Everyone’s talking about Turmeric, Coconut Oil, Activated Charcoal, Aloe Vera and Witch Hazel. Are they worth the hype?
It seems like every couple months some new health food or skin care ingredient pops up in the media, touting wonderful benefits from its use and/or consumption.
Sometimes these claims are accurate. Sometimes, not so much.
We’re here to clear up some of the misunderstandings and help you know truth from hype. Here are five ingredients everyone’s been talking about and the truth behind them.
Turmeric is a beautiful bright orange spice used traditionally in curry. The fine powder is made from the ground roots of the curcuma longa plant in Southeast Asia and has been known for its medicinal effects for thousands of years. But lately, turmeric has been gaining popularity in the west and can be found in teas, supplements, juices, and, of course, in food.
Turmeric contains several chemical compounds which are known as “curcuminoids.” The active curcuminoid in turmeric—and the one responsible for its therapeutic properties—is curcumin. It’s an anti-inflammatory and a strong antioxidant.
But, the problem is consuming enough turmeric to get the benefits. The typical amount of curcumin in turmeric is only about three to six percent. Many people have taken to consuming turmeric and curcumin through supplements. This ensures it is absorbed by the body where the benefits are truly seen.
Studies have shown that these benefits could include weight loss, since curcumin may suppress fat cell growth by restricting blood vessel expansion. It could also reduce pain associated with arthritis since it has been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body. It is also good for the skin and the brain for the same reason.
Other benefits attributed to turmeric include:
- Relief from headaches and migraines
- Aids in liver detoxification
- Fights free radicals
- Reduces allergies
- Enhances brain function
To get the most benefits out of eating turmeric, choose one of the following: turmeric supplement that contains 95 percent curcuminoids, buy organic turmeric which is therefore in its purest form, or get fresh turmeric root.
Coconut oil has gotten a lot of coverage in the last few years. This ingredient has been seen in a multitude of places lately, from food to skincare. And the benefits it’s claimed to have are nearly endless. Most importantly, coconut oil has been found to contain healthy fats known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), which are caprylic acid, lauric acid, and capric acid
Compared to the fats found in plant-based oils, MCFAs are much easier to digest. They are processed by the liver, which means they are immediately converted into energy, instead of being stored as fat. Coconut oil is also naturally anti-microbial and anti-fungal.
There is some evidence that coconut oil can fight heart disease, stabilize blood sugar, balance cholesterol levels, support weight loss, and even to protect against certain types of cancers and treat Alzheimer’s.
But none of this has been proven yet and more studies will have to be done to verify that these benefits come from coconut oil. However, there is no harm to adding small amounts of coconut oil to your diet. Moderation is best though. Coconut oil still is a saturated fat.
If you’re ready to get on board and try this trending ingredient, look for organic, unrefined coconut oil. This type is best because it contains all the naturally occurring phytonutrients and polyphenols. It will be described as “virgin,” “cold pressed,” or “raw.”
Another ingredient that been popping up everywhere is activated charcoal. Have you seen the many people who have started brushing their teeth with the fine black powder? It’s also been used as an ingredient in skincare products and facial masks and lately, has found its way into food. There was even a food festival in July 2018 that featured activated charcoal as the main draw.
But, while trendy, the use of activated charcoal in everything is also controversial. The main benefit is its ability to trap toxins and chemicals like a sponge. That’s why activated charcoal is used for emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning.
This “detoxifying” ability of activated charcoal has been translated by many people to mean that the ingredient—if regularly consumed—can help the body remove toxins. But, this isn’t quite accurate.
Activated charcoal binds to poisons and nutrients, even many minerals and some medications. That means that adding activated charcoal to juices, smoothies, or other foods can actually reduce the nutrient content of the food. Additionally, activated charcoal only works inside the gastrointestinal tract, so anything already absorbed by the body won’t be trapped by activated charcoal.
Okay, so eating activated charcoal might not get you any benefits. But, using it on your face can work wonders. It deep cleans and helps congested, oily, or acne prone skin types.
Thinking about charcoal toothpaste? Try Redmond Life Earthpaste in Peppermint Charcoal. Buy it here.
Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years and is especially great for your skin. Like the activated charcoal, it has been gaining popularity as an ingredient in juices and smoothies. People have claimed it can help with weight loss, digestion, improve immune function, and can even be used as a solution for general discomfort. Admittedly, there’s very little data that actually back these claims up. Furthermore, aloe vera has been known to cause stomach discomfort and bloody diarrhea. If consumed in large amounts, it can even lead to kidney failure.
So, it’s best to wait for more scientific testing on the effects of drinking juice from the aloe vera plant before hopping on this trend.
That said, aloe vera is still a great plant and when used for skin and hair and is a great moisturizer. If you’re prone to sunburn, you’re likely aware that aloe vera soothes the burn and helps skin heal. Aloe can also be used on other burns and minor cuts as well.
As a moisturizer, aloe vera can be used in the hair. After you shampoo, just add a quarter-sized amount throughout. It will help keep hair shiny and soft. Or, you can pour it all over the hair, comb it in, and then leave it for an hour before shampooing it out.
You can find aloe vera as an ingredient in many skin care products, shampoos, and conditioners if you prefer to not use it raw.
Made from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel shrub, witch hazel is a topical astringent and a natural cleanser and toner. You see it everywhere nowadays as an ingredient in skincare products. But, it can be used as more than just a toner; witch hazel has many medicinal benefits. It can reduce irritation and act as an anti-inflammatory, making it good at fading bruises, shrinking swollen veins, cool down sunburn, and soothe bug bites. It can also stop bleeding, especially for small cuts (use it to stop bleeding the next time you cut yourself shaving).
Witch hazel pads and sprays are often used by new mothers to soothe postpartum pain and help heal hemorrhoids, as well.
As with some of the other ingredients in this list, some people also choose to consume small amounts of witch hazel. It is said to soothe sore throats and be good for dental health. People also use it to help with diarrhea, vomiting, colitis, colds and fevers, and other conditions. But, not a lot of scientific studies have been done on these claims and high doses can cause liver or kidney damage. Until more research is done, it’s probably smart just to use witch hazel topically.
You can make witch hazel yourself at home if you have access to the shrub. Or, there are several options available for purchase. We carry Thayers Witch Hazel With Aloe Vera, a trusted and respected brand for witch hazel. Find it here.
Have you been using these ingredients? What do you think? Let us know if they have worked for you!
*We are not doctors. Please consult your physician if you have medical questions about these ingredients.