How can curry possibly be a skin food? It's because of what's fast becoming the superspice of spices, turmeric. Here, herbalist Sebastian Pole, co-founder of Pukka Herbs, explains why he prescribes turmeric for skin health:
You probably know turmeric for being one of the spices used in Indian and Asian cooking. It adds depth of flavour – and its vibrant yellow-orange colour – to dishes such as curries.
But turmeric does much more than make our food taste amazing. It's actually been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for around 4,000 years for its health benefits. Modern research has shown that this remarkable spice may have a range of benefits in skin, from protecting us from premature anti-aging, to skin-clearing, to supporting skin healing and cell renewal. In fact, a true natural beauty all-rounder.
1. It's antioxidant - and so anti-aging
One of the primary reasons for skin aging – including wrinkles – is free radical damage. This can come from processes inside the body (our cells make free radicals just from producing energy) and from outside the body, such as from UV damage.
Studies suggest that natural constituents of turmeric – especially curcumin – may possess particularly strong antioxidant activity, and may directly reduce skin aging – including preventing moisture loss and protecting against wrinkles.
2. It's anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is a big factor in many skin problems, from acne to psoriasis, eczema and other skin rashes. It's what causes the unsightly redness and swelling, as well as the soreness and heat. So calming down the inflammation is vital.
Again, it's turmeric to the rescue! One of this spice's best-known properties is its anti-inflammatory activity, as shown in numerous research studies.
3. It's liver-supporting and blood-cleansing
One of the traditional uses of turmeric in herbal medicine is as a 'blood purifier'. A build-up of toxins in the body is one of the potential reasons for skin problems, including dull-looking or sallow skin, skin reactions such as rashes, and even increased skin aging.
Modern research suggests that turmeric could actually help to clear toxins from the blood, in at least two ways.
Firstly, it's thought that turmeric can increase the activity of certain enzymes responsible for removing toxins from the blood (known as phase II detoxification enzymes).
Secondly, this wonder spice is thought to stimulate bile flow from the gallbladder into the digestive tract. As well as helping to digest our food, bile is the primary way in which our liver gets rid of fat-soluble toxins and wastes from our blood.
4. It enhances circulation
Good circulation to the skin allows nutrients to be delivered to our skin cells, and waste products to be flushed away. Curcuminoids in turmeric have been shown to have 'anti-platelet' activity – which basically means they can help to keep our blood flowing more easily. In a clinical trial, giving a curcumin supplement to patients was found to increase their micro-circulation – the circulation to the smallest blood vessels such as those in the skin.
5. It boosts collagen production
Collagen is the vital protein that keeps our skin firm, supple and young-looking. It's also needed for skin healing and renewal. It's been found that curcumin in turmeric has skin-healing and wound-healing properties, including by increasing collagen deposits in the skin.