Health Benefits of Turmeric
Like many other spices, turmeric or curcuma longa is not just used when preparing a wide variety of dishes but is considered an excellent natural herb for various medical conditions. A member of the ginger family (zingiberaceae), turmeric is commonly known as ‘haldi’ in India. Cultivated primarily in India and few parts of Southeast Asia, it is the rhizome or the roots of the flowering plant turmeric that is used as a flavor-filled spice.
Besides providing a decent-looking yellow color to a curry an even in rice, turmeric or curcuma longa carries many health benefits. The health benefits of turmeric range from cancer treatment to the treatment of depression and more.
A ‘superfood’ in itself, turmeric besides being a good spice, also makes for an effective nutritional supplement. To know, in how many ways turmeric benefits your health, keep reading this article.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties
The active ingredient in turmeric or Curcuma longa is the compound curcumin that brings powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Now, it’s important to know about and subscribe to the study that typically highlights the right amount of doses of turmeric that should be taken on a daily basis.
To bring the anti-inflammatory effects and to keep your health in check, the curcumin content of turmeric that’s recommended is 500–2,000 mg per day. Further, the idea of turmeric-intake that most experts subscribe to lies in consuming turmeric as curcumin supplements.
Turmeric acts as a powerful antioxidant
Behind ageing and many other diseases is the causative factor — oxidative stress. And, because of oxidative stress, oxidative damage is caused to the cells and tissues of the body.
When a cell is unable to cope up with the production of ‘free radicals’, chemical reactions with organic substances such as proteins, fatty acids, and DNA may occur, and because of this oxidative damage may occur.
Now, because of the fact that curcumin in turmeric acts as a potent antioxidant, your body remains protected from free radicals. Not only that but curcumin benefits you by also stimulating your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
Turmeric is believed to reduce the risk of heart diseases
Not surprisingly, heart diseases are one of the major causes of death in the entire world and there’s no single factor that contributes to such diseases.
Although, there is enough scientific research and review to prove that curcumin as an active ingredient of turmeric can lower the ‘bad cholesterol’, one can not conclude that curcumin actually produces any such effect because of the lack of sufficient evidence.
And yet, taking the endothelial dysfunction as the basis of trial for many heart diseases and if curcumin can improve the function of endothelium to help regulate the blood pressure or prevent the occurrence of any heart disease, one can deduce that turmeric should be taken to let the heart stay protected at all times.
The curcumin of turmeric has been found to be as effective as the therapeutic drug Atorvastatin when the risk of heart attack can get reduced by as much as 65%. Now, normal people who want to keep their health in check must exercise caution when consuming turmeric supplements because turmeric in high doses can lower the blood pressure.
Turmeric is believed to lower the risk of brain diseases
There’s a common misconception that brain cells called neurons do not multiply after childhood.
The Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) — a growth hormone — promotes the survival and maintenance of nerve cells, growth, and maturation.
It is the lack of this growth hormone that is responsible for various brain disorders.
Interestingly, curcumin in turmeric can increase the levels of BDNF thus assisting the growth of neurons and therefore a lot of brain diseases as also the age-related diseases can be delayed or reversed.
Turmeric can prevent and sometimes also treat Alzheimer’s disease
As of now, there’s no drug available in the world market that can completely treat Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease that also causes dementia.
So, as of now, prevention is the only alternative available to us and that is largely in the form of turmeric.
Because of the fact that oxidative damage and inflammation both play a role in Alzheimer’s disease along with the development of amyloid plaques being the main cause, the active ingredient in turmeric — curcumin — can delay the degeneration of neurons, enable a decrease in Beta-amyloid plaques, cause anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties effects on the body, enable decreased microglia formation and chelation of metals, the memory in patients with AD improves largely.
Turmeric can have an incredible effect on depression
People who suffer from depression are identified with a reduced level of BDNF and a shrunk brain area called Hippocampus that has got a role in the development of memory and learning.
The fact that most scientific experts subscribe to regarding curcumin is that it can boost the levels of BDNF and therefore reverse the loss of memory or learning ability.
Secondly, curcumin also helps elevate the level of both serotonin and dopamine — both of which serve as neurotransmitters in the human body.
Since serotonin is responsible for the regulation of mood and social behavior besides several other functions and dopamine plays a role in mood elevation or motivational behavior, Curcumin of turmeric helps treat depression.
