Turmeric and Curcumin Benefits: Can This Herb Really Combat Disease?
The herb turmeric is one of the top nutrients in the world, whether we're talking about the powder, extract or pills. While you may just now be seeing companies advertise it, turmeric isn't new ... In fact, it has a long history of use, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional forms of medicine.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the main spice in the Indian dish curry, is argued by many to be the most powerful herb on the planet at fighting and potentially reversing disease. Turmeric benefits are incredibly vast and very thoroughly researched. (Photo by Shantanu Pal from Pexels)
Currently, there are over 12,500 peer-reviewed articles published proving turmeric benefits, especially one of its renowned healing compounds, curcumin. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric responsible for so many of its benefits. In fact, turmeric is even good for dogs thanks to this active ingredient.
This puts turmeric on top of the list as one of the most frequently mentioned medicinal herbs in all of science. It has a long history of use, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional forms of medicine. Here's what you need to know about turmeric and curcumin benefits and more.
What Is Turmeric and Curmunin?
Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant, which grows in India and other Southeast Asian countries. It is a member of the ginger family. The dried root of the Curcuma longa plant is ground into the distinctive yellow powder, giving it the name golden spice.
Why is turmeric good for you? There are several chemical compounds found in this herb, known as curcuminoids. The active substance is curcumin. Curcumin is what makes turmeric a "functional food," defined by the Mayo Clinic as "foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition."
One tablespoon (about seven grams) of ground turmeric contains approximately:
• 23.9 calories
12 Turmeric Benefits, Plus Medicinal Uses of Curcumin
Practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have been prescribing turmeric and its extracts as part of holistic protocols for thousands of years. Practitioners have used it in a number of different ways, for many diseases and ailments. Here are some of the uses and health benefits of turmeric:
1. May Slow or Prevent Blood Clots
One combination lab and animal study conducted in 1986 even suggests curcumin may be a preferable treatment method for people "prone to vascular thrombosis and requiring antiarthritic therapy." However, this result still needs to be replicated in human trials.
2. Reduces Depression Symptoms
The journal Phytotherapy Research published the results of an amazing, innovative study in 2014. The study took 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder and split the group to determine how patients treated by turmeric curcumin fared against fluoxetine and a combination of the two. Curcumin was equally effective as fluoxetine in managing depression by the six-week mark.
Since that breakthrough trial, at least two other studies have observed the impact of turmeric's major compound, curcumin, in patients with depression. The first involved 56 individuals (male and female), and the second involved 108 male participants. Both used a placebo but did not compare curcumin to any antidepressant, and both studies found that curcumin effectively reduced depression symptoms more than placebo.
3. Fights Inflammation
Several animal trials have been completed investigating the relationship of curcumin and Alzheimer's disease. In mice, it seems that curcumin "reverses existing amyloid pathology and associated neurotoxicity," a key feature of the progression of this neurological disease related to chronic inflammation. This study shows turmeric curcumin may help with Alzheimer's symptoms.
4. Boosts Skin Health
Try my Turmeric Face Mask for Glowing Skin. Just keep in mind that this herb can stain the skin, and it may cause an allergic reaction. Do a patch test by applying a dime-size amount to your forearm. Then, wait 24–48 hours to check for any reaction before applying turmeric to your face.
5. May Outperform Common Arthritis Drug
The study split these volunteers into three groups: curcumin treatment alone, diclofenac sodium alone and a combination of the two. The results of the trial were eye-opening:
A review of available randomized, controlled trials confirmed that, of the eight studies available fitting the criteria, "these [randomized clinical trials] provide scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of turmeric extract (about 1000 mg/day of curcumin) in the treatment of arthritis."
6. Could Treat or Prevent Certain Cancers
A July 2017 animal study by researchers at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute found that curcumin may even be able to break through chemo-resistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
7. May Help Manage Diabetes
One compound produced by fermentation of curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin, activated AMPK up to 100,000 times more than metformin in certain cells. AMPK activation is considered by researchers to be a "therapeutic target" for type 2 diabetes, meaning that figuring out how to activate this enzyme has major potential for developing more effective treatments for reducing insulin resistance and reversing diabetes.
