Unless you’re a fan of exotic food, there’s a good chance you’re not overly familiar with curcumin. The reason being that while it may be a staple spice in almost every Indian delicacy across the board, it doesn’t tend to make it into the mix in so many western dishes. Curcumin is characterised by a wonderfully bright yellow colour and a rich, aromatic flavour that’s synonymous with Indian cuisine. It bears a lot of similarities to ginger – the family from which it originates – but with curcumin it’s not simply about looking the part and tasting good…it’s also one of the most powerfully beneficial spices known to man.

It’s only as of relatively recently that the benefits of curcumin have been well and truly put under the microscope, though herbal medicine advocates have been swearing by the stuff for generations. For most of time it’s been a case of knowing it’s good for you but not really questioning how, why or to what extent – these days however these are exactly the questions we’re finally getting answers to.

So, with this in mind, here’s a quick overview of just a few of the proven health benefits of curcumin and a pretty strong argument as to why now might be the time to dive head-first into decadent Indian cuisine:

1 – Strong Digestive Properties

If you’ve ever wondered how it can be that Indian food is so rich and spicy yet doesn’t have a negative impact on the digestive tract, the answer could lie in nothing more than curcumin. Test carried out over recent decades have shown that curcumin is extremely powerful and capable when it comes to assisting the efficiency and general effectiveness of the digestive tract, helping the body absorb what’s needed as fast as possible and process the rest accordingly. In addition, curcumin taken after eating has the potential to minimise the risk of indigestion.

2 – Lower Risk of Heart Attacks

There was a study carried out into the benefits of curcumin in 2012 which showed that the spice has the potential to be effective in lowering the risk of heart attacks in certain individuals. In order to test the theory, a group of patients that had recently had heart bypass operations were split down the middle – one half being given a measured dose of curcumin and the others receiving placebos. At the study’s conclusion, 13% of those taking curcumin had suffered at least one post-op heart attack, while 30% of the non-curcumin group had heart attacks. Additional studies were then carried out, which in the vast majority of instances brought back exactly the same results.

3 – Diabetes Prevention

When pre-diabetes is diagnosed in a patient, doctors have a small arsenal of approaches the choose from when it comes to reducing the person’s risk of developing full diabetes. Though less than a silver bullet cure for the condition, it has been found that curcumin is given to pre-diabetes patients after their diagnosis, their likelihood of developing full diabetes is cut dramatically. And what’s more, curcumin is 100% natural and safe for consumption which often means it can be used alongside other drugs to further bolster the patient’s treatment.

4 – Reduce Cancer Risk

It’s only as of relatively recently that curcumin has been explored as a possible treatment for cancer sufferers, though early results have been incredibly reassuring to say the least. Researchers were interested in exactly what happens when curcumin is applied directly to cancer cells within the patient’s body. Incredibly, a direct dose of concentrated curcumin was found to be able to not only slow the growth of cancerous tumours, but also help prevent or at least slow down the spread-rate of cancer cells. More research is of course needed, but the findings were and are incredibly encouraging.

5 – Protection of Brain Cells

It’s not often said that Indian food is brain food, but there may be just cause for a rethink. The reason being that tests carried out using curcumin have found that in terms of brain cells repair and protection, this is one spice that means business. As such, curcumin may be effective in a wide range of applications ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to traumatic brain injuries and more.

6 – Relief from Arthritis

Last up, it’s been commonly known for some time that curcumin has exceptionally effective anti-inflammatory properties which is why above all else it tends to be recommended for use by arthritis sufferers. Used alongside conventional medication or perhaps instead of, curcumin is able to quell inflammation, reduce pain and to some extent restore joint mobility.