Turmeric has long been used as a medicinal herb, stemming from thousands of years of use in Southeast Asia. The turmeric plant is native to Southeast Asia, primarily grown in India. Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine in places like India and China for many ailments like skin conditions or internal bodily issues. It is especially used in Ayurvedic medicine, an alternative medicinal practice rooted in India. In other instances, turmeric has also been used as a dye in many cultures. Many have incorporated turmeric as an ingredient in their food, most popularly in curry powders. Another common and effective way to ingest turmeric is in tea form, due to the tea most likely being brewed from the root.
Turmeric has many compounds but the one that gets the most recognition is curcumin, as it is responsible for much of turmeric’s health benefit claims. Turmeric spice comes from turmeric plants and the active chemical inside of turmeric, curcumin, is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and is a powerful antioxidant. The benefits of turmeric are mostly attributed to curcumin. Curcumin provides the familiar yellow color that many see and use to color certain foods or products. In order to get the maximum effects of the curcumin, it is important to take turmeric in supplement form as opposed to solely using the turmeric spice in your cooking. There are multiple forms turmeric can be used as a supplement including capsule form, powder form, or extracts.
Turmeric claims a wide variety of health benefits, most popularly used for arthritis and Alzheimer’s prevention. It has become increasingly popular in the United States, studies diving into its anti-inflammatory properties and potential treatment of chronic pain. The amount of turmeric to consume may vary by the person or by targeted issue, thus it is always important to consult a healthcare professional for advice.
What are the possible benefits of turmeric?
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- Inflammation in the body can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin has been shown to fight inflammation, even comparing to anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Studies also show that taking turmeric/curcumin supplements can help relieve pain from arthritis or improve function. The results found that supplementing with turmeric can provide more improvement in pain and swelling as compared to anti-inflammatory medication.
- Some may use turmeric topically for bruising, swelling, itching, or inflammatory conditions.
- Immune Function
- Curcumin may help boost immunity due to its antioxidant and antibacterial properties and could potentially protect and regulate immune cell function against chronic diseases. This can also help fight against a cold or the flu.
- Skin Health
- Turmeric can help a range of skin issues due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Many use it for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Companies have even created products that contain turmeric in masks or serums due to its ability to provide a healthy glow to the skin.
- Turmeric can also contribute to healing wounds as it decreases inflammation and helps with collagen health. It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can make it useful as a disinfectant.
- Liver Health
- Turmeric produces antioxidant effects that can help inhibit the liver from toxin damage. This can help individuals who are recovering from drug addiction or those who may have to take strong pharmaceutical drugs that damage the liver over time.
- Turmeric can also affect bile, helping to facilitate the production of a higher amount of digestive bile and protecting against damaging bile chemicals.
- Brain Health
- Curcumin can increase levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) which can, in turn, reverse or delay age-related brain diseases. This same effect can help prevent memory loss and many studies have tested its effect related to the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Research has investigated that curcumin can make its way through the blood-brain barrier. This proves significant in that it may help fight against Alzheimer’s.
- Lung Health
- Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can help protect the lungs from chronic lung issues. One study showed that curcumin could help with damaged lungs from disease and help with asthma.
- Digestion and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can contribute to healthy digestion in the body by decreasing gut inflammation and increasing the efficiency of digestion.
- Studies on turmeric revealed that curcumin could relieve irregular or unusual intestinal contractions and help alleviate diarrhea abdominal cramps.
- Turmeric can help activate the digestive system by prompting gallbladder bile production.
- Turmeric could help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome. A study found that taking turmeric/curcumin supplements can help decrease abdominal pain from IBS. Effects were especially beneficial for people who had inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Studies have shown that turmeric can help reduce depression symptoms. Low levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been linked to depression, and curcumin has been shown to increase levels of BDNF.
- The research revealed that curcumin showed similar effects to Prozac when used to treat depression. The results showed that it may help alleviate symptoms of depression. As well, it may boost serotonin and dopamine transmitters in the brain.
- Pain Relief
- Some studies suggest that taking turmeric supplements can help reduce pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, even comparing to the effects of pain reliever like ibuprofen.
- Others may use turmeric supplements as a preventative measure for any discomfort or pain throughout the day. This can be especially helpful if one anticipates any soreness after exercise, for example.
- Turmeric may help to treat diabetes due to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects. A study found that curcumin reduced blood insulin levels in rats with type 2 diabetes.
- Turmeric could potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by lowering high blood sugar and high cholesterol. As well, supplementing with turmeric could help improve insulin resistance.
- Weight Loss
- Some studies have found that taking turmeric supplements daily leads to a reduction in body weight and BMI. This may be due to curcumin affecting some inflammatory markers.
- Other studies showed that supplementing with turmeric helped significantly reduce body fat, especially in those with metabolic syndrome.