Also, Curcumin is considered to be equivalent to the drug Prozac in its therapeutic action as an anti-depressant.
Turmeric plays a role in prevention and sometimes even the treatment of cancer
There are many different forms of cancer all of which are characterized by uncontrolled cell growth.
It’s not clearly known if curcumin taken in high doses can treat all forms of cancer but there is scientific evidence that suggests that Curcumin can prevent the growth of cancerous cells.
Curcumin prevents the growth of cancer at the molecular level and reduces angiogenesis (the growth of tumor) and metastatis (the spreading of cancer).
The two types of cancer such as colon cancer and rectal cancer may get stabilized if turmeric extracts are consumed.
Turmeric can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
In the United States, nearly 37% of all adults suffer from arthritis and a health condition that is the cause of work disability.
Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of joints and can be of several types. In patients with knee osteoarthritis, turmeric extracts have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation.
Turmeric is considered to be as effective as ibuprofen but not as effective as diclofenac. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was found to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, when 40 subjects suffering from knee osteoarthritis were given curcuminoid in 3 divided doses along with piperine (500 mg) for 6 weeks, an improvement in pain was noticed.
Turmeric can help delay aging and age-related diseases
Studies show that curcumin can help prevent many heart diseases, cancer, and also Alzheimer’s disease.
This is because curcumin has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to keep your health in check and therefore can delay the process of aging.
Turmeric can be used to prevent or treat Type 2 Diabetes
Curcumin in turmeric helps to maintain the blood sugar levels and so can be a good cure for type 2 diabetes.
If turmeric supplements are taken regularly for at least 9 months by the prediabetic patients, the risk of diabetes is minimized.
Turmeric can help fight viral infections
Curcumin in turmeric can help fight a variety of viral infections. There’s scientific evidence of turmeric being effective against the dengue virus, herpes simplex virus, human immunodeficiency virus, and not to miss out, the Zika virus and Chikungunya virus.
The scientific study clearly demonstrated the effect of curcumin on Zika and Chikungunya virus replication.
But, in all possibilities, an adequate amount of turmeric should be consumed to help prevent the growth of viruses because of the fact that only 3% of curcumin is found in turmeric.
Turmeric can help relieve premenstrual pain in women
A scientific review highlighted the role of turmeric extracts in menstruation if taken regularly for 7 days before the onset of menstruation.
If turmeric is taken regularly for 3 days after the menstruation period gets over, women are seen to derive comfort from pain and there’s marked improvement in mood and behavior.
Turmeric or curcumin supplement besides relieving the pain in PMS also brings relief in menstrual cramps.
Turmeric can help ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
While some scientific studies point towards the fact that turmeric, when taken regularly for 8-week long, could reduce the IBS in people with good health condition.
Turmeric or curcumin when taken with fennel for 30 days, improves the quality of patient’s life.
Turmeric can help relieve headaches
Several scientific studies and a scientific review demonstrated that turmeric, when taken with ginger, helps relieve headache. The curcumin in turmeric can also be effective to the extent that it can also treat migraines.
Though both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are chronic gastro-intestinal diseases, IBS is not characterized by any inflammation whereas the colon is.
Now, a scientific study that was conducted in 2015 on the use of curcumin on 50 patients with ulcerative colitis concluded that curcumin when given in doses of 3,000 mg, was no more than a placebo.
So, further research is underway but for the time-being one can safely conclude that curcumin helps improve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and there is a chance of remission.
Turmeric helps prevent or cure acne
Though there’s no hard scientific evidence of turmeric being able to treat acne, it certainly can help fight the stubborn pimples.
And, this is because turmeric extracts have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
The best way as a number of scientific studies demonstrate, turmeric can be used as a mask and be applied on the face.
Turmeric helps reduce itching in patients with kidney disease
There are enough scientific studies that point to the fact that turmeric, when taken orally for 8-week long, helps reduce itching in patients with kidney.
If curcumin in turmeric is taken in combination with two other spices like black pepper and long pepper for 4 weeks can reduce the severity of itching in patients with kidney disorder while chronic itching in patients where the itching has been caused by mustard gas.
Turmeric reduces liver damage that is not caused due to alcohol.
