You may have heard of turmeric and used it in the kitchen before. Have you ever heard of turmeric’s health benefits and side effects?
For those of you who don’t know, turmeric has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But, the root of turmeric is also used and contain medicinal properties.
I remember when I was a toddler and my grandmother would offer me a warm cup of turmeric milk, also called “haldi doodh” when I was sick with a sore throat. Now, turmeric milk is the new big phenomenon in the west. You may have recently heard of it being referred to as “golden milk.”
In this article I did my research on the health benefits of golden milk and turmeric tea as it relates to the benefits of turmeric and curcumin. I had to find out all I could about turmeric and how to use it.
I realized at a very young age that turmeric was no ordinary food. This spice has many health benefits including, reducing acid reflux symptoms, used as an anti inflammatory to help with pain associated with arthritis, contains vitamins, and has many medicinal values.
Medicinal uses in both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as well as Ayurvedic medicine include the treatment of liver disease, skin problems, respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments, sprained muscles, joint pains, and general wound healing.
But before getting into details of whether this superfood is actually the spice of life I decided to fully understand its origin and characteristics. I also want to share with you where to get my favorite turmeric supplements in the yellow box above.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a bright yellow rhizome (underground stem) commonly found in its powdered form made by dry grinding of the mature turmeric root.
Turmeric comes from a tropical plant called Curcuma longa, a part of the ginger family. Used in almost all South Asian and Indian curries, this spice has negligible calories (1 tablespoon = 24 calories) and zero cholesterol. It is also abundant in
- Dietary Fiber
- Vitamin B6
Turmeric is one such spice which is 100% natural and has 150 potentially therapeutic activities medically documented under its name.
The active component of this spice is a polyphenol called curcumin. When you look at the science, it all points to curcumin. Within this article, we will mainly be talking about curcumin when referring to turmeric.
A study published in the Natural Product Reports (2011) states that curcumin can be beneficial for
- Lung and liver diseases
- Neurological diseases
- Metabolic diseases
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Inflammatory diseases
Curcumin is also well-known for anti-tumor, antioxidant, anti-amyloid and anti-inflammatory properties.
It may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence is invading mainstream cafes and is replacing caffeinated drinks as the beverage of choice.
Let’s take a closer at some evidence based studies performed on turmeric along with health benefits and side effects.
I remember in school I was taught the little swelling around my scrapped elbow was actually an essential part of the healing process. My scabs always itched! This point of the healing process is where your body fights foreign invaders and repairs the damage.
While this is true in case of injury, the problem arises when the inflammation develops on your own healthy tissues.
According to studies published in many scientific journals, such chronic inflammations are known to be associated with
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Other degenerative conditions
Lucky for you that just a simple inexpensive spice, turmeric has been famous for its anti-inflammatory activities.
Several studies suggest that the primary pharmacological ingredient of turmeric, curcumin shows potency equal to other anti-inflammatory drugs such as hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone or “bute” for animals.
Curcumin also reduces inflammation by lowering levels of two inflammatory enzymes called COX-2 and LOX in your body.
That’s not all…
Inflammation is an extremely complicated immunological process that takes place in the cell.
Curcumin works at the cellular level to block out bioactive molecules that trigger the inflammation process common in most chronic diseases such as arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders. Linus Pauling Institute talks how curcumin helps with irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
According to a study performed on 89 people with recurring ulcerative colitis, only 5% of the study group treated with turmeric extract showed signs of recurring colitis as compared to 20% of the study group that did not use the spice.
Unlike many drugs, which are associated with various significant toxic effects, curcumin produces no toxicity and displays natural anti-inflammatory properties.
Pretty sweet huh?
Turmeric And Cholesterol
Curcumin also reduces your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and balances it out with an increase in levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
It messages the genes in the liver cells to produce messenger proteins that aid in the destruction of the bad cholesterol. The increased levels of these proteins can help to flush out more LDL from your system.
It gets better…
A study performed on 10 healthy individuals confirmed when taking curcumin supplements of 500mg per day for a period of 7 days, reduced bad cholesterol by 33% and increased good cholesterol by 29%.
Lowering your cholesterol reduces your risk of developing serious heart conditions and suffering from heart attacks and strokes.
With that said, let’s understand how turmeric can help you maintain better cardiovascular health.
Turmeric and Blood Pressure
This is scary…
Nearly 2,200 Americans die of heart disorders every day, with an average of 1 death every 40 seconds. These statistics are alarming and definitely need to improve in the near future.
No! Turmeric can’t cure all your heart ailments in one go. A 2012 study revealed that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric contribute to a 65% lower chance of heart attack among bypass patients.
Improving the function of the blood vessels and lowering blood pressure is one of curcumin’s crucial roles when it comes to heart health.
It is well-known that a malfunctioning blood vessel is the most common cause of heart diseases and this leads to irregular blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors.
Studies suggest that curcumin leads to improvements in artery and blood vessel elasticity by preventing plaque formations function.
Curcumin is as effective as exercise when improving vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.
Let’s just say it can’t hurt to start including turmeric in your daily routine.
Regulates Blood Glucose and Diabetes
Diabetes is one the largest disorders worldwide due its global effect on almost 422 million people.
Once again, turmeric is to the rescue…
Another use for turmeric is its ability to lower blood glucose levels. This was first documented in 1972.
In this 1972 study, a male patient who had diabetes for 16 years ingested 5g of turmeric powder over a period, after which his fasting blood sugar decreased from 140 to 70 mg/dl.
(Alex Redmond) Instagram page
This suggested that ingestion of turmeric along with insulin therapy showed a substantial reduction in blood sugar levels.
