Turmeric (curcuma longa) is a ginger spice commonly used in India that gives curry a yellow color. It has been used for thousands of years due to its multiple medical properties. Turmeric contains several chemical compounds, known as curcuminoids, which include the active substance curcumin.
There have been reportedly over 10,000 peer reviewed medical articles and curcumin is shown to possess significant anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-depressant properties.
However, it should be noted that turmeric only contains around 3% by weight of curcumin and is poorly absorbed in the body.
So to get the best effects, most of these research studies were done with curcumin extract to attain 1g a day. Thus, if you aim to use curcumin it may be best to use curcumin extract with black pepper to help enhance absorption of curcumin by 2000% .
Here are the top 12 benefits of turmeric consumption backed by peer review medical literature.
The Biggest Health Benefits Of Turmeric
1. It’s An Anti-inflammatory
When we injury our body our cells have an inflammatory to the stress. This is done to help eliminate the initial cause of the injury and clear our damaged cells.
However, if there is too much of an inflammation response this can cause changes in cell structure and leads to pain.
We take anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, swelling and pain. Studies show that curcumin has been demonstrated to be an effective anti-inflammatory medication in numerous studies [2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
Unfortunately, non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications (nsaids) such as Ibuprofen have side effects of peptic ulcer disease, kidney disease, third trimmest of pregnancy, and 3rd trimester of pregnancy [7, 8, 9, 10].
Fortunately, curcumin does not pose these risks so serves as a great alternative to fight inflammation for people with those medical conditions.
2. Its Anti-Oxidant Capacity
When the cells in our body use oxygen they produce free radicals which can cause damage to other cells and decrease cell function.
Our body produces antioxidants which are substances that bind to these free radicals to prevent damage to our cell.
Antioxidants decrease our risk from conditions ranging from heart disease, nerve damage, and cancer which are influenced by oxidative damage.
Common antioxidants include Vitamin A, C, E and Selenium which are found in beans, grains, fruits and vegetables . Curcumin happens to be a strong antioxidant that is non-toxic and significant preventative and treatment effect in coronary artery disease, cancer, and diabetes [12, 13].
Interestingly, curcumin has been show to possibly even enhance the effects of other antioxidants . In this way, curcumin is both an oxygen radical scavenger and one that can enhance the antioxidant capacity of other modulators.
3. It Helps With Diabetes Management
Managing diabetes with both oral medications and insulin therapy can be challenging. However, adding curcumin may be one of the best things you can do to lower you glucose levels.
Curcumin modulates many signaling molecules, including transcription factors, chemokines, cytokines, and adipokines, adiponectin, leptin, resistin, and visfatin) which are implicated in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes [15, 16,17].
4. It Can Help With Arthritis
As mentioned before, curcumin plays a key role in anti-inflammation. Arthritis is a joint disease that is due to the inflammation of the joint.
Often the cartilage is broken down resulting in the bones rubbing against each other leading to pain, stiffness and loss of joint motion.
Joint disease releases hormones through various pathways, however, curcumin mediates a strong anti-inflammatory effect through downregulation of the inflammatory cytokines, transcription factors, protein kinases, and enzymes seen in arthritis [20, 21].
The dose recommendation for osteoarthritis via capsule is typically 400 mg to 600 mg, three times per day; or 0.5 g to 1 g of powdered root up to 3 g per day . However, for rheumatoid arthritis it is recommended to do 500 mg twice daily .
5. It Can Help With Alzheimer’s Disease
There are limited studies that suggest that turmeric may also help with behavioral symptoms in those with Alzheimer’s disease .
6. It Can Help With Cancer Prevention
Curcumin has shown in numerous in vitro studies (done in test tubes) to show promising results as an anti-cancer therapeutic agent, however, human trials have failed to meet any significant results.
At this time, curcumin has been shown encouraging outcomes against colorectal cancer [28, 29], and helped enhance the radiosenstivity of renal cell carcinoma by suppressing the nf-κb signaling pathway .
It has also shown in vitro trials to have potent anti-cancer therapy in oral squamous cell carcinoma by deactivation of the mapk/erk signaling pathway . Hopefully in time we see the promising results seen in vitro translate into success for human studies .