According to some scientific studies, turmeric or curcumin extract has been shown to help prevent fat buildup in patients with liver disorders and patients in whom the liver hasn’t been damaged by the intake of alcohol.
In a study done on humans, curcumin when given in 70 mg concentration, showed a reduction in sonographic liver fat content.
Turmeric helps in prevention of hay fever
Hay fever is primarily characterized by symptoms like sinus congestion, itchy nose, copious mucus, watery, red or itchy eyes, inflamed nose, inflamed mucous membrane, and headache.
Because of the fact that curcumin has anti-allergic and natural decongestant properties, it can be used to treat hay fever symptoms, as per scientific studies. Curcumin by itself or in combination with ginger acts as an excellent herb to prevent or cure allergic rhinitis, cold, and hay fever.
Turmeric may help treat asthma
There’s no scientific evidence for the turmeric to have a proven effect on asthmatic patients whether it’s an adult or child but turmeric, when taken as a curcumin supplement alongside the usual asthma treatment, can help reduce the obstruction to air pathways and be an excellent complementary treatment for asthma.
It must be noted that a herb like curcumin reduces the need for any inhalers and does not interfere with the regular sleep pattern of asthmatic patients, according to scientific studies.
Turmeric helps in prevention of Eye Degeneration
There are several reasons for blindness and Glaucoma, an eye condition, that damages the optic nerve, is one of those reasons.
The damage caused is due to the excess of high pressure developed in the eye and is more likely to happen to people at age 60 and above.
Now, there are enough scientific studies to suggest that curcumin of turmeric may be a good preventive measure against the eye-degeneration.
Curcumin when given as a proprietary eye drop solution for not less than 3 weeks, the loss in vision was prevented by several folds, though further research is required to investigate if curcumin, in other words, turmeric alone can stop the loss in vision.
Turmeric can improve digestion in patients suffering from dyspepsia
There’s enough written in medical literature that suggests turmeric’s the best use lies in the treatment of dyspepsia. The non-ulcer dyspepsia (NUD) refers to a condition where patients suffer from epigastric discomfort and which is not associated with an ulcer.
This condition, according to scientific studies, affects nearly 2-4% of all primary care visits in some countries.
While the main line of treatment for dyspepsia includes drugs such as antacids, H2-blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and antibiotics, scientific research points to the fact that these drugs may work in short-term, turmeric (about 1-3 grams per day) works well to improve the condition of patients suffering from dyspepsia.
Turmeric may work well to beat the post-workout muscle soreness
In athletes, runners, or exercisers, unusual pain, and stiffness sets in due to the soreness of muscles, if unfamiliar workout has been performed by them.
A study as indicated in the European Journal of Applied Physiology reveals that turmeric may work well in cases of acute muscle soreness (AMS) and also delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
The curcumin in turmeric when given in doses of 2.5 grams twice daily for 2-3 days and as turmeric supplements decreased the pain in people with DOMS. Turmeric, the study revealed that turmeric may also help with muscle repair along with the prevention of muscle injury.
Turmeric for health and fitness freaks can be consumed in the form of meals, with milk or tea.
Turmeric helps in prevention of gum diseases
Scientific studies in the area of gum diseases show clearly that turmeric mouthwash is as effective as any drug-therapy mouthwash.
Turmeric can also be taken as turmeric gel to help prevent plaque and gingivitis. This is because the curcumin in turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and also anti-fungal.
Besides plaque and gingivitis, turmeric can also help to heal gum bleeding and reddening of the gums.
Turmeric can reduce the symptoms associated with mouth ulcers
In patients with mouth ulcers, the symptoms can make the patients feel uncomfortable, though the conditions can be harmless.
The mouth and gums may pain in patients with mouth ulcers and they may not be able to eat, drink, or even brush their teeth.
The unnerving pain may sometimes interfere with the regular food consumption habits and therefore, patients may be advised to stay on liquids for a long period of time.
The curcumin of turmeric is considered as a wonder spice or herb for such kind of an ailment.
Turmeric, when applied with water or honey on the affected area and then washed with a pinch of salt, may work well to cure the mouth ulcer.
Turmeric helps heal skin ulcers
A skin ulcer is a condition where an open wound develops because of injury or poor blood circulation and may take an unreasonably long time to heal.
Dermatologists say if skin ulcers are left untreated for a long period of time, it can cause other complications.
