You’ve probably heard of turmeric right? You might have used it in your kitchen to make a spicy curry or something of the like.
And perhaps you’ve heard some of the hype around using turmeric for your health?
Well we’re here to discover if turmeric is really as good as all the hype makes out. And when I started to dig in, I was pretty amazed myself, because if you look in the scientific journals there are thousands of studies done around turmeric. It’s probably one of the most studied spices, so that’s saying something.
So I thought we’d look at some of the health benefits so you can see how amazing it really is. Before we do that though, let’s just see what it is about turmeric that makes it so special.
The Active Ingredient In Turmeric
Turmeric is an Indian spice that has been used for centuries in Ayurveda medicine, not only in India but in places like China as well.
Turmeric contains over 300 different components but one of the most beneficial polyphenols is called curcumin. When you look at the science it all points to curcumin, so when we talk about turmeric today we’ll mostly be talking about curcumin.
A study by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center states that: “curcumin modulates various signaling molecules, including inflammatory molecules, transcription factors, enzymes, protein kinases, protein reductases, carrier proteins, cell survival proteins, drug resistance proteins, adhesion molecules, growth factors, receptors, cell-cycle regulatory proteins, chemokines, DNA, RNA, and metal ions”.
That sure is one big list of ‘sciencey’ things it can do, so let’s get past that geeky stuff and dig into some more practical things it can help us with in every day life.
12 Amazing Health Benefits Of Turmeric
1. Reduce Inflammation
There are many conditions associated with inflammation from arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, ankylosis, and any other condition ending in ‘isis’ or ‘osis’. And many studies also show that inflammation is involved in the development of conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
So I guess that means that if we get a chance to decrease inflammation, we should take it. And it would be even better if we have a natural way to do it right?
Well that’s where turmeric comes into the picture.
We have a whole variety of inflammatory molecules in the body; a few of the most common ones are interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF). Yeah I know, they are all weird geeky words, how come science is always like that
TNFs are the ones involved in starting up inflammation and anti-inflammatory drugs are designed to block TNFs. But drugs also have their downfall because most pharmaceuticals have side effects. Sure we need them sometimes but what if we have a natural option that can do just the same?
Turmeric is AMAZING for reducing inflammation. In fact, it’s one of the things it’s best known for.Study, after study, after study, after study (you get the point) shows it’s powerful influence on reducing those key inflammatory molecules I just mentioned.
So if you have any type of inflammatory condition, then turmeric can definitely help you.
2. Reduce Cholesterol
We all know that having healthy cholesterol levels is important, but where does the whole cholesterol thing begin?
Like most things related to the body’s health, it starts in the gut with digestion and absorption of fats from the food we eat. So what if we could regulate that absorption so that we absorb less fat and cholesterol?
A study published in Lipids Health and Disease proposed that if we could stop some of the cholesterol absorption from the intestine, we could reduce blood cholesterol by up to 36%. So they set out to test if curcumin could help with this.
It has been shown in several studies that curcumin decreases cholesterol levels because it aids in lipid (fat) metabolism. But what this study discovered was that in the intestine, curcumin inhibits the key transporter of cholesterol known as NPC1L1.
Another study by Kumar and colleagues also tested the NPC1L1 transporter and found the same thing, curcumin helps to modulate it and therefore reduce cholesterol absorption.
That means that we have a great tool here to stop cholesterol before it becomes a problem, and best of all it’s a natural tool as well.
3. Improve Pancreatic Function
When we look around us today, most of us are aware that type 2 diabetes is on the rise. Though it’s a combination of issues such as insulin resistance and high blood sugar, one organ that gets affected is the pancreas.
Turmeric has been shown to have a positive influence on beta cell function. Beta cells are the cells in the pancreas.
A study conducted by Rouse, Younes, and Egan in The Journal of Endocrinology showed that under glucose stimulation, turmeric regulated insulin secretion and helps enhance pancreatic function. So it’s definitely helpful to diabetics and could help the rest of us with prevention too.
4. Protect Against Neurodegenerative Conditions
I don’t know about you but one thing I hope never happens to me is losing my mind. I imagine that things like dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the most difficult situations to face, especially for loved ones.
Alzheimer’s is a multi-stage condition where there is gradual decline and researchers have been turning to dietary components to see if any of them can slow this down or stop it’s development. What they’ve discovered is that Alzheimer’s is associated with a chronic inflammatory response in the brain.
Remember how we talked about the potent effects of turmeric on inflammation?
Patil and fellow researchers have discovered that curcumin can be used as an agent for conducting MRIs and detecting Alzheimer’s. And although there is no absolute evidence right now, researchers such as Calabrese & colleagues are currently looking into how turmeric could help delay the symptoms and progression.
Given that curcumin seems to provide so many benefits, I think they will probably discover some amazing things in the near future.
5. Prevent Cancer
Turmeric has been shown to help reduce many types of cancer tumors. For example, inhibiting theinvasion of lung cancer cells, and inhibiting colorectal cancer. It’s also been shown to help mediate “chemo-resistance and radio-resistance”.
Because curcumin is recognized as a highly valid treatment option for cancer, researchers have been using nanotechnology to create curcumin capsules that are even more potent and more effective in the treatment of cancer.
Brain cancer is one of the hardest tumors to treat because medications or treatments have to get past the blood brain barrier. Using nontechnology, researchers such as Chen & colleagues were able to increase the effectiveness of curcumin to target brain tumors from 19.5% to 82.3%.
