Gathering his ingredients and kitchenware, Dr Michael Mosley started this episode of his Just One Thing podcast by preparing a vegetarian curry. However, the “most important” ingredient wasn’t the vegetables but a golden spice – turmeric. According to the doctor, this seasoning can not only keep your brain in “better shape” but also alleviate pain. However, you need to consume it with the right foods in order to active its “impressive” powers.
Whether you have fallen a victim to the trend of turmeric lattes or you have always used this potent spice in your cooking, turmeric is nothing new.
Speaking on the podcast, Dr Mosley said: “It’s been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to alleviate liver problems and digestive ailments.
“Over the last couple of decades or so, scientific research into turmeric, and in particular, into its active ingredient – curcumin – has exploded, with lots of studies exploring the health effects of this golden spice.
“And some of the findings have been impressive.”
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Celebrated for its “anti-inflammatory” and “antioxidant” powers, the golden spice can do more than just complement your liver and tummy health. It can also “relieve” pain.
Curcumin, which is responsible for turmeric’s characteristic bright colour, is the active ingredient believed to be behind the spice’s magic.
Dr Mosley invited Dr Benny Antony, from the University of Tasmania in Australia, to get to the root of turmeric’s effects on pain.
Dr Antony has previously conducted a clinical trial with 70 participants with joint pain and inflammation to study this link.
The guest expert said: “We randomised 35 people into placebo group and 35 people into the active group, who received the turmeric extract.
“And then we followed these patients over 12 weeks and we found that participants who were taking turmeric extracts had relief in pain, compared to the placebo group.
“Obviously, both placebo and treatment group reduced the knee pain, but the treatment group had further reduction compared to the placebo group.”
Dr Mosley explained that you would need something “quite impressive” in order to outdo the placebo because its effects are usually “very powerful”.
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What’s more, the turmeric treatment also saw the study participants taking fewer painkillers.
If you’re struggling with a different type of pain than in your knees, Dr Antony offered some good news.
He said: “We have found that it’s been effective for acute pain as well.
“It’s not just for chronic conditions, but it’s for normal, healthy people.
“It can be used to reduce pain, although it still needs more research in this area.”
Before you start adding turmeric to all your dishes and lattes, there are some rules that need to be followed in order to activate it.
Dr Mosley explained that a “big problem” with curcumin is that very little of it gets absorbed. Fortunately, this is where fat and pepper step in.
Both pepper and fatty foods help increase the bioavailability of curcumin, helping you to absorb more of the good stuff.
Dr Mosley added: “So, if you’re looking for an excuse to have a delicious hot drink or perhaps that curry you’ve been craving, here it is – add in some turmeric.
“It could boost your brain and take away your pain.”