The symptoms noticed are skin discoloration, itching, swelling, scabbing, pain and tenderness, dryness, a pus-filled discharge, foul odor, hair loss, etc.
Because of the fact that curcumin in turmeric is also an antiseptic besides being anti-inflammatory, turmeric, when applied as a powder on the affected area, may work well to heal the skin ulcers of any kind.
Turmeric may work well to reduce the pain associated with post-surgery
In a study conducted by Garg and colleagues, more than 600 patients were given 2000 mg twice a day after surgery when it was noticed that curcumin was equivalent in effect to placebo when considering the improvement in inflammation in ‘aortic aneurism repair’ cases.
Yet, considering the early scientific trial as our basis, turmeric, when taken after surgery, can reduce the postoperative pain condition and also the fatigue experienced by the operated patients.
Turmeric can reduce the skin damage caused due to radiation
In people with head and neck cancer, skin damage due to radiation therapy is reduced if turmeric mixed with sandalwood oil is taken during the therapy. The severity of radiation dermatitis is reduced far more in comparison to the use of baby oil.
Health benefits of turmeric and ginger
Ginger with turmeric helps relieve pain
Ginger, when consumed alone, decreases the chronic pain condition associated with arthritis and other diseases.
Turmeric too works as a good analgesic and therefore, both together can have an excellent ability to provide relief from pain and keep your health in check.
As many as eight pieces of scientific evidence exist to prove that curcumin of turmeric when taken in 1,000 mg dose, can be an effective remedy for any pain condition. Ginger and turmeric, when taken together, reduce the duration and intensity of menstrual pain.
Ginger, when consumed for 11 significant days, can reduce the muscle pan arising out of exercise and workout.
Ginger and turmeric can help relieve chronic inflammation
Some chronic diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases.
Yet other commonly known autoimmune disease conditions are also characterized by chronic inflammation.
Ginger and curcumin both possess anti-inflammatory property and therefore helps decrease pain and also chronic inflammation.
The improvement in inflammation can be compared to anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
Ginger and turmeric helps in boosting immune functions
Ginger and curcumin both play a role in enhancing the general body immunity and may provide relief in cases of cold or flu.
While turmeric is considered as a natural or ayurvedic remedy to increase the immunomodulating capacity of the human body, ginger extracts work by blocking the activation of pro-inflammatory immune cells.
Ginger and turmeric help to decrease nausea
While ginger has been shown to relieve nausea in post-operative patients, patients on chemotherapy and pregnant women, curcumin also helps to protect against digestive disorders (such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) associated with chemotherapy.
Ginger and turmeric can fight cancer
Ginger and turmeric both come with high nutritional value containing iron, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
Studies indicate that when ginger and turmeric is taken in the form of tea (call it a ginger-turmeric tea), both help to slow down the growth of cancerous cells.
Ginger and turmeric can be used for skincare
Ginger and turmeric, when taken together, can treat various skin ailments such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis.
Ginger and turmeric tea both have anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties and hence protect the human skin from all kinds of infections. At the same time, both ginger and turmeric stimulate new cell growth and therefore work as excellent anti-aging herbs.
Ginger and turmeric facilitate digestion
Ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory property that can help settle the stomach and promote healthy digestion.
It also helps to relieve the constipation. Curcumin, when taken along with ginger, may help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and ulcers of the stomach.
Ginger and turmeric helps in better management of diabetes
Both ginger and turmeric have got good ability to regulate the level of sugar in blood. If curcumin is taken along with ginger, the glucose and insulin levels are maintained while also preventing further complications in diabetic patients.
Ginger and turmeric boosts brain functions
Ginger and turmeric, both, are shown to boost cognitive learning in the human brain. Both having antioxidants in them can fight against certain neurological disorders.
Ginger and turmeric help reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke
While ginger helps prevent the formation of a blood clot in arteries and veins of the heart, curcumin stimulates the breakdown of cholesterol.
Both together in your regular food can help bring down the levels of cholesterol levels in the body.
As we come to the end of the discussion on the health benefits of turmeric when consumed alone and when taken in combination, it would be worthwhile to also have a look at the adverse effects of turmeric along with safety measures.
Now that we have studied the combined effects of both turmeric and ginger, there are other possible combinations that helps enhance the therapeutic effect of turmeric to keep health in check and that one must know.