One of the most common complications of diabetes is damage to nerves known as diabetic neuropathy, which takes several forms and can cause serious symptoms throughout the body from muscle weakness to blindness.
A study conducted on rats found that supplementing with curcumin significantly reduced diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (typically localized to feet, legs, arms and hands). Diabetic neuropathy can also lead to kidney failure. A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials confirmed that, in animals, curcumin protects the kidneys of diabetic subjects from the damage of diabetic nephropathy.
8. Combats Obesity
The researchers found that the anti-inflammatory properties in curcumin were effective at suppressing the inflammatory processes of obesity, therefore helping to reduce obesity and its "adverse health effects."
9. Supports Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Patients taking only placebo and mesalazine were over four times more likely to experience a relapse or flare-up of ulcerative colitis during the six months of the study, suggesting that turmeric benefits may include helping to maintain remission of this chronic disease.
One small pilot study investigated the benefit of curcumin supplementation for patients with ulcerative colitis and patients with Crohn's disease.
Although the sample size was very small, all of the ulcerative colitis patients and four out of five Crohn's patients had marked improvements over two months, suggesting the need for additional research. It shows promise for irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel disease symptoms.
10. May Regulate Cholesterol
However, a 2014 meta-analysis concluded that curcumin had no effect overall on blood cholesterol (together or split into LDL vs. HDL) or on triglycerides. The study author noted that these results may be due to short study durations and poor bioavailability of the studied curcumin formulations.
Further research is needed, but there is evidence that turmeric and curcumin may help manage cholesterol levels.
11. Works as a Natural Pain Reliever
• Wound healing and burn pain
12. Aids in Detoxificatio
It seems that consumption of this herb and its active compound, curcumin, can help support the liver in efficiently detoxifying the body and fight off some of the effects of dangerous carcinogens. This process operates in tandem with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents of turmeric.
1. Turmeric Recipes
You can use coconut flakes, gluten-free flour and turmeric to bread chicken or sprinkle in your ground meat.
2. Turmeric Supplements
There are a few things to consider when purchasing a good turmeric supplement. For one, try to find one containing black pepper to get the maximum absorbability, as turmeric and black pepper work in tandem.
Second, consider a fermented turmeric pill or capsule — the pre-digestion process of fermentation helps you to absorb it more effectively. Next, look for a turmeric supplement with other supporting ingredients like ashwagandha, milk thistle, dandelion and peppermint.
Last, make sure that the product you get is made from organic turmeric if at all possible, with no GMOs. Note that dosage recommendations vary depending on a number of factors.
When is the best time of day to take these supplements? Research varies, but it's believed that taking antioxidant supplements at bedtime may be most effective.
3. Turmeric Essential Oil
Quality is key here, particularly if you're going to use turmeric essential oil internally. Always dilute in water or other liquids. For example, you can put one drop in a smoothie in the morning.
Side Effects and Precautions
What are the side effects of turmeric? Turmeric might be allergic to some, as some people have reported allergic reactions, especially after skin exposure. Typically this is experienced as a mild, itchy rash.
In addition, high doses of turmeric have been observed to cause side effects, including:
If you experience these symptoms, stop using turmeric and get the medical advice of your doctor.
• The herb turmeric is one of the top nutrients in the world, whether we're talking about the powder, extract or pills. While you may just now be seeing companies advertise it, turmeric isn't new ... In fact, it has a long history of use, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional forms of medicine.
• What turmeric does for the body is amazing. Health-wise the benefits range in everything from helping with blood clots and depression to combating inflammation, boosting skin health, regulating cholesterol and more.
• I highly recommend using turmeric in recipes and perhaps even purchasing it in supplement form to take advantage of the benefits. Make sure to add only organic turmeric to your food, and finding a high-quality supplement made from organic turmeric, coupled with black pepper and preferably prepared by fermentation.