The surprising health benefits of turmeric
Do you ever feel tired and low during winter? Do you suffer from frequent colds and illnesses that just keep coming back, and do the colder months take a toll on your skin? Then turmeric supplementation might just be the thing for you! So what exactly is turmeric? What makes it so good for us? Let’s explore this fascinating supplement together...
5 amazing health benefits of turmeric
In India and China, people have been using turmeric as a medicine and as a spice for thousands of years. Modern research has started to catch up and thousands of studies now support the great health benefit claims of turmeric. It’s all thanks to the star of the show, curcumin, a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric. Let’s take a closer look at how curcumin improves our health and wellbeing!
1: Turmeric strengthens your body’s immune system
It’s tiring to keep getting colds and illnesses over and over again, especially when we just want to hit the gym or get some work done. Turmeric will help strengthen your body’s immune system so that you can increase your chances of making a full recovery and staying healthy. This golden spice actually helps strengthen your immune system in two ways. Firstly, curcumin is a strong antioxidant, and, secondly, this active substance helps to boost the activity of the body's own antioxidants1. As you may know, antioxidants help counteract illnesses and is a real boost for the immune system.
2: Turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory agent
Several studies show that long-term inflammations are a major contributing factor of the development of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and various heart diseases5 6 7. But did you know that we can dampen the effect of these long-term inflammations with the help of turmeric? Curcumin is so powerful as an anti-inflammatory agent that some studies even compare it to anti-inflammatory drugs2 3 4.
3: Turmeric has incredible benefits against depression
Do you feel tired and low during winter? You’re not alone! You may have heard of seasonal affective disorder, also known as the winter blues, which affects up to 8% of the population8. With a daily intake of turmeric, however, you will boost your chances of a winter filled with happiness and energy. Research shows that curcumin can help boost serotonin and dopamine, the so-called “feel-good hormones” 9 . Curcumin has also proven promising when it comes to treating depression 9 10. A smaller study conducted in India, for example, shows that curcumin is as effective as antidepressant medicine10!
4: Turmeric protects and treats your skin
Another wonderful benefit of turmeric being anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant is that it can help protect your skin, especially useful during the colder months. Curcumin has also been used to heal scars quicker11. You can even treat some skin diseases with curcumin. There is, among other things, a large amount of research that confirms the positive effects of curcumin on psoriasis12 13.
5: A little bit of turmeric a day is good for the stomach - and your waist!
Stomach issues? Then turmeric may be the solution. Several studies show that turmeric helps digestion14. One study found that turmeric can even help reduce the discomfort of irritable bowel syndrome15. There’s research showing that turmeric can also be good for your waist circumference! For example, an American study found that curcumin reduced obesity and helped reduce the negative effects that obesity brings with it16.
How to get your daily dose - nice and easy
The many health benefits of turmeric are, to say the least, exciting! So how do you make sure you get enough curcumin in your diet to experience the benefits? Unfortunately, turmeric used in cooking does not contain enough curcumin to be absorbed into the bloodstream. So an easy way to get enough curcumin is to take capsules as a supplement.
Turmeric needs some help to be absorbed by the body
One problem with turmeric is that the bioavailability of the active substance curcumin is relatively low. This means that only a small amount of the substance can be absorbed by the body. But don't worry! There are some things you can do to help. So what should you do to make sure your body absorbs as much turmeric as possible?
- Eat turmeric together with black pepper.. Several studies show that piperine, found in black pepper, increases the absorption of curcumin.17.
- Combine turmeric with fat. Turmeric is fat-soluble, which means it dissolves in fat, and in order for the body to absorb it, you could just add fat! However, this suggestion is not as well documented as the one about black pepper.
When should you not eat turmeric?
As you can see, turmeric, and curcumin in particular, has many positive effects, and the small amounts consumed in food is harmless. But is it for everyone? In this last section we’ll take a look at what the research has to say.
- Are you pregnant or breast-feeding? Then you should probably avoid taking turmeric supplements. There’s simply not enough research to evaluate whether turmeric supplementation is dangerous or not during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
- Do you suffer from gallbladder disease, kidney stones, bleeding disorders, diabetes or other diseases? Then turmeric may cause complications18 19 20 21. You should therefore be a little extra careful. Not sure what applies to you and your illness? Contact your doctor!
- Do you take any medications? Then you should also consult your doctor. Larger amounts of turmeric have a potential blood thinning effect and may therefore affect the effect of some medications20 21.
1: Menon V.P., Sudheer A.R. (2007) ANTIOXIDANT AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES OF CURCUMIN. In: Aggarwal B.B., Surh YJ., Shishodia S. (eds) The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease. ADVANCES IN EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY, vol 595. Springer, Boston, MA
3: Lal, B., Kapoor, A.K., Asthana, O.P., Agrawal, P.K., Prasad, R., Kumar, P. and Srimal, R.C. (1999), Efficacy of Curcumin in the Management of Chronic Anterior Uveitis. Phytother. Res., 13: 318-322.
4: Takada, Y., Bhardwaj, A., Potdar, P. et al (2004). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-κB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene 23, 9247–9258
10: Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., Goel, A. and Tripathi, C.B. (2014), Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother. Res., 28: 579-585.
11: Thangapazham R.L., Sharma A., Maheshwari R.K. (2007) BENEFICIAL ROLE OF CURCUMIN IN SKIN DISEASES. In: Aggarwal B.B., Surh YJ., Shishodia S. (eds) The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease. ADVANCES IN EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY, vol 595. Springer, Boston, MA
12: Sarafian, G., Afshar, M., Mansouri, P., Asgarpanah, J., Raoufinejad, K., & Rajabi, M. (2015). Topical Turmeric Microemulgel in the Management of Plaque Psoriasis; A Clinical Evaluation. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR, 14(3), 865–876.
13: Heng, J. Harker and M. Heng (2011). "Results of Combining Phosphorylase Kinase Inhibition with Removal of Precipitating Factors in Large Cohort of Psoriatic Patients: A Proof of Concept Study," Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, Vol. 1 No. 3, 2011, pp. 79-94.
14: Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. (2011) Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 13
17: Prasad, S., Tyagi, A. K., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2014). Recent developments in delivery, bioavailability, absorption and metabolism of curcumin: the golden pigment from golden spice. Cancer research and treatment : official journal of Korean Cancer Association, 46(1), 2–18. doi:10.4143/crt.2014.46.1.2
19: Minghua Tang, D Enette Larson-Meyer, Michael Liebman, Effect of cinnamon and turmeric on urinary oxalate excretion, plasma lipids, and plasma glucose in healthy subjects, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 5, May 2008, Pages 1262–1267
20: Bukhtiar H Shah, Zafar Nawaz, Shamim A Pertani, Asad Roomi, Hammad Mahmood, Sheikh A Saeed, Anwar H Gilani. (1999) Inhibitory effect of curcumin, a food spice from turmeric, on platelet-activating factor- and arachidonic acid-mediated platelet aggregation through inhibition of thromboxane formation and Ca2+ signaling, Biochemical Pharmacology, Volume 58, Issue 7, 1999, Pages 1167-1172
21: Neerati, P., Devde, R. and Gangi, A. K. ( 2014), Evaluation of the Effect of Curcumin Capsules on Glyburide Therapy in Patients with Type‐2 Diabetes Mellitus, Phytother. Res., 28, pages 1796– 1800