For e.g., turmeric as a spice can be combined with cinnamon spice and black pepper spice to cause significant therapeutic effect. Black pepper spice contains the bioactive compound piperine which not only helps to relieve nausea, headaches and indigestion but also has an anti-inflammatory property. Besides, it also boosts the absorption of curcumin.
That said, some people are concerned about the health risks associated with turmeric. The following is a review of all the side effects of turmeric, without which any study on turmeric would be rendered ineffective from the viewpoint of health.
Adverse effects or health risks of turmeric or curcumin
- Turmeric is usually safe when taken orally or with food for nearly 12 months but can cause serious side effects in some people resulting in stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea.
- In some people, turmeric, when taken in high doses, can cause abnormal heart rhythms. For example, a study and a review showed that a person who consumed turmeric above 1500 mg 2 times a day, experienced an abnormally high heart rhythm.
- Turmeric can increase the risk of bleeding or bruising when given to pre-operative patients a few weeks before surgery or to patients who are on anti- coagulants.
- Turmeric, when this food is given to diabetic patients in high doses, may cause blood sugar levels to drop down, so extra precautions are advisable.
- Turmeric may inhibit the absorption of iron in patients suffering from iron deficiency.
- Turmeric can cause stomach upset in patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Turmeric should be totally avoided by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers because there is not enough scientific evidence of turmeric being safe when used during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
- Turmeric, when taken orally by men, might reduce the levels of testosterone and also the movement of sperms. So, it’s best to avoid the use of turmeric when a couple is seeking a baby.
- Turmeric increases the risk of stone formation in kidneys or gallbladder. Therefore, it should be avoided when having gallstones, stones in the kidney, or when there’s bile duct obstruction.
- In patients suffering from hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis, turmeric may have fatal effects. Caution is advisable.
Now that we know the side effects of turmeric, we should also be cautious about the dosage.
The recommended daily dosage for turmeric
There is a scientific study and review that demonstrates the use of turmeric or curcumin to be taken in doses of 500-2,000 mg per day and this amount can be easily had by having curcumin extracts. Up to 8 grams of curcumin is considered safe and non-toxic, as has been demonstrated in many clinical trials, but a dosage higher than this should be avoided because of the lack of substantial scientific evidence.
Now, the daily intake of curcumin as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is around 1.4 mg per pound and so one can accordingly decide the amount as per one’s body weight in pounds and to keep health in check.
The best way to have turmeric
Most people believe that having turmeric or curcumin in tea or milk is not a good dietary food to bring potential health benefits. But, this is not true. Turmeric taken through tea or milk as a dietary food is not enough because the curcumin in turmeric does not easily get absorbed into the blood. To increase its bioavailability, you must have it along with any other spice or in ways as mentioned below.
- Adding turmeric spice to black pepper spice increases the absorption rate by 2000%.
- Consume turmeric as a spice in food that has good fat content. Adding turmeric spice to coconut oil, coconut milk or avocado increases the absorption.
- Take turmeric with purple food like onion, red wine, berry red grape, and green tea. Such food, being rich in flavonoids, help increase the absorption.
- Chefs worldwide subscribe to the idea that a perfect dietary intake of turmeric would be to have turmeric as turmeric juice along with juice that is made out of cashews and almonds.
Needless to say, from the several ayurvedic uses of turmeric (or, curcumine) mentioned here in this blog, it can be ascertained that turmeric is not just a super health food, but also holds a special significance from cultural standpoint. No wedding as per the Hindu ritual can be solemnized without the use of turmeric. The application of turmeric on the face or skin of both the bride and the groom is considered a blessing. It is widely believed that turmeric not only wards off all evils but acts as a natural remedy to relieve headache or anxiety that one may experience during the marriage ceremony.
Another interesting fact to be noted, as regards turmeric, is the use of ‘patent rights’. According to the journal Lancet, turmeric was once patented by the United States but later had to cancel the patent because turmeric is considered a grandmother’s remedy in India since centuries and therefore the Indian government had to fight for patent rights over it which included ‘oral and topical use’ patent rights for the treatment of ulcers and surgical wounds.
Last but one thing, be active and create a list of food that tastes best with turmeric. Also, go ahead and share this article if you liked it and subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates and blogs on topics of your choice.