Mother Nature Knows Best – Honoring the Value of Whole Turmeric Root
Lisa Murray, RDN, LD, Herbalist
Turmeric root has been extensively studied, with thousands of research articles published since the 1950’s, including significant research showing its multiple actions against carcinogenesis. In recent years, however, most studies have focused on the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin — one of the hundreds of bioactive phytochemicals found within the turmeric root.
While curcumin is the most predominant curcuminoid in turmeric (constituting an average 2-5%) it is still just one component of the plant’s powerful root. A plant’s medicinal effects are often due to a combination of many phytochemicals working synergistically, supporting several or many body systems the same time.
While many constituents in turmeric can individually provide great health benefits, their greatest value shines when they are allowed to work together. One example is turmeric’s essential volatile oils, which help facilitate absorption and have potent pharmacological properties.
What’s more, studies show “curcumin-free” extracts of turmeric are just as effective as curcumin!  This suggests that there truly is more to turmeric than its most popular extract.
The Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine uses whole turmeric for prevention and treatment in supporting the health of almost every body system and as an anti-infective against disease and used for wound healing.
When the most medicinal part of a plant is known – be it the leaf, the flower, the berry or the root – it is important to understand the best way to prepare or preserve it to maximize the medicinal benefit. One brand perfecting their preparation is MegaFood, who uses Refractance Window Drying™ that carefully dries ingredients to the exact point of dehydration to preserve all the wonderful colors, nutrients and even aromas of the whole food.
Advances in science and technology have made it possible to extract and concentrate individual phytochemicals from medicinal plants, ushering in a new era of potent natural medicines. These new products have an important place in modern natural medicine, but it’s important to remember where it all started.
As an herbalist and for my personal daily regimen, I continue to believe that Mother Nature knows best. For this reason, I stay true to the time honored, whole food wisdom and look for turmeric products made from the whole root.
 Subash C. Gupta, Sridevi Patchva, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. AAPS J. 2013 Jan; 15(1): 195–218.Published online 2012 Nov 10. doi: 10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8
 Aggarwal BB1, Yuan W, Li S, Gupta SC. Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Sep;57(9):1529-42. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200838. Epub 2013 Jul 12.
 Sahdeo Prasad and Bharat B. Aggarwal. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Chapter 13Turmeric, the Golden Spice. From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/#ch13_sec5