Turmeric is also called the Indian saffron or the golden spice. It is one of the healthiest ingredients on the planet. There’s a ton of research to prove this.
Its most powerful constituent is curcumin – which enhances nearly every aspect of your health. Whether it is reducing joint pain or treating diabetes and Alzheimer’s, turmeric has been touted as the cure-all. How far is this true? Let’s find out!
Table Of Contents
How Does Turmeric Work?
Turmeric is a flowering plant belonging to the ginger family. It is scientifically called Curcuma longa. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
The root of the plant (the rhizome) is most often used for its beneficial properties. Turmeric has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for ages. It has a very mild ginger-like taste.
Turmeric is used extensively for treating and preventing diseases. Studies state its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties (1).
Turmeric scavenges free radicals and fights disease. It also inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and induces their death (1). Its most important bioactive compound is curcumin. Other compounds include curcuminoids and volatile oils.
This spice is used as an herbal treatment for arthritis, skin cancer, wound healing, liver ailments, and urinary tract infections (1).
The beneficial effects of turmeric can be achieved through dietary intake over long periods. It is important you make it a regular part of your diet. But before you do that, we want to take you through some science and heavy-duty research.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Turmeric?
The most important compound in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin fights inflammation and boosts heart health. Studies show that its antioxidant effects also help prevent cancer, aid diabetes treatment, promote liver health, and combat other ailments.
1. Promotes Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease accounts for 31% of the deaths in the world every year (2). That’s close to 18 million people!
The curcumin in turmeric prevents heart disease. Its antioxidant properties prevent cardiotoxicity and diabetes-related heart complications (3).
In animal models, this compound prevented heart failure and cardiac hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement of the heart muscle). The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric prevent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) as well.
In rat studies, curcumin had also treated hypertension (4). Hypertension, if not treated, can lead to a heart attack. In individuals with acute coronary syndrome, curcumin lowered total cholesterol and LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels (5).
2. Can Help Prevent Cancer
Turmeric has a protective effect against cancers of the colon, stomach, and skin (6). Further research is being done to establish this effect.
The properties of curcumin in turmeric are being studied. Lab studies show that it can cut the risk of cancer and even slow down its spread. The compound also makes chemotherapy more effective and protects healthy cells in the process (7).
Curcumin also induces programmed cancer cell death. It achieves this by fighting inflammation and scavenging the reactive oxygen species (8).
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 protecting the healthy ones (9).
3. Fights Inflammatory Arthritis
The curcumin in turmeric reduces inflammation and modifies the responses of the immune system. One study states that turmeric is far more effective in preventing joint pain than treating it (10).
Curcumin also improves joint function in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (11). Though further research is warranted, the findings from initial studies are promising. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric help treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis too (12).
The curcuminoids in turmeric also treat knee pain. This includes most forms of musculoskeletal pain, including that of the knees (13).
4. Aids Diabetes Treatment
Curcumin may lower blood sugar levels, and this can aid diabetes treatment (14). It can also help treat fatty liver – a common concern associated with people with diabetes. The compound can also prevent diabetic neuropathy.
Turmeric relieves certain cognitive deficits associated with diabetes (15). It also treats related inflammation and oxidative stress.
Curcumin not only lowers blood glucose levels but also regulates high fat levels in the blood (14).
Turmeric supplementation also showed a decrease in glycated hemoglobin levels when compared with the ingestion of metformin (a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes) alone (16).
Curcumin also improves the functioning of beta cells. Beta cells make insulin – the hormone that controls blood glucose levels (17).
5. Can Help Treat Alzheimer’s
In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin had improved cognitive functioning. This can be attributed to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric’s curcumin (18).
Alzheimer’s disease degrades the nerve cells through inflammation and oxidative damage. Curcumin fights these, thereby potentially aiding the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Another chemical in turmeric that shows promise here is tumerone. In animal studies, tumerone had stimulated new brain cells (19). In theory, this can greatly 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 (20).
6. May Also Treat Depression And Anxiety
In yet another study, curcumin was found to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants (23).
7. Enhances Digestive Health
Curcumin can treat gastric ulcers. This antiulcer activity of curcumin arises from its antioxidant properties (24).
The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin also help treat esophageal inflammation. This way, curcumin can also treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (25).
Turmeric may also have a role to play in treating ulcerative colitis (26). It can help treat other digestive diseases too. These include inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, liver disease, and diarrhea (27).
8. Can Help Treat Cough And Cold
Consuming powdered turmeric with boiled milk can treat cough and other respiratory ailments (28).
Orally administered curcumin reduced cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation in mice. It also improved the health of pulmonary fibrosis in rats. This way, curcumin can also help treat other respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis (29).
Curcumin can also alleviate asthmatic inflammation. Treatment with the compound had prevented the accumulation of inflammatory cells (30).
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may also reduce swelling in the sinus activities.
9. May Help With Weight Loss
The curcumin in turmeric might prevent inflammation related to obesity (31). It may also boost fat burning – although we need more research to confirm this.
Turmeric extract had reduced the growth of fat tissues in rodent models (32). Turmeric achieves this by suppressing angiogenic activity. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Weight gain happens by the expansion of fat tissue, which doesn’t happen with suppressed angiogenesis.
Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation. Since turmeric fights inflammation, it may have potential in treating obesity (33). The curcumin in turmeric also inhibits the production of adipocytes (cells that store fat).
