The main spice in curry, many experts claim that turmeric health benefits include more disease-fighting properties than any other plant on the planet. In fact, over 15,000 peer-reviewed articles (1) review the healing benefits of curcumin, which is the main curcuminoid within turmeric, and the biggest finding is that turmeric be more helpful in disease management than many conventional drugs!
Table of Contents
- What is Turmeric?
- The Super Power Behind Turmeric
- The Impacts of Dosage
- 7 Benefits of Turmeric
- Possible Side Effects
What is Turmeric?
The RT French Company, which makes French’s Mustard, first used turmeric as a color agent and preservative for its “creamy salad mustard” in the early 1900s. Tragically, turmeric actually has a long history of misuse as a food dye dating all the way back to medieval England when it was more commonly known as “Indian saffron.”
Turmeric is a traditional Chinese and Indian medicinal herb that comes from the rootstock of the Curcuma longa plant, a member of the ginger family. To produce turmeric, the roots of the Curcuma longa plant are boiled, dried and then ground into a powder.
Turmeric has been used over the centuries to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. With its warm, bitter, peppery flavoring, turmeric’s mild smell resembles orange and ginger, which is why it is so popular in curry dishes. Today, it can mostly be found as a coloring agent in mustards and in a few natural health supplements.
The Super Power Behind Turmeric
Turmeric’s secret healing powers aren’t, well, all that secret. In fact, the herb draws its miracle powers from the chemical compound curcumin. And just in case you find the skeptic in you questioning this powerful healer, consider that over 20,000 peer-reviewed articles have been published in scientific journals exploring turmeric and its main component, curcumin. (2)
Here’s what just a few recent studies say curcumin can do:
- Defend against intellectual/memory deficiencies from heavy ion irradiation.
- Lower blood cholesterol levels (3)
- Destroy lung cancer (4)
- Kill bladder cancer cells. (5)
- Prompt tumor cell death in the deepest parts of individual cells. (6)
- Stronger antifungal than ginger, clove, and oregano. (7)
- Protect the liver from oxidative stress. (8)
- Increase lifespan. (9)
The Impacts of Dosage
Turmeric dosage varies by age. It is recommended that adults, for example, follow the following guidelines: (10)
- 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: One-half tablespoon of turmeric oil three times daily.
For kids, on the other hand, there is no clinically known dose that’s considered safe. However, I recommend culinary uses of turmeric, such as including it in your children’s natural health meal plan as you would any other spice or herb. This will help ensure your children are getting the curcumin they need on a daily basis. It’s helpful to know that the “Average dietary intake of turmeric in the Indian population may range between 2 to 2.5 grams, corresponding to 60 to 200 milligrams of curcumin daily.”
In some cases, you may be in a position where you simply have to be on medications. If this is the case for you, do not discount taking ample amounts of turmeric in organic, fresh form. Of course, contact our physician and pharmacist to make sure there are no potential side effects, but adding turmeric health benefits to your diet can help reduce the negative effects of your medicine.
A recent study in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, for example, described how combining prednisolone, which is a steroid, and curcumin can greatly reduce side effects from glucocorticoids when it comes to managing arthritis symptoms.
In fact, when curcumin was involved, there was a marked reduction in toxicity from steroids and a marked reduction in anti-arthritic activity. The study said that this was “Evidenced by an increase in body weight, low toxicity to immune organs, reduction in leucocyte count, increase in spleen anti-oxidant enzymes and potent inhibition of cytokines in the combination group.”
You can use it as a spice to flavor your food, or you can take it as a supplement. We know that the turmeric health benefit results will be very helpful.
7 Benefits of Turmeric
In the mid-1980s, groundbreaking studies also showed that curcumin should be recommended by doctors as being preferable for those who are prone to diseases that require anticoagulant treatment.
There’s a seemingly endless list of health benefits associated with turmeric. In fact, of the more than 7,000 reports looking at turmeric’s effectiveness, few have found any reportable turmeric side effects. While there are some dangers connected to the spice for certain individuals, the research by far points to its health benefits. Just a few conditions turmeric is known to help are:
1. Chronic Inflammation & Pain
Curcumin is also widely known it to manage pain conditions. When compared to aspirin (Bayer, etc.) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, ect.), curcumin is the strongest anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative agents on the planet, according to a report published in the journal Oncogene. (11)
Severe burns are another types of pain conditions that turmeric may be able to help. Usually, those who are affected by burns are treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, dangerous opioids, and antidepressants. But because we know that curcumin has wonderful anti-inflammatory powers, it has been suggested in U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research that the commonly unmet clinical needs of these patients may be able to be treated by curcumin.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Turmeric has been shown to be highly effective at helping people manage Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) thanks to its well-known anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, the relationship between turmeric and Interleukin (IL)-6, a common inflammatory known to contribute to RA, was found to be beneficial to RA sufferers. The study from Japan found that turmeric “significantly reduced” the inflammatory markers in Interleukin (IL)-6, suggesting that routine use of the spice can possibly ward off RA from the onset. (12)
In comparison to Voltaren, Cambia, Zipsor, and Cataflam (drugs used for arthritis that often puts people at risk for getting heart disease or gastrointestinal disease), researchers uncovered that curcumin may be “superior” to convention medicine:
The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall [Disease Activity Score] and [American College of Rheumatoid criteria] scores (ACR 20, 50 and 70) and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate to any adverse events. Our study provides the first evidence for the safety and superiority of curcumin treatment in patients with active RA, and highlights the need for future large-scale trials to validate these findings in patients with RA and other arthritic conditions.