For all of you pre diabetics and diabetics turmeric supplements would be something to look into based on this research.
Another study performed in 2010 showed that curcumin could be closely associated with the secretion of the insulin hormone.
The above results showed that the ingestion of turmeric increased postprandial serum insulin levels, but did not affect plasma glucose levels in the healthy subjects. The results indicated that tumeric may have an effect on insulin secretion.
As a result of which a follow-up study was performed in 2012. After 9 months of treatment, 16.4% of subjects in the placebo group were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, whereas none were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the curcumin treated group.
All and all I’d say it shows some great results for anyone suffering from diabetic complications 🙂
Improved Brain Function
The brain is a mass of tangled neurons that control every small and big function of your body. These neurons are capable of forming new connections and can also multiply and increase in number.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone that regulates this process of neuron multiplication, which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. A decrease in the levels of this hormone is associated with disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Surprisingly, curcumin helps with cognition…
Turmeric, Curcumin And Cancer
Among all the other health benefits of curcumin and turmeric extract, it has been found that its anti-carcinogenic properties are the most potent. Eating the right foods and avoiding fast foods like McDonald’s can help with fighting cancers and diseases.
This is interesting…
Curcumin has the maximum number of evidence based studies against cancer compared to any other nutrient.
A study funded by the Clayton Foundation for Research in 2009, found that curcumin can kill a wide variety of tumor cell types through diverse mechanisms.
According to Dr. William LaValley, one of the leading natural medicine cancer physicians, the main reason for the universal anti-cancer approach of curcumin is:
its ability to target more than 100 different molecular pathways.
In one clinical trial of 44 men with colon lesions (that can develop into colon cancer at later stages) 4g of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%.
It gets better…
There are several studies that show curcumin can be an anti cancer root and reduce the growth of cancerous cells. Other studies show curcumin can inhibit the growth of tumors in test animals along with evidence showing cancers in the digestive system (such as colorectal cancer) can be prevented from occurring in the first place.
In 2009, researchers in Ireland found that curcumin killed off oesophageal cancer cells and that curcumin started to destroy the tumor cells within 24 hours. As a result, the cells began to digest themselves.
A huge chunk of research and development is invested in searching for a cure for cancer. Keeping all the above studies in mind, turmeric is one of the most promising herbal approaches to the treatment or prevention of various types of cancer and other illnesses.
Natural Pain Relief
Since I already spoke on the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, it comes as no surprise that this bioactive component of turmeric also reduces pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition which is characterized by inflammation in the joints and associated with excruciating pain. Studies have shown that curcumin was even more effective than diclofenac sodium — an anti-inflammatory drug for arthritis.
The anti-inflammatory nature of curcumin can also relieve most symptoms of menstruation such as
- Menstrual discomfort
- Excessive bleeding
- Mood swings
Replace your pain killers with a natural source of curcumin, or turmeric and take the first step towards ingesting fewer chemically manufactured drugs a day.
While diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases are the highlight of almost every clinical discussion, it came to me as a surprise that about 20 million Americans suffer from breathing disorders such as asthma.
Asthma is a chronic condition caused by the inflammation of the air passages in your lungs that may constrict and clog the airways. Asthma can either be genetic or can be triggered by various allergies.
A clinical trial in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research was completed in 2014. The study suggests that curcumin, when administered to a study group of 77 asthma suffering patients as an add on therapy resulted in:
- A significant improvement in the airway obstruction
- And an improvement in the levels of inflammatory enzymes in your blood stream
After having identified this medicinal root as a potent anti-inflammatory drug in 2011, the Archives of Medical Research discovered that curcumin was as effective as the prescription steroid dexamethasone, a drug commonly used to treat asthma.
Apart from its numerous health benefits the safety, tolerability and non-toxicity of curcumin at high dosages has been well established by human clinical trials.
It wouldn’t hurt to add this versatile spice to your daily diet.
You read it right! Turmeric can also aid in weight loss and obesity.
As mentioned above this herb is rich in antioxidants thus increasing the metabolism of your body. If you exercise regularly and consume turmeric on a daily basis you could lose weight much quicker than before.
Turmeric reduces the inflammatory response in fat tissue and helps promote fatty acid oxidation.
Obesity is most commonly associated with inflammation caused due to the presence of macrophages in fat tissues in your body. These cells contain cytokines that can cause inflammation to your organs such as your heart, pancreas and liver.
Turmeric stops macrophages in their tracks so the inflammation never gets a chance to take hold, meaning you won’t keep putting on weight.
Turmeric And Depression
Curcumin has also displayed promising role in reducing depression. Studies have confirmed that curcumin, found in turmeric, has a similar effect as antidepressants on patients suffering from depression, mood swings, anxiety, and stress.
A trial performed on 60 patients suffering with depression suggested that a combination of the medication Prozac with ingestion of curcumin showed significantly better results at reducing depression as compared to those treated with only turmeric or Prozac.
But here’s the kicker…
This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with major depressive disorder without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.
I have already confirmed that curcumin effectively…
- Relieves pain
- Increases mobility
- Reduces inflammation
- And more
But did you know…
Turmeric and curcumin don’t have a high bioavailability, meaning your body can’t use it as effectively. Don’t be discouraged, this doesn’t mean it wont help at all, it will.
You might be asking yourself…
So how do you take turmeric or curcumin and get the best absorption?
Turmeric capsules and supplements of course! Taking curcumin supplements is the standard way for maximum effectiveness.
Although the standard dosage seems to be 500 mg once or twice a day, I’d just recommend following the instructions on the manufacturers label because they will all be a bit different.
Do you use turmeric daily? Share your personalized recipes that include turmeric and its countless health benefits.