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 Help Treat Fibromyalgia
Some research shows that curcumin can help treat muscular atrophy (35). Muscular atrophy could be one of the symptoms of severe fibromyalgia.
However, we need more research to understand how turmeric might directly help in treating fibromyalgia.
11. Might Promote Liver Health
Research states that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric might make it an ideal treatment for liver ailments (36). More research is warranted, though.
Oxidative stress is one of the major causes of liver damage. The curcumin in turmeric can fight oxidative stress. This can potentially prevent liver injury and boost hepatic health (37).
Curcumin may also aid the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans (38).
12. Relieves Symptoms Of Premenstrual Syndrome
The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are at play here. The compound also modulates neurotransmitters – and this can attenuate the severity of PMS symptoms (39).
13. Helps Treat Urinary Tract Infections
The antibacterial properties of curcumin may help treat urinary tract infections. It achieves this by fighting inflammation (40).
14. Helps Treat Acne
The antibacterial effects of turmeric can help treat many skin conditions, including acne. Turmeric fights inflammation too. This could be especially helpful in treating the inflammation and redness associated with acne.
Using a turmeric face mask can 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.
But ensure you do a patch test before applying turmeric to your face as some individuals may react to the spice.
Studies show that curcumin, when combined with lauric acid, can show antibacterial effects against several acne-causing bacteria (41).
15. May Treat Psoriasis And Eczema
Curcumin can offer therapeutic benefits for skin health (42). The anti-inflammatory properties of the spice can aid the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. When combined with antibiotics, curcumin can help relieve psoriasis (43).
The antioxidant properties of turmeric also help in wound healing. They achieve this by improving circulation and healing inflammation. This 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 (44).
16. Might Delay Signs Of Aging
Studies show that there is a high possibility that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin can help slow down aging (45).
Curcumin also has antimutagenic properties. It protects the skin from the harmful UV rays and can delay the signs of aging (46).
Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that turmeric can treat dark spots, dark circles, and hyperpigmentation. We need more research on these inhibitory effects, though.
17. May Promote Hair Health
There is almost no research on this. 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 want to give a try. But we suggest you check with your doctor before you do.
We know the list of benefits is long. But that has to do with the beneficial compounds turmeric contains. Curcumin is just one of them – and there are more.
What Is The Nutrition Profile Of Turmeric?
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|From Carbohydrate||16.8(70.3 kJ)|
|From Fat||5.6(23.4 kJ)|
|From Protein||1.5(6.3 kJ)|
|From Alcohol||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin A||0.0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||1.7 mg||3%|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||0.2 mg||1%|
|Vitamin K||0.9 mcg||1%|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||6%|
|Vitamin B12||0.0 mcg||0%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
One tablespoon of turmeric (about 7 grams) contains about 24 calories and 4.4 grams of carbs. It also contains:
- 0.5 milligrams of manganese (26% of the daily value)
- 2.8 milligrams of iron (16% of the DV)
- 1.7 milligrams of vitamin C (3% of the DV)
- 13 milligrams of magnesium (3% of the DV)
Impressive. But does this mean you can take as much turmeric you want?
How Much Turmeric Can You Take In A Day?
The amount of turmeric you can take depends on what you are taking it for. For osteoarthritis, you can take 400 mg to 600 mg of turmeric per day, thrice a day (10).
For treating rheumatoid arthritis, the dosage would be 500 mg, twice a day (10).
Turmeric may take time to work. This can mean anywhere between four to eight weeks. You can take it as it is – in its powdered form – though that may not always be palatable.
There are other appealing ways to consume 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.
- Soups. Who doesn’t love soups? Add some turmeric to them, 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.
In case you are wondering if you can eat raw turmeric, well, you can. But not a lot. You can take a pinch of it for taste. The spice is taken best when added to food preparations.
Turmeric pills/supplements are flooding the market. Of course, they have their own benefits. But please exercise caution as not all brands are reliable. Check with your doctor or nutritionist.
Turmeric is all around us. The spice is usually included in toothpaste, cosmetics, gels and gums, soaps, and even face washes. In supplements, it usually is combined with bioperine – for enhanced absorption (47).
Looking at all this, we might believe turmeric has achieved a mythic status. Oh yes, its benefits are astounding, and the supporting research is vast. But then, it may have a darker side too.
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, might be safe. But we don’t know about its intake in excess. Stick to normal food amounts and consult your doctor.
- May Aggravate Kidney Stones
Turmeric contains 2% oxalate (48). At very high doses, this can cause kidney stones or even lead to problems in people with kidney stones. Avoid use.
- Iron Deficiency
Turmeric may prevent iron absorption and cause iron deficiency. Individuals deficient in iron must avoid high doses of turmeric (49).
- Bleeding Issues
Turmeric may slow down blood clotting. This can cause excessive bleeding. Avoid turmeric if you have bleeding disorders or a surgery scheduled in less than two weeks.
The research says it all. Turmeric works towards integrative health. It is a humble spice with incredible ways of healing. Including it in your diet can do wonders for you – and that is an understatement.
Adding the spice to your food preparations is the easiest way to consume it – and the most palatable too.
How often do you add turmeric to your food preparations? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How is turmeric different from ginger?
While the most important compound in turmeric is curcumin, ginger has 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 also have similar purposes. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, warfarin, heparin, and dalteparin.
What is a good substitute for turmeric?
You can substitute turmeric with ginger or cumin.
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%. So, if you have any specific ailment, turmeric supplements would be the best bet. 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.
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