The familiar squiggle of bright yellow that runs down a ballpark frank gets its color from turmeric, a bright yellow spice and cousin of ginger used in many Indian dishes. But it's not just color that makes this spice shine: Turmeric has long been used for everything from curing digestive problems to . Rahimi, R., Abdollahi, M. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2012; 18(7): 589-600..

Root It and Boot It — Why It’s Super

Turmeric, which is made from the root of the plant, gets its super powers from an antioxidant called . (No, it's not related to !) Traditional Indian medicine — (that's sanskrit for "science of life") — has used the spice for its medicinal powers for thousands of years to cure inflammation-based conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome and to arthritis and tendonitis . Rahimi, R., Abdollahi, M. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2012; 18(7): 589-600.. Chronic inflammation (no real flames involved, thankfully) is responsible for many serious illnesses, including heart disease and some cancers, so adding (like turmeric!) can help relieve the pain, swelling, and redness that may come with inflammation Schaffer, M., Schaffer, P.M., Zidan, J., et. al. Institute of Oncology, Ziv Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, Zefat, Israel. Journal of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2011; 14(6): 588-97.. Plus, it may help fight infections and help treat digestive problems . Rahimi, R., Abdollahi, M. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2012; 18(7): 589-600.. Even more modern studies have found this magical compound can prevent the growth of cancer cells by decreasing swelling and inflammation Schaffer, M., Schaffer, P.M., Zidan, J., et. al. Institute of Oncology, Ziv Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, Zefat, Israel. Journal of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2011; 14(6): 588-97. Aggarwal, B.B., Kumar, A., Bharti, A.C. Cytokine Research Section, Department of Bioimmunotherapy, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Journal of Anticancer Research, 2003; 23(1A): 363-98. Dhandapani, K.M., Mahesh, V.B., Brann, D.W. Department of Neurosurgery, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia. Journal of Neurochemistry, 2007; 102(2): 522-38.. Some research suggests turmeric's antioxidant powers may also help and, for those already suffering, make chemotherapy and help protect the body's healthy cells from damage . Shah, S., Prasad, S., Kundsen, K.E. Department of Cancer Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA. Cancer Research, 2012 Mar 1;72(5):1248-59. Nambiar, D., Rajamani, P., Singh, R.P. Cancer Biology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Journal of Mutation Research, 2011; 728(3): 139-57.. Aside from its antioxidants, tumeric's anti-estrogen compounds can help fight the growth of breast tissue tumors thought to be caused by estrogenic compounds found in food, pesticides, and other chemicals . Verma, S.P., Goldin, B.R., Lin, P.S. Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts. Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, 1998; 106(12): 807-12.. But for the time being, is needed to actually confirm any of these benefits. While the spice is typically used in its powder form, turmeric oil has some benefits of its own, working as an effective antifungal Wuthi-udomlert, M., Grisanapan, W., Luanratana, O., et. al. Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 2000; 31(1): 178-82.. And some holistic medicine advocates believe (sold in health food stores) can also help relieve anxiety and stress through aromatherapy and rev up when added to food. (Time to get things heated up!).

Mellow Yellow — Your Action Plan

In its bright yellow powder form, turmeric transfers that vibrant tone to the foods it flavors. With an earthy taste (but not super spicy), turmeric adds a tang to curries and bean and rice dishes. But besides dinnertime, it can also be used as a natural dye for or . Pair it with black pepper to pump up curcumin’s antioxidant benefits Sehgal, A., Kumar, M., Jain, M., et. al. Penjab University, Chandigarh, India. Journal of Human and Experimental Toxicology, 2011.. If the plain yellow stuff is nowhere to be found, try curry powder — a blend of turmeric and other Indian spices like coriander, (we'd never heard of it either), and cumin — as a stand-in. And heat doesn't break curcumin down, which means it retains its beneficial effects after it hits the skillet. Even better news, heating curcumin actually increases its bioavailability (or the body's ability to absorb it) . Kurien, B.T., Singh, A., Matsumoto, H., et al. Arthritis and immunology Program, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Assay and Drug Development Technologies, 2007; 5(4): 567-76.. Though it can take the heat, turmeric can be used out of the kitchen. Apply a to minor cuts to help stop the bleeding and to help disinfect. Or make a out of the powder, some lemon juice, and honey for clear skin. Turmeric paste, a mixture of powder and water, can also take care of pesky pimples Rasheed, A., Avinash Kumar Reddy, G., Mohanalakshmi, S., et. al. Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Sree Vidyanikethan College of Pharmacy, Andhra Pradesh, India. Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology, 2011; 49(8); 771-4.. See Also: Glamourgirlz's Full Collection of Superfoods!

Our Favorite Turmeric Recipes from Around the Web:

Breakfast: Lunch: Side Dish: Appetizer: Dinner: