popular ‘golden milk lattes’ and herbal teas.

‘When hot water is added to a turmeric tea containing essential oils, such as Pukka’s Turmeric Active, the heat frees up the oils from the root so we can absorb them more readily in the gut,’ explains Euan. ‘You could also consider adding a turmeric supplement as part of your routine on days you’re getting in a tough workout.’

If you’re struggling with recurring injuries or exhaustion, give turmeric a try and see how it works for you.

Craving more healthy stuff?