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Turmeric: debunking the myths

14th april 2016

There are many misconceptions about turmeric, especially about how well it’s absorbed by the body. Here we will bust some of those myths with turmeric facts.

Turmeric, Curcuma longa, also known as the ‘Golden Goddess’ in India, or ‘Kanchani’ in Sanskrit (the classical language of India), has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions as a medicinal herb as well as an essential ingredient in curry. It is ingrained in Indian culture. With a population of over a billion people eating turmeric on a daily basis, large-scale turmeric cultivation is a well-established feature of the Indian landscape. In India alone, approximately 140,000 hectares of land are used for growing turmeric (that’s an area just smaller than the whole of Greater London).

Whilst there are thousands of papers and pieces of research which champion this queen of spices, there are also some myths which surround this super spice.

Myth: curcumin is the most important compound in turmeric

Curcumin is the key phytochemical compound responsible for many of turmeric’s fantastic properties and for giving it the bright yellow colouring. However, turmeric is also made up of over 200 incredible active constituents including turmerones which are found in the root’s essential oil and work synergistically alongside curcumin to boost its absorption.

Curcuminoids work by reducing the production of enzymes which promote inflammation in the body. They are also potent antioxidants; protecting cellular DNA from the day-to-day damage from pollution and the wear and tear of life - sort of like protecting the body from rusting from the inside.

Turmerones are anti-inflammatory and contain many beneficial properties - from supporting brain function through to helping musculoskeletal health. Turmerones are also key in helping to enhance the absorption and efficacy of curcuminoids.

Myth: all turmeric supplements are the same

Many turmeric supplements only include curcuminoids. But as we know, they’re only half the story.  

Pukka’s new turmeric range contains whole herb organic extracts from a unique three-stage method known as WholisticTM extraction.  This process not only produces a supplement bursting with curcumin and essential oils (to aid absorption) but provides the full spectrum of turmeric’s active compounds, including turmerones.

As you would expect from Pukka, our turmeric range is free from the toxic residues often found in alternative products. By using CO2 in the supercritical extraction stage this ensures that our extraction process is hexane free – which means there are no chemical residues.  We’ve developed this over the past 10 years to make it totally environmentally friendly – meaning a wellbeing supplement that’s good for you and the planet.

Myth: curcumin is difficult to absorb in the body

Okay, this is partly true. However, adding pepper which contains a natural constituent known as piperine supports the body’s natural ability to absorb curcumin; this is why we add long pepper to our WholisticTM Turmeric as well as NutrigestTM (with ginger, spirulina and nutritional seaweed) to ensure maximum bioavailability.

Myth: you need chemicals to extract the power of plants  

This is certainly not true for Pukka, but it is often the case elsewhere. Pukka uses carbon dioxide to extract out the oil, wax and resin portion of the plant. However, there are additional reasons as to why carbon dioxide is a healthier and more environmentally-friendly option. The fat portions of plant material are notoriously difficult to draw out of a plant and, historically, harsh chemicals have been one of the only ways by which to extract them. These have included chemicals such as hexane and various hydrocarbons. The problem with such solvents arises when they are used over a prolonged period and build up in the body. It’s not rocket science to understand why we might not want unnatural chemicals circulating around our bodies but, perhaps unsurprisingly so, there have also been links between such solvents and chronic illnesses.

Myth: turmeric will stain your teeth

Turmeric is one of the world’s most commonly consumed spices; it is eaten, drunk and cooked by millions of people every day. The tallow pigments do not permanently stain teeth, but be careful not to spill it on any white clothing.

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Katie Pande, Senior Herbal Advisor

Katie is a qualified Medical Herbalist, and member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), currently practicing in Shaftesbury. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Herbal Medicine and a BSc (Hons) in Plant and Environmental Biology.