Turmeric is one of the world’s healthiest spices with over 6,000 studies to back the efficacy of its active component, curcumin.
The health benefits of turmeric have been widely documented in current research. The most exciting findings came from studies that compared curcumin’s effect on a variety of illnesses with the effects of commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. The studies found that curcumin may be as effective in treating certain illnesses as commonly prescribed drugs, and in some cases more effective. It is no surprise that turmeric has gained notoriety in recent years due to a series of health profiles affirming its health benefits.
Unfortunately for those who would like to add turmeric to their diet, the flavor of turmeric does not lend itself to use alone in foods. But many of us regularly consume turmeric when we eat curry dishes, as turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder. It is also turmeric that lends curry dishes their characteristic orange color. So, what exactly are the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin? Here, we will explore seven.
The majority of studies designed to test the health benefits of turmeric have utilized the active ingredient curcumin, which has exhibited strong anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant. Since turmeric contains only about 3% curcumin, higher concentration supplements are used to increase and standardize the curcumin dose.
One of the likely causes of disease and aging in the body is oxidation, also known as free radical damage. Oxidation can release free-radicals, adverse molecular reactions within the body’s proteins, DNA, and fatty acids. Antioxidants like curcumin(1, 2) found in turmeric, can help block free-radical damage.
One in every three people alive today will be afflicted with cancer in their lifetime, which remains one of the leading causes of death. This, despite years of intensive study and countless resources dedicated to finding a cure. We can now add curcumin to the list of anti-cancer agents studied. In these studies, researchers have found that curcumin may inhibit the growth of blood vessels in tumors, reduce the spread of cancerous cells, and contribute to cancer cell-death. (6)
There have been several laboratory studies to date that have demonstrated curcumin’s ability to reduce the growth of cancer cells and inhibit the growth of tumors in test animals (7, 8). The studies are promising, but more research needs to be done to determine if high doses of curcumin can, in fact, treat cancer. However, there is a wider body of research available that suggests curcumin can be used to prevent cancer.
Curcumin Increases Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is linked to improved brain function and reduced risk of degenerative brain disease. It was once believed that no new brain cells could be created after the first few years of life. Today, we have discovered that brain cells can create new connections, and in some cases, create new nerve cells. The substance, BDNF is one of the signal proteins that regulates this growth (9).
The lack of BDNF has been linked to many diseases of the brain, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease. (10, 11). Curcumin can increase levels of BDNF, which may potentially lead to an effective defense against diseases including depression. (12, 13). Further benefits of curcumin may also include improved memory and cognitive function.
Joint inflammation (arthritis) refers to a condition where one or more of the body’s joints is inflamed. Arthritis takes many different forms, many of which can create a great deal of discomfort. Since curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it may be of great help to arthritis sufferers.
In a recent study of rheumatoid arthritis remedies, curcumin was found to be more effective than a common anti-inflammatory drug (14). Additional studies have shown the same positive effects (15, 16).
As mentioned earlier, curcumin increases BDNF in the brain, a lack of which has been linked to depression. A recent study reviewed 60 patients divided into 3 groups. One group took only Prozac, the second took 1,000 mg of curcumin, and the third took both Prozac and curcumin. After 6 weeks, the curcumin-only group showed improvements similar to the Prozac-only and the Prozac-curcumin groups.
The results seem to support the conclusion that curcumin can help with depression. Additionally, curcumin may help alleviate depression by boosting the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain (18, 19).
One of our body’s vital functions is the destruction of invasive bacteria and recovery from damage caused by these bacteria. The body breaks down and destroys bacteria and damaged tissue so it can be replaced with stronger, healthier tissue.
But this process is supposed to be temporary. For those who suffer from chronic inflammation, the break-down process is switched on long-term, causing discomfort and harm to the body. This is thought to be a major contributor to most common chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more (20, 21, 22).
As curcumin has exhibited anti-inflammatory properties on par with several pharmaceuticals, it may be an effective alternative to treat chronic inflammation. But contrary to long-term pharmaceutical use, curcumin has known no side effects (23,24, 25). Cumin may also help with inflammation related intestinal illnesses such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Cardiovascular disease is complex and can have many underlying causes. It remains the most common cause of death in the world today (23). Exciting new research has found that. curcumin may help prevent the conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease. (24).
One of curcumin’s major benefits is its ability to help protect the endothelium, the inner layer of cells lining the body’s blood vessels. Damage or impairment of function in these cells is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. (25). In several recent studies, curcumin has exhibited cardiovascular benefits on par with the benefits of regular exercise and some drugs (26, 27).
Considering curcumin’s ability to combat both inflammation and oxidation in the body, it has become a promising alternative for many modern illnesses. But how should we add it to our diet?
Turmeric can be consumed as a powder mixed in water or another beverage. Add a little black pepper to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000%. Adding a little fat or oil can also help since curcumin is fat soluble. Start with a half teaspoon and gradually increase up to 3 teaspoons.
Golden milk Here is a good recipe.
*Be aware that some people may be sensitive to turmeric. If you experience regular side effects when taking turmeric, and there are no other obvious causes, it may be possible that it does not agree with you.
We have reviewed 7 potential benefits to regular turmeric consumption, so why not try a little turmeric powder at home or order curcumin capsules. Here is a reputable brand. When curcumin is combined with bioperine from black pepper or paired with phospholipids, there is a significant increase in absorption.
Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin: an easy, natural way to help prevent or treat a myriad of health problems.