The health benefits of turmeric have been widely studied in recent years.
In fact, there have been over 5,000 research papers and nearly 100 clinical trials on turmeric, which have looked at health benefits ranging from joint mobility to preventing cancer.
This research and the scientific community at large have accepted that turmeric and its primary chemical compound curcumin have a variety of health benefits.
But what are those health benefits and what is just hype?
Let’s take a look at turmeric, curcumin, and see what the research says!
What Is Turmeric?
A yellow-orange spice, Turmeric is a product of Curcuma longa, a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant, mostly found in South Asia and Central America.
Eastern Medicine has used turmeric for thousands of years to treat everything from digestive issues to skin diseases and more! However, it is used today mostly as a spice for flavoring a variety of food and drink.
Turmeric’s signature gold color is the result of its primary compound Curcumin.
What Does Turmeric Taste Like?
Although turmeric is a spice, it doesn’t taste particularly spicy like chili or paprika. Additionally, it doesn’t taste very sweet, bitter, or intense.
Instead, turmeric has more of a mild, warm taste to it which many describe as having light, earthy flavors. That said, you probably don’t want to eat a spoonful of raw turmeric, as large amounts of it may come off as tasting particularly bitter.
Turmeric’s overall mild taste is what makes it one of the most versatile spices in the world.
However, turmeric has so much to offer beyond just being a spice.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Studies have shown that turmeric has a wide variety of health benefits.
Let’s take a look at a few!
Reducing Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis is an overarching term that refers to inflammation of the joints. Unfortunately, over 50 million adults suffer from some type of arthritis.
However, turmeric’s main active compound, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties that could possibly reduce arthritis symptoms.
In fact, some studies have shown that turmeric could reduce these symptoms even better than traditional medications like NSAIDs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stop taking any arthritis medications and substitute them for turmeric. However, turmeric supplementation alongside your medications could help maximize their efficacy.
May Help Fight Depression
Additionally, turmeric, or more specifically curcumin, may also help increase the efficacy of anti-depressants in major depressive disorder.
One high-quality study found that curcumin supplementation enhanced the effects of some SSRI medications. Another study reinforced this idea showing that taking curcumin along with fluoxetine (Prozac) was more powerful than taking either one separately.
This works in a couple ways.
Firstly, curcumin reduces inflammation in your brain. The method in which it does this is fairly complex, but in simple terms, curcumin reduces the activity of the receptors that induce inflammation.
Second, curcumin increases the release of serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good chemicals) in your brain.
This combination – increasing dopamine plus reducing inflammation – promotes the reduction of depression symptoms.
May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells in your body.
We still need more research, but increasing evidence is demonstrating that Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin may have a role in preventing and even fighting cancer.
In essence, scientists believe that curcumin’s antioxidant properties may slow the spread of cancer cells. Moreover, some studies shows that curcumin may help the efficacy of chemotherapy treatment.
Several related high-quality studies also found that curcumin:
- Is able to inhibit the expression of the HER2 protein which may lead to breast cancer.
- Suppresses the enzymes that cause lung cancer.
- Acts as a powerful agent in preventing digestive cancers such as gastric, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer.
This research suggests curcumin supplementation can be beneficial alongside existing cancer treatment. However, talk with your doctor before starting any type of supplementation.
May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and currently affects over 6,000,000 Americans.
Alzheimer’s is an incredibly complex disease that has a variety of causes, but several studies have found that curcumin may be helpful in not only preventing it, but possibly even treating it.
Just like with previous conditions, curcumin does this in a variety of ways.
Low expression of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.
In simple terms, BDNF helps stimulate and regulate the growth of new neurons.
So what does any of this have to do with turmeric? Well, one study demonstrated that curcumin led to an increased expression of BDNF.
In other words, they found that curcumin played a role in helping generate new brain cells.
As you’ve probably caught on by now, the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin come with quite a variety of benefits.
One study tracked the effects of curcumin on inflammatory proteins linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The study found that curcumin did indeed reduce the expression of those inflammatory agents and concluded that curcumin could be a potential therapeutic approach for the fighting Alzheimer’s.
Research has linked unhealthy amounts of cholesterol to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s as well as a number of heart diseases.
Though certainly not a substitute for an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, some studies have found that curcumin can play a role in lowering levels of LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol.
Although more research is still needed, this combination of increasing BDNF, reducing inflammation, and lowering cholesterol, has many convinced that curcumin could be a powerful agent in helping combat Alzheimer’s.
How To Take Turmeric
Generally, turmeric can be taken as a spice or a supplement.
However, which version is best for extracting the most nutritional benefits. Here’s what the research said.
As previously discussed, curcumin is the compound that gives us all of those amazing health benefits. However, it’s important to note that pure turmeric powder only has about 3% curcumin.
Furthermore, curcumin has poor bioavailability. In other words, our bodies have a hard time absorbing it.
According to the latest research, the most effective way to optimize our body’s absorption of curcumin is by consuming it with black pepper. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, and increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%.
In other words, eating turmeric with black pepper allows us to absorb 20x more curcumin.
The reasons for this are unknown, however one theory is that piperine slows down the speed at which our liver metabolizes curcumin, which in turn allows our body to absorb more of it.
As a result, curcumin and piperine oftentimes come as a combination in supplement form.
So what about supplements?
Usually, turmeric supplements contain 90-95% curcumin extract. So theoretically, this would be a no-brainer: supplements are the way to go, right? Not necessarily.
While curcumin supplements are certainly beneficial, turmeric itself may have a variety of health benefits, too.
For example, one study found that turmeric was more effective than pure curcumin at suppressing the growth of tumors.
In other words: we need more research.
It seems that to maximize all of these potential heath benefits, it’s best to take a combination of raw turmeric, black pepper, and curcumin supplements.
What Medications Should Not Be Taken With Turmeric?
For the most part, turmeric is generally safe. However, if you’re taking certain medications, you’ll want to avoid consuming turmeric.
Turmeric is a blood thinner.
Therefore, turmeric should not be combined with blood thinners including:
Furthermore, people who are pregnant, anemic, or or have gallbladder problems should not take turmeric or curcumin supplements.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Be sure to always consult with your doctor before starting any new supplement.
How Much Turmeric Per Day
It is believed that 500-2,000 milligrams of turmeric per day will provide the most health benefits.
That said, high doses over a long period of time may prove more harmful than helpful. Some people have reported upset stomach and general digestive issues when taking too much turmeric.
Undoubtedly, turmeric and curcumin have some amazing scientifically backed benefits. In fact, this article only scratches the surface. Strong evidence shows that it could help a range of ailments including diabetes, aging, eye degeneration, weight loss, cardiovascular disease, and so much more.
However, before you begin adding this versatile spice to your diet, talk with a trusted healthcare professional and as always you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.