7. It Can Decrease Cardiovascular Risk
Curcumin may help with inflammatory effects and prevention of irregular heartbeats, such as ventricular arrhythmias .Curcumin also demonstrated significant improvements in endothelial function, arterial compliance, and arterial stiffness [34, 35].
In some animal trials, curcumin has shown to play a role in reducing the risk of myocardial infarction and stimulating jak 2/ stat 3 signal pathway, decreasing oxidative damage and inhibiting myocardium apoptosis. .
8. It Can Help With Depression
Treatment of major depressive disorder can be a sensitive issue to those that are opposed to taking medication or counseling. Fortunately, studies show support for curcumin in the treatment of depression [40, 41].
Furthermore, it appears that curcumin even enhances the potency of antidepressant medications suggesting that it may be beneficial to prescribe curcumin as supplement for those already on antidepressants .
A robust review suggests that overall, curcumin appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious among depressed patients, however, the authors caution that several larger randomized controlled trials and follow-up studies need to be done over an extended period of time to better assess the clinical utility of curcumin for treatment major depressive disorder .
9. It Can Speed Up Wound Healing
Since curcumin helps reduce inflammation, it is also beneficial in reducing the body’s natural response to cutaneous wounds such as inflammation and oxidation .
10. It Provides uv Skin Protection And Healthy Skin
This is because the curcumin can block different part of the pathways that cause skin damage, thus suggesting its use for a way to prevent photoaging skin and photocarcinogenesis (cancer induced by light).
11. It Can Help Stop Strokes
Although the studies are limited to animal models at this time, curcumin has impressively shown in post-ischemic stroke patients to reduce ischemic stroke-induced brain damage and improves functional outcomes, providing new evidence that curcumin might be a promising therapeutic strategy for stroke [49, 50, 51, 52].
12. It Helps Avoid Gastrointestinal Disorders
Those with gastrointestinal disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis) may benefit from curcumin added to their diet .
The mechanism used by curcumin to treat ulcerative colitis is through reduction of oxidative stress due to its ability to inhibit inflammatory markers nf-kB.
A systemic review was done that discussed the effects of curcumin in various gastrointestinal diseases such as peptic ulcer disease, inflammatory bowel disease and gastroesophageal reflux diseaseand the results area promising .
Are There Any Potential Side Effects?
Overall, turmeric is safe to eat but some people may have side effects of nausea, diarrhea, increased risk of bleeding, increased liver function tests, or increased menstrual flow.
Furthermore, be aware that turmeric may interfere with anti-platelet or anti-coagulation medications such as aspirin, clopidogrel or warfarin.
Thus, you should strongly discuss this with your doctor if you have certain conditions that require you to take these medications.
Turmeric Recipe Ideas
Turmeric spice can easily be added turmeric to scramble eggs, soup and roasted vegetables. Toss it in some rice to add some spice, or mix with your greens for a zesty flavor.
However, turmeric contains around 3% by weight of curcumin and is poorly absorbed in the body it is advised to best consume curcumin extract with black pepper to increase intake and absorption.
The Biggest Health Benefits Of Turmeric
- It’s an anti-inflammatory
- Its anti-oxidant capacity
- It helps with diabetes management
- It can help with arthritis
- It can help with alzheimer’s disease
- It can help with cancer prevention
- It can decrease cardiovascular risk
- It can help with depression
- It can speed up wound healing
- It provides uv skin protection and healthy skin
- It can help stop strokes
- It helps avoid gastrointestinal disorders
Rajiv M Mallipudi, md, mhs is an internal medicine resident physician, personal trainer, athlete and author. He has over a decade of personal training experience and helped hundreds of clients of all levels achieve their weight loss and fitness goals. This inspired him to work as a clinical researcher at the nationally recognized Johns Hopkins Hospital Weight Management Center. During medical school he and his classmates created the health and wellness organization, med fit, which provided personal training and nutrition counseling to the medical student body. In his spare time, Dr. Mallipudi enjoys playing ice hockey, dancing, and training for his next bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions.
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