That’s a pretty astounding result wouldn’t you say?
6. Reduce Pain
It goes without saying that if you can reduce inflammation, you can likely reduce pain too right?
Yes, I’d naturally draw that conclusion and so might you. Thankfully there is also some research to back this.
A study in the Korean Journal Of Pain showed that in rats with neuropathic pain “a considerable decline in pain behavior and serum COX-2 levels was seen…following administration of curcumin”.
Neuropathic pain is probably one of the worst types of pain because it’s caused by some kind of dysfunction in the nervous system and can be very uncomfortable. So if curcumin can help with that it can also help with other more common types of pain like arthritic pain.
7. Aid Respiratory Issues
Asthma is probably one of the most common and widespread respiratory issues. So if you’re someone troubled by it, what if you had a natural agent that could help you to breathe better?
Let’s turn to turmeric for a helping hand.
Those nasty inflammatory molecules we talked about before often trigger asthma attacks. A study inClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology investigated curcumin in stopping these nasties and found that it does help alleviate the airway inflammation.
Another study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research recruited 77 asthmatic patients and randomized people to normal inhaler treatment, or inhaler plus 500 mg per day of curcumin for 30 days. “The results showed that curcumin capsules help in improving the airway obstruction”.
Let’s just say it can’t hurt to start including turmeric in your daily routine.
8. Prevent Heart Conditions
We’ve already discovered that curcumin can have a positive influence on some of the risk factors associated with heart disease, like cholesterol and inflammation. But what does the research have to say about its impact?
Mirzabeigi & colleagues conducted research in 33 patients with coronary artery disease and randomized them to either placebo or 500 mg curcumin capsules 4 times a day for 8 weeks. They tested cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and the inflammatory molecule called C-reactive protein.
In the curcumin group, total triglycerides, LDL and VLDL all significantly decreased compared to the placebo group. Unfortunately in patients who already had heart disease, curcumin failed to have an influence on levels of inflammation or blood glucose.
Remember this is in people who already have a heart condition, so it’s a great benefit that turmeric can influence cholesterol. These people have a much greater risk of heart attack and stroke, so this could potentially stop this from occurring. And for those of us without a heart condition, this study definitely gives proof to the potency of turmeric for heart health.
9. Aid Liver Function
Most of us know that LDL is bad and HDL is good. But did you know that LDL could affect the cells in the liver?
That’s right, the liver metabolizes all fats, and LDL has an influence on hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). HSCs are cells in the liver that form scar tissue when the liver is damaged.
A study in the British Journal of Pharmacology by researchers Kang & Chen, used rats with the goal to identify if turmeric could reduce the effect of LDL on HSCs. They found that turmeric suppressed the LDL receptors on HSCs and helped to reduce cellular cholesterol. For someone with obesity, type 2 diabetes, or hypercholesterolemia this could protect the liver from damage.
10. Increases Weight Loss
Fat tissue is a very metabolically active tissue that produces many inflammatory molecules. Turmeric reduces the inflammatory response in fat tissue and helps promote fatty acid oxidation.
The key immune cells found in fat tissue called macrophages are the ones that recruit more immune cells to come into play, up regulating inflammation and fat storage. Turmeric stops macrophages in their tracks so the inflammation never gets a chance to take hold, meaning you won’t keep putting on weight, but lose it instead
11. Improve Depressive Symptoms
We already discovered that curcumin can help with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, so can it have an influence on other mental health issues like depression?
A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology done with 56 people with major depressive disorder; randomized them to either placebo or 500 mg curcumin for 8 weeks. Interestingly, from weeks 0-4 both placebo and curcumin were associated with significant improvements.
Nothing like the placebo effect on thinking!
But, from 4-8 weeks that placebo effect was no longer working and the group taking curcumin came out with improvements in several mood related symptoms, while the other group had no more improvements.
Supplementation with curcumin has also been shown to enhance the effectiveness of medications on depressive symptoms too.
All and all I’d say it shows some great results for anyone suffering with depression.
12. Fast Recovery From Gym Workouts
The last discovery I made and loved, and know you will too, is that taking a turmeric supplement can help with your post workout recovery.
You know that horrible soreness you get after going to the gym? Delayed onset muscle soreness is what they call it. And it usually comes on strongest 2 days later…oh that burn!
Well Nicola & colleagues did some research with 17 men and looked at whether curcumin could help prevent that.
They gave one group placebo and one group curcumin and tested limb pain, muscle swelling, single leg jump height, and blood levels of inflammatory molecules. They found the group taking curcumin had moderate-large reductions in pain when performing single leg jump, squats, and stretches.
They also found that inflammatory molecules were reduced 24 hours after exercise. The conclusion was, yes, curcumin definitely helps with delayed onset muscle soreness.
What a bonus!
Although we can use turmeric in cooking, it doesn’t have a high bioavailability, meaning our body can’t use it as effectively. That doesn’t mean it won’t help at all, it will. But for the best benefit, taking capsules is the standard way to take curcumin. Capsules have been specially designed to improve the bioavailability and provide us with all those great benefits we’ve just covered.
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.
Like I said, if you look at the scientific studies you can find THOUSANDS of benefits surrounding turmeric. I’ve certainly learned a thing or two, so I hope you’ve discovered some of the great ways turmeric can help you too.
Do you take turmeric or use it in cooking?