What’s so special about this popular spice? Let’s take a look at some of the many health benefits of turmeric that are backed up by science…
There is a LOT of buzz out there about the health benefits of turmeric (or more accurately, its active ingredient – a compound called curcumin), but just why is turmeric so good for you? Let’s take a closer look…
Turmeric is an ancient spice known for its bright golden color, and is often used to flavor curries – especially of the Indian variety. This spice has been used for centuries for its flavor, color, and healthy properties, but in recent years, it has achieved “superfood” status due to the results of a number of scientific studies of its supposed health benefits.
While turmeric definitely has some pretty potent properties, unfortunately, curcumin isn’t easily absorbed by the human body, and you would have to eat a LOT of it in your food to get enough to make much of a difference. While it’s great to include it in your food when you can, most people will need to take supplements if they truly want to experience the beneficial effects of curcumin and turmeric for themselves. (Quick tip: when using turmeric as a seasoning, adding some black pepper can help enhance its bioavailability.)
Here are just a few reasons why you may want to consider including more turmeric in your diet and supplement regimen:
One of turmeric’s main claims to fame is that it’s commonly used to fight inflammation, and the bulk of turmeric’s inflammation-fighting powers can be credited to curcumin. In fact, in the right dose, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than common inflammation-fighting medications such as Advil (ibuprofen) and aspirin, according to a past study. (4)
As chronic inflammation contributes to many chronic diseases, curcumin may help treat conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and arthritis. (5,1) We’ll get into some of those specific benefits later.
2. Curcumin May Protect Against Heart Disease
A past study shows that curcumin may improve endothelial function, or the health of the thin membrane that covers the inside of the heart and blood vessels. This membrane plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. (6) Lower endothelial function is associated with aging and an increased risk of heart disease. Thus, curcumin may help protect against age-related loss of function and reduce your likelihood of developing heart disease.
In one study, researchers compared the effects of an eight-week aerobicexercise program and a curcumin supplement in improving endothelial function in postmenopausal women. Both the exercise and the curcumin group saw equal improvements in endothelial function, whereas the control group saw no changes. (7)
Still, more research is needed to determine if curcumin is a safe and effective long-term treatment strategy for people with heart disease.
3. Curcumin May Prevent (and Possibly Help Treat) Cancer
As inflammation is linked to tumor growth, anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin may play a role in treating and preventing a variety of cancer types, including colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, breast, and gastric cancers. (1) In fact, research in mice suggests that curcumin may help slow the spread of tumor cells and may even prevent tumors from forming in the first place. (11) It may do this in several ways, including disrupting the formation of cancerous cells at various stages in the cell cycle, interfering with cell signaling pathways, and even causing those cancerous cells to die. (11)
Whether curcumin can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be determined, but the research is ongoing.
4. Curcumin May Help Ease Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may be a safe and effective long-term treatment option for people with osteoarthritis (OA). In a past study, people with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg/day of Meriva experienced significant improvements in stiffness and physical function after eight months, whereas the control group saw no improvements. Meriva is a proprietary treatment made up of a natural curcuminoid mixture (75 percent curcumin; 15 percent demethoxycurcumin; and 10 percent bisdemethoxycurcumin), phosphatidylcholine (a chemical found in eggs, soybeans, and other foods), and microcrystalline cellulose (a refined wood pulp commonly used by the pharmaceutical and food industries). (12,13,14)
And a study in mice published in the June 2016 issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy found that 50 mg oral curcumin per kilogram (kg) body weight significantly slowed the progression of OA, whereas a topical curcumin treatment provided pain relief. (15) That said, whether these benefits would apply to humans has yet to be seen.