Turmeric is a small root with a bright orange center. It comes from the rhizome (rootstock) of the Curcuma longa plant, and has been used in Chinese and Indian fold medicine for centuries. The powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities of turmeric have made it a precious commodity for ages!
To manufacture it, the roots of the plant are boiled, dried and then ground into a powder. With a peppery, warm and bitter flavor, the mild fragrance of turmeric resembles orange and ginger, which makes it a national favorite in curry dishes. Today, it’s widely used in yellow mustard and as a natural health supplement.
The Key to Turmeric Health Benefits
The key to turmeric’s healing power lies in the chemical compound curcumin. Nearly 7,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published evaluating its effectiveness, and although some side effects are reported, the resounding feedback from the research community is that turmeric and its primary component, curcumin, hold profound healing benefits for the entire body.
Take, for instance, just a few of the most recent evidence from research studies published within the past few months showing that curcumin can:
- Increase lifespan.
- Protect the liver oxidative stress.
- Kill fungus more effectively than ginger, clove and oregano.
- Induce tumor cell death in the deepest parts of individual cells.
- Kill bladder cancer cells.
- Destroy lung cancer cells.
- Lower blood cholesterol levels.
- Protect against cognitive/memory defects from heavy ion irradiation.
Top 7 Turmeric Health Benefits
Chronic Inflammation and Pain
The journal Oncogene published the results of a study that evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds. It found that aspirin (Bayer, etc.) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) were least potent in reducing inflammation, while curcumin is among the most potent anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative agents in the world. This means turmeric not only has great promise with chronic pain, but that it may it may provide safe and lasting results without the side effects of medication!
Due to its high anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is effective for helping individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) manage their condition. A recent study out of Japan evaluated its relationship with interleukin (IL)-6, the inflammatory cytokine known to be involved in the RA inflammatory process, and discovered that curcumin “significantly reduced” these inflammatory markers. This suggests that regular turmeric use could be a potent strategy to prevent the onset and progression of inflammation in RA.
Researchers from the Government Medical College (Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India) published the results of the first study this past April to evaluate curcumin’s ability to manage depression in a controlled setting. Taking 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and dividing the group to determine how patients treated by curcumin compared against fluoxetine (Prozac) and a combination of the two, it discovered that the principal curcuminoid in turmeric is not only as effective as Prozac in managing depression, it doesn’t carry with it all the dangerous side effects that anti-depressive drugs do. According to the paper, “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD.”
Turmeric is shown to lower blood glucose levels and reverse insulin resistance. For instance, an article published in Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications shared a study out of Auburn University that discovered curcumin suppresses glucose production in the liver. Fascinatingly, researchers proved that it’s actually 400 times more potent than Metformin (a common diabetes drug) in activating AMPK and its downstream target acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC). Turmeric acted as an anti-diabetic and antioxidant in diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes, improved metabolic function and reduced the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries of type 2 diabetes patients.
Recent studies show turmeric to be a powerful cancer fighter. Curcumin shows a marked ability to inhibit cancer cell growth, boost antioxidant levels and the immune system, and kill cancer cells. It seems to work on improving mitochondrial function at a cellular level, and it improves metabolism. Even against drug-resistant strains of leukemia, curcumin caused cell death of cancer cells.
Skin and Aging
Turmeric has many healing properties for skin. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory so it reduces redness or other skin irritations. It’s antibacterial, so it’s great for blemishes, acne and skin balance. Turmeric is wonderful at improving the texture of the skin because it is an exfoliant but also rich in antioxidants. It’s a wonderful natural treatment inside and out!
Brain Health and Memory
By taking turmeric, you can improve the oxygen intake of the brain, which helps in all of the brain’s functions and processes. Turmeric is beneficial for healing the brain and increasing memory function. Not surprisingly, when your brain functions at its best, you increase the uptake of hormones, such as seratonin and melatonin. So, by healing the basic functioning of the brain, you can also improve the state of other mental illnesses.
Turmeric dosage mainly depends on age. For instance, adults are generally recommended to follow these guidelines:
- Supplement: 450 milligrams of curcumin capsules each day or up to 3 grams of turmeric root daily (divided into several doses).
- Tea: 1 to 1.5 grams of dried root steeped in 5 ounces of water for 15 minutes twice daily.
- Oil: ½ tablespoon of turmeric oil three times daily.
I recommend “culinary doses” by regularly including it into your natural healthy meal plan as you would any other spice or herb.
Turmeric Side Effects
While the pros of turmeric health benefits usually outweigh the cons, it’s important to know that there can be some side effects with turmeric. Some people report allergic reactions to turmeric, especially after skin exposure. Typically, this is experienced as a mild, itchy rash. In addition, high doses of turmeric have been observed to cause:
- Heart burn
- Liver problems
- Increased risk of bleeding
- Increased liver function tests
- Hyperactive gallbladder contractions
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Hypotension (lowered blood pressure)
- Uterine contractions in pregnant women
- Increased menstrual flow
People taking certain medications should also be careful when using turmeric in their food or supplementing with it. Turmeric may interfere with anti-coagulants like aspirin, clopidogrel and warfarin. It also can affect medications such as nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. As with any herb or supplement, use as directed.
You can take turmeric in many ways depending on what you want to treat. For healing and medicinal properties, it’s easiest to take in capsule form. If you want to enjoy the turmeric benefits of beauty enhancing and anti-aging qualities, add it into your face mask or buy a turmeric facial scrub. Lastly, and certainly not least, you can add turmeric to your food. Try it in soups or a marinade, or add to your rub next time you grill! It’s so versatile and delicious!