18 Potential Health Benefits Of Turmeric And Curcumin

Reviewed by Alexandra Hockens, M.S. Human Nutrition & Functional Medicine Certified - Holistic Nutrition
by Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a flowering plant that belongs to the ginger family. It is used extensively for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties (1).

Its most important bioactive compound is curcumin, which is often used as a herbal treatment for Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, wound healing, liver ailments, and urinary tract infections (1).

In this article, we will discuss the potential health benefits of turmeric, its nutrition profile, and possible side effects. Read on!

What Are The Health Benefits Of Turmeric?

1. May Offer Antioxidant And Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The curcumin in turmeric fights inflammation and boosts heart health. Studies show that its antioxidant effects also help prevent cancer, atherosclerosis, and other neurodegenerative diseases (2).

The antioxidants in turmeric protect the body from damage due to oxidation (3).

Curcumin plays a major role in many inflammatory diseases (including skin cancer) and fights them at the molecular level (4).

The curcuminoids and other volatile oils in turmeric have several medicinal properties (5).

2. May Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Curcumin was found to improve cognitive functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This can be attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (6).

Alzheimer’s disease degrades the nerve cells through inflammation and oxidative damage. Curcumin fights this damage and potentially aids the treatment (6).

Another chemical in turmeric that shows promise is tumerone. Tumerone stimulated new brain cells in studies. It could support regeneration in neural disorders (7). In theory, this can help treat Alzheimer’s disease and other similar neurodegenerative conditions.

Curcumin also boosts brain function in individuals with diabetes. It prevents the onset of diabetic neuropathy by enhancing the glucose-lowering effects of insulin (8).

3. May Promote Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease accounts for 31% of the deaths in the world every year (9).  Regular intake of turmeric may help reduce this. The curcumin in turmeric was found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, and cardioprotective effects (10).

Animal studies state that curcumin can prevent heart failure and cardiac hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement of the heart muscle). The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric prevent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) as well (10).

Curcumin had also treated hypertension in rats (11). The compound lowered total cholesterol and LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels in individuals with acute coronary syndrome (12).

4. May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

Turmeric may have a protective effect against cancers of the colon, oral cavity, and skin (13). Further research is being done to establish this effect.

Lab studies show that curcumin can cut cancer risk and slow down its spread. The compound also makes chemotherapy more effective and protects healthy cells in the process (14).

Curcumin also induces programmed cancer cell death. It achieves this by fighting inflammation and scavenging the reactive oxygen species (15).

Interestingly, curcumin shows similar effects on almost all kinds of cancer cells, including those of the prostate, lungs, and pancreas. It plays a selective role in killing cancer cells and protects the healthy ones (16).

5. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Curcumin may lower blood sugar levels. It may also help treat fatty liver, a common concern associated with diabetes. The compound may also reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy (17).

Turmeric relieves certain cognitive deficits associated with diabetes. It also treats related inflammation and oxidative stress (18).

Curcumin not only lowers blood glucose levels but also regulates high fat levels in the blood (19).

Turmeric supplementation also showed a better decrease in glycated hemoglobin levels when compared with the ingestion of metformin (a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes) alone (20).

Curcumin also improves the functioning of beta cells. Beta cells make insulin, the hormone that controls blood glucose levels (21).

6. May Fight Inflammatory Arthritis

The curcumin in turmeric reduces inflammation and modifies the responses of the immune system. Curcumin is recognized as a potential candidate for the treatment of joint inflammation and osteoarthritis (22).

Turmeric supplementation was found to be effective in the treatment of arthritis. However, more research must be done to confirm the clinical efficacy of turmeric in this regard (23).

In other studies, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric were found to help treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis (24).

The curcuminoids in turmeric also help treat knee pain, including most forms of musculoskeletal pain (25).

7. May Help Treat Depression And Anxiety

Studies show that turmeric can be used to treat individuals with major depressive disorder (26). Another study shows curcumin to be a safe and tolerable treatment for depression. More robust studies with larger sample sizes are needed to further understand its benefits (27).

Curcumin was also found to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants (28).

8. May Delay Signs Of Aging

As per studies, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are highly likely to help slow down aging (29).

Curcumin also has antimutagenic properties. It protects the skin from the harmful UV rays and may delay the signs of aging (30).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that turmeric can treat dark spots, dark circles, and hyperpigmentation. However, more research is needed to substantiate these effects.

9. May Help With Weight Loss

The curcumin in turmeric may prevent inflammation related to obesity (31). It is believed that turmeric may also boost fat burning, though there is no research to support this.

Turmeric extract could reduce the growth of fat cells in rodent models. It achieves this by suppressing angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Weight gain happens by the expansion of fat tissue. This can be prevented or slowed down by suppressing angiogenesis (32).

Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation. Since turmeric fights inflammation, it may have potential in treating obesity. The curcumin in turmeric also inhibits the production of adipocytes (cells that store fat) (33).

Curcumin also prevents weight gain and improves metabolic control when followed by a period of weight loss through proper diet and exercise (34).

10. May Enhance Digestive Health.

 

Curcumin can treat gastric ulcers due to its antioxidant properties (35).

The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin also help treat esophageal inflammation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (36).

Turmeric may also have a role to play in treating ulcerative colitis, though more large studies are needed to further understand the mechanism (37). It can help treat other digestive diseases too, including inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, liver disease, and diarrhea (38).

11. May Help Treat Cough And Cold

Consuming powdered turmeric with boiled milk may treat cough and other respiratory ailments (39).

Orally administered curcumin reduced cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation in mice. It also improved the health of rats induced with pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lung tissue). Curcumin can have a role to play in the treatment of other respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis (40).

Curcumin can also alleviate asthmatic inflammation. Treatment with the compound had prevented the accumulation of inflammatory cells (41).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may also reduce swelling in the sinus cavities.

12. May Help Treat Fibromyalgia

Mice studies show that curcumin can help treat skeletal muscle atrophy (42). Skeletal muscle atrophy could be one of the symptoms of severe fibromyalgia.

However, we need more research to understand how turmeric may directly help in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

13. May Promote Liver Health

Research states that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may help in the treatment of some liver ailments (43). More research is needed to further understand the role of turmeric in this aspect.

Oxidative stress is one of the major causes of liver damage. Curcumin can fight oxidative stress. This can potentially prevent liver injury and boost hepatic health (44).

Curcumin may also aid the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans (45).

14. May Relieve Symptoms Of Premenstrual Syndrome

The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin modulate neurotransmitters. This can reduce the severity of PMS symptoms (46).

15. May Help Treat Urinary Tract Infections

Curcumin was found to treat urinary tract infections in rat studies. The compound’s anti-inflammatory properties could be responsible for this effect (47).

16. May Help Treat Acne

The antibacterial effects of turmeric/curcumin can help treat many skin conditions, including acne (48). Turmeric fights inflammation as well. This could be especially helpful in treating the inflammation and redness associated with acne.

Using a turmeric face mask may help. You need 2 tablespoons of regular flour, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 3 tablespoons of milk, and a few drops of honey. Mix the ingredients until you get a smooth paste. Apply this paste to your face and let it dry for 20 minutes. You can then rinse off in the shower and follow with a moisturizer.

Ensure you do a patch test before applying turmeric to your face as some individuals may react to the spice.

Studies show that combining curcumin with lauric acid can fight acne-causing bacteria (49).

17. May Treat Psoriasis And Eczema

Curcumin can offer therapeutic benefits for skin health (50). The anti-inflammatory properties of the spice may aid the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. Curcumin can help relieve psoriasis when combined with antibiotics (51).

The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may help treat skin issues like psoriasis and eczema.

Curcumin can also work as a treatment for psoriasis without the side effects of conventional medications (52).

18. May Promote Hair Health

Anecdotal evidence has people using turmeric for promoting hair health, but there are no concrete results recorded.

As turmeric doesn’t usually have any negative effects on hair, you may give it a try. However, check with your doctor beforehand.

In the aforementioned paragraphs, we saw some of the potent compounds in turmeric. The following section discusses the other major nutrients in the spice.

What Is The Nutrition Profile Of Turmeric?

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories23.9(100 kJ)1%
From Carbohydrate16.8(70.3 kJ)
From Fat5.6(23.4 kJ)
From Protein1.5(6.3 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A0.0 IU0%
Vitamin C1.7 mg3%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)0.2 mg1%
Vitamin K0.9 mcg1%
Thiamin0.0 mg1%
Riboflavin0.0 mg1%
Niacin0.3 mg2%
Vitamin B60.1 mg6%
Folate2.6 mcg1%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid~~
Choline3.3 mg
Betaine0.7 mg
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium12.4 mg1%
Iron2.8 mg16%
Magnesium13.0 mg3%
Phosphorus18.1 mg2%
Potassium170 mg5%
Sodium2.6 mg0%
Zinc0.3 mg2%
Copper0.0 mg2%
Manganese0.5 mg26%
Selenium0.3 mcg0%
Fluoride~

*Values sourced from USDA, spices, turmeric, ground

Though the spice contains several nutrients, it is important to keep be mindful of the dosage.

How Much Turmeric Can You Take In A Day?

The normal dosage of turmeric could range between a few tablespoons a day. There is less data on this. However, for osteoarthritis, you can take 400 mg to 600 mg of turmeric per day, thrice a day (53).

For treating rheumatoid arthritis, the dosage would be 500 mg, twice a day (53).

