Besides being used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric’s many health benefits have also been backed up by modern science. Inflammation is thought to be one of the major factors in all kinds of diseases, and turmeric contains loads of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory substance. It’s been shown to alleviate joint pain, and can even help with heartburn and indigestion.

Curcumin is known for neutralizing free radicals, chemicals that damage healthy cells and membranes. That’s what makes it a powerful antioxidant, according to Jennifer Christman, a corporate dietitian for Medifast.

“It’s perfect for home detoxes,” she says. “Obviously our body naturally detoxes itself, but turmeric is something you can easily add into a tea or some vegetables, or whatever else is in your daily meal plan, without a lot of risks.”

That antioxidizing effect can help fight disease, including Alzheimer’s, potentially.

Curcumin, thanks to its wide range of effects, seems to help the brain resist buildup of harmful plaque in brains with Alzheimer’s.

Research is still in its early stages, but according to the American Cancer Society, tests indicate that curcumin “interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread” and has boosted the effects of chemotherapy in animals.