There is a growing body of research evaluating curcumin’s impact on depression. In one particular study, 60 patients, who had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder (MDD), volunteered to undergo turmeric treatments compared to fluoxetine (Prozac) treatments. Scientists from the Government Medical College (Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India) found that turmeric was not only equally as effective as Prozac, but it didn’t carry with it all the perilous side effects associated with antidepressant drugs. According to the report, “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD.” (13)
One of the more interesting benefits of turmeric is its ability to reduce blood glucose levels and reverse insulin resistance. In fact, curcumin suppresses glucose production in the liver, according to a study out of Auburn University published in Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications. Now here’s what’s even more amazing: That study found that turmeric is 400 times better than the diabetes drug Metformin when it comes to triggering AMPK and its downstream goal acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC).
It was also shown to help reverse numerous issues that are related to hyperglycemia as well as insulin resistance. Let’s look at diabetic retinopathy. This is a common complication of having type II diabetes, and it can severely damage blood vessels inside the retina. In some cases, it can even cause blindness.
Last year, a study was published in International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology that looked at how circumin may be able to use its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to delay this disease complication. The results showed that it slowed down vascular endothelial growth as well as nuclear transcription factors that are in charge of gene expression regulation. Numerous other side effects of diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy have been seen to improve with the use of curcumin as well.
5. Cancer Support
One of the most thoroughly evaluated topics in regards to how curcumin may be able to help with disease is cancer. We are looking at cancer prevention and reversal. Global authority, Cancer Research UK, had these words to say about cancer and curcumin:
A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin does have anticancer effects. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells…. combined curcumin with chemotherapy to treat bowel cancer cells in a laboratory showed that the combined treatment killed more cancer cells than the chemotherapy alone.”
In line with the trends to study turmeric health benefits more within arthritis research, numerous studies are cropping up everywhere looking at natural approaches to cancer as well. As we move forward, we expect and hope to see larger amounts of studies on humans with cancer that look at the ways in which turmeric and other curcumin-rich foods can help prevent and reverse it. We are hopeful that the results from these studies will be groundbreaking as we move forward!
6. Gastrointestinal Support
Much of the time, those who have stomach complaints and digestive problems cannot take medical interventions. The flora in the stomach is already compromised, so drugs worsen the state of the mucosal lining. On the other hand, it was revealed through a meta-analysis of every study that has evaluated how curcumin may be able to take care of inflammatory bowel conditions that curcumin can definitely decrease symptoms that are caused by this condition. In fact, some patients were even able to stop taking the corticosteroids that were being prescribed to them because the effects were so wonderful.
7. Steroid Alternative
Finally, let’s look at how well turmeric health benefits do against corticosteroids in the treatment of illnesses like:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Numerous studies have looked at the ability of curcumin to treat chronic anterior uveitis. A breakthrough trial conducted in 1999 was the catalyst for these studies because it proved that, “The efficacy of curcumin and recurrences following treatment are comparable to corticosteroid therapy which is presently the only available standard treatment for this disease.”
One of the other studies published was released in 2008 in Critical Care Medicine. It looked at dexamethasone and curcumin and attempted to evaluate which was better for lung injury patients who had had transplantations.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid and is often used to treat organ disease and cancer. Chinese Zhongshan Hospital researchers found that both treatments help to prevent barrier disruption, decreased oxygen, tissue inflammation, and lung swelling. It was also found that, “Curcumin can be an alternative therapy for protecting lung transplantation-associated injury by suppressing the nuclear factor-kappa B-mediated expression of inflammatory genes.” This has great possibility and could mean reversing countless illnesses and diseases on a large scale.
Possible Side Effects
It has been reported that one of the turmeric side effects is that it can cause allergic reactions, especially if it comes in contact with the skin. Side effects of turmeric can cause symptoms which include mild itching and rash. Also, the side effects of turmeric used in elevated doses can cause:
- Increased menstrual flow
- Uterine contractions in pregnant women
- Hypotension (lowered blood pressure)
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Hyperactive gallbladder contractions
- Increased liver function tests
- Increased risk of bleeding
- Liver problems
- Heart burn
Please pay attention to the side effects of turmeric. You should also use turmeric with caution if you’re taking other medications. Turmeric has the ability to interfere with warfarin, aspirin and other anticoagulants. It is also known to impact other anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Banafshe HR, et al. Effect of curcumin on diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain: Possible involvement of opioid system. Eur J Pharmacol 2013; [Epub ahead of print].
- Cheppudira B, et al. Curcumin: a novel therapeutic for burn pain and wound healing. Expert Opin Investig Drugs 2013; 22(10): 1295-303.
- Kuncha M, et al. Curcumin potentiates the anti-arthritic effect of prednisolone in Freund’s complete adjuvant-induced arthritic rats. J Pharm Pharmacol 2014; 66(1): 133-44.
- Lal B, et al. Efficacy of curcumin in the management of chronic anterior uveitis. Phytother Res 1999; 13(4): 318-22.
- Ng SC, et al. Therapeutic strategies for the management of ulcerative colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2009; 15(6): 935-50.
- R Srivastava, et al. Effect of curcumin on platelet aggregation and vascular prostacyclin synthesis. Arzneimittelforschung 1986; 36(4): 715-7.
- Sanmukhani J, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother Res 2013; [Epub ahead of print].
- Sun J, et al. Preventive effects of curcumin and dexamethasone on lung transplantation-associated lung injury in rats. Crit Care Med 2008; 36(4): 1205-13.
- Taylor RA, et al. Curcumin for inflammatory bowel disease: a review of human studies. Altern Med Rev 2011; 16(2): 152-6.
- Teayoun K, et al. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2009; 388(2): 377-82.
- Usharani P, et al. Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study. Drugs R D. 2008; 9(4): 243-50.
- Yasunari Takada, et al. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene 2004; 23(57): 9247-58.