Turmeric may take anywhere between four to eight weeks to show results. You can take it as it is, in its powdered form, though that may not always be palatable. There are other ways to use turmeric.

How Can You Use Turmeric?

Adding turmeric to your diet is easy. The following ideas can help:

  • Add a pinch of ground turmeric to roasted vegetables. This makes for a delectable evening snack. The spice goes especially well with roasted potatoes and cauliflowers.
  • Sprinkle some turmeric on your evening green salad. This will up the nutritional value.
  • Add some turmeric to soups, and you are all set for a healthful treat.
  • Turmeric can be a brilliant addition to your morning/evening smoothie.
  • You can make turmeric tea. Simmer turmeric with coconut milk for a comforting beverage. You can also add honey for taste.

You can take raw turmeric as it is, but only a pinch. The spice is taken best when added to food preparations.

Turmeric pills/supplements are flooding the market. While they may have certain benefits, it is important to exercise caution as not all brands are reliable. Make sure you check with your doctor or dietitian before opting for these supplements.

Turmeric is usually included in toothpaste, cosmetics, gels and gums, soaps, and face washes. In supplements, it usually is combined with bioperine for enhanced absorption (54).

The reason we need to be aware of the ideal dosage is that excess intake of turmeric may not be safe. There have been reports of turmeric causing adverse effects in some individuals. We have covered a few of them in the following section.

What Possible Side Effects Can Turmeric Cause?

  • Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding (If Taken In Excess)

There is no evidence that intake of turmeric during pregnancy or lactation may cause problems. Turmeric, when taken in food amounts, may be safe. However, there is insufficient information about its safety when taken in excess. Stick to normal food amounts and consult your doctor.

  • May Aggravate Kidney Stones

Turmeric contains 91% oxalate (55). It may cause kidney stones at very high doses. Those with kidney stones or with a history of the condition must avoid turmeric.

  • May Cause Iron Deficiency

Turmeric may prevent iron absorption and cause iron deficiency. Individuals deficient in iron must avoid high doses of turmeric. This effect has been observed with turmeric supplements. More research is needed to understand if ground turmeric may have similar effects (56).

  • May Cause Bleeding Issues

Curcumin has anti-coagulant properties (57). It may slow down blood clotting and cause excessive bleeding in susceptible individuals. Avoid turmeric if you have bleeding disorders or a surgery scheduled in less than two weeks.

Conclusion

Turmeric works towards integrative health. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help in improving brain function and heart and digestive health and cutting the risk of cancer.

Including it in your diet can promote long-term health. Instead of taking it as it is, try adding it to your dishes. If you want to take supplements, consult your healthcare provider.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

How is turmeric different from ginger?

While the most important compound in turmeric is curcumin, ginger contains gingerol. Turmeric is primarily used in curries, while ginger is used in baked foods and beverages.

What medications should you not take with turmeric?

Since turmeric may slow down blood clotting, avoid taking it with medications that have similar purposes. One such medication is warfarin (58). Others can include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, heparin, and dalteparin. Consult your doctor before consuming turmeric if you are on any of these medications.

What is a good substitute for turmeric?

You can substitute turmeric with ginger or cumin to replicate its health benefits in a dish.

How is turmeric powder different from turmeric supplements? Which is better?

Only 3% of the weight of turmeric powder is curcumin. But in the case of supplements, this concentration can be as high as 95%. Hence, if you have any specific ailment, turmeric supplements may have better therapeutic properties. Otherwise, you can include turmeric powder in your diet.

What is turmeric called in other languages?

Turmeric is called haldi in Hindi, la curcuma in Spanish, Safran des Indes in French, açafrão in Portuguese, jiānghuáng in Chinese, and kurkuma in German.

What is the best time to take turmeric in a day?

You can take turmeric after fasting or 3 hours before or after a meal. Some believe taking turmeric this way can increase its absorption.

Is it good to drink turmeric water everyday?

Yes, you can drink turmeric water everyday. The water can treat many intestinal disorders, infections, and cold. Its antioxidants may boost the body’s immunity (1).

Can I take turmeric on an empty stomach?

Yes, you can take turmeric on an empty stomach. The curcumin it contains may keep existing gastric lesions from aggravating when consumed on an empty stomach (59).

Can I add turmeric to my coffee?

Yes, you may add turmeric to coffee along with milk; this can make a healthy and nutritious drink.

59 sources

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is an editor and a published author. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the digital media field for over six years. He has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University. He considers himself a sculptor born to chip away at content and reveal its dormant splendor. He started his career as a research writer, primarily focusing on health and wellness, and has over 250 articles to his credit. Ravi believes in the great possibilities of abundant health with natural foods and organic supplements. Reading and theater are his other interests.
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