What is Turmeric
Despite being one of the most effective nutritional supplement, turmeric is not widely known to have healing powers.
Perhaps you might have used it in preparing your favorite dish such as a spicy curry, but you have never tried harder to find out what it actually is.
Probably you have heard about the hype around using turmeric for health purposes.
At first glance, you might think this nutritional supplement is not researched enough, so there is no need to study it yourself any further.
However, you might be surprised by the fact that there are thousands of studies done around turmeric.
What is, even more, amazing is that most of the research has scientifically-based backing, so looking up for turmeric on the internet may get you to some incredible benefits this supplement brings about.
In this article, we are going to be dealing with top 14 health benefits of turmeric, but just before that, let us introduce you with this potent supplement.
Namely, turmeric is the golden colored and strongly flavored spice, which has gained its popularity in recent years.
This ancient spice was celebrated for centuries for its nutritional and medical capacities.
Thanks to the internet, a growing number of people are getting acquainted with this potent spice.
Not only does the internet deserve the credit for the acknowledgment of turmeric and its potency, but we also give credit to curcumin, which is found in turmeric.
Curcumin is the healing substance which supplies its vibrant color to turmeric.
In botanical terms, turmeric is known as Curcuma longa.
When it comes to the plant’s dimensions, it reaches barely three feet in height.
As for the plant parts, it produces both a flower and rhizome, or stem that is found underground.
If you are not familiar with the term rhizome, it is a root-like stem having an appearance similar to ginger and producing the yellow turmeric spice.
Though the plant has become widespread throughout the tropics now, India has been known as the largest producer of turmeric ever since ancient times.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
When it comes to very benefits it causes, curcumin has been associated with significant anti-inflammatory properties, which are claimed to rival the ones found in ibuprofen.
Turmeric does not leave any toxic traces on your body, which makes it different from over-the-counter drugs.
One of the biggest advantages of curcumin is that it protects healthy cells, particularly those found in the colon region and colon itself, from agents that stimulate and ultimately cause cancer.
Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, thus preventing them from having the chance to spread to other areas.
Moreover, turmeric lowers the cholesterol rates and the risk for heart disease.
In the following lines, you will learn more about top 14 health benefits of this incredible herb.
Contains Very Powerful Compounds
Turmeric is rich in compounds that contain medicinal properties (1).
These compounds are known as curcuminoids, and the most important among them is curcumin.
It is the main active turmeric ingredient.
It is best known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Nevertheless, the amount of curcumin in turmeric is not that high.
Only 3% of curcumin is to be found in the total weight of turmeric (2).
Most of the studies conducted on this plant state that turmeric extracts should be used because it contains higher amounts of curcumin, where dosages of 1 gram per day are just enough.
Using only the turmeric spice in your healthy diet would not make a big difference because it would be very difficult to reach these levels of the recommended dosage.
Therefore, if you want to experience all the benefits of this potent herb, you will need to take an extract containing significant amounts of curcumin.
Sadly, curcumin cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream completely.
That is why it is recommended to take black pepper with it, which contains piperine, a substance that boosts the curcumin absorption by 2000% (3).
Inflammation, if acute (short-term), can be beneficial to our body because, in that case, it fights foreign invaders, i.e pathogens like bacteria, and repairs damage.
On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation can cause major problems and be harmful to our body tissues.
It is held that chronic inflammation plays an important role in almost every chronic disease in the Western world including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions (4, 5, 6).
Therefore, potential prevention to fight chronic inflammation and treat these diseases might lie in curcumin, a substance found in turmeric.
Curcumin has proved to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, that strong that in some cases, its potency matches the potency of some anti-inflammatory drugs (7).
Curcumin actually has the ability to heal multiple areas and levels in the inflammatory pathway, even reaching the molecular level.
A molecule known as NF-kB, travels into the nuclei of cells, and “wakes up” the genes associated with inflammation.
Increases the Antioxidant Capacity
Human bodies low in the antioxidant capacity are believed to be prone to premature aging and other diseases, some of which are very serious.
Oxidative damage involves free radicals, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons.
Free radicals have a tendency to react with organic substances such as fatty acids, proteins or DNA.
But, in case your body is rich in antioxidants, the reaction between free radicals and important organic substances is highly unlikely to happen.
Not only does curcumin block free radicals, but it also stimulates the mechanisms of the body and its own antioxidant properties.
Improves Brain Function
Unlike the theory that neurons are not able to divide and multiply after the period of early childhood, it has been proved that this can and does happen.
The neurons have the ability to form new connections.
In some areas of the brain, these neurons can multiply and, therefore, increase in number.
One of the main drivers responsible for this process is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
It is a type of growth hormone and it functions in the brain (20).
In a situation of a common brain disorder, there is the decreased level of this hormone.
Because of this fact, curcumin increases the chances of delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function (25).
Even though it may sound as a cliché, but there is a possibility that this plant can make you smarter and also improve your memory.
Though all of this sounds extremely helpful, still this plant has to be put under further testing in human controlled trials (26).
Lowers the Risk for Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading causes for the higher death rate in the world (27).
This fatal illness has been undergoing research for many decades, and all of this has been done in order to get to know the disease better and possibly to find the cure for it.
However, it turns out that many factors are involved in heart disease, which makes it complicated.
Some of the plants such curcumin have been reported to reverse many steps in the process of heart disease (28).
Maybe the main cause why curcumin is beneficial for fighting heart disease is because it improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels.
Endothelial dysfunction has proved to be the major driver of heart disease.
Moreover, this disorder leads to an inability of the endothelium to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors (29).
On one hand, curcumin showed to be as effective as exercise.
Apart from improving the function of the endothelium, curcumin can also help heart disease patients because it reduces inflammation and oxidation.
In a study conducted on 121 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, they were given 4 grams of curcumin per day.
As a result, the group had a 65% decreased risk for a heart attack (32).
Can Prevent and Treat Cancer
Although there are many different forms of cancer, they are common in one thing, and that is some of them are affected by curcumin supplements in the same way (33).
Researchers have come up with a conclusion that curcumin is beneficial in treating cancer because it affects cancer growth, development and spreading at the molecular level (34).
According to studies, it can reduce angiogenesis (new blood vessels growth), metastasis (cancer spreading), and contribute to removing cancerous cells (35).
Still, treating cancer in humans is yet to be researched because it is still uncertain whether high-dose curcumin can aid fighting this disease.
As for certain forms of cancer such as colorectal cancer, some evidence go in favor of treating it with the curcumin herb.
According to one study, 44 men with lesions in the colon were given 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days.
It turned out that the number of lesions was reduced by 40% (38).
As of today, curcumin still belongs to the alternative medicine.
Some day, it may become one of the major methods of cancer treatment.
Successful in Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common neurodegenerative disease.
It is notorious because it leads to dementia.
Regrettably, there has not been found a cure nor treatment for Alzheimer’s yet.
However, you are able to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Curcumin has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (39).
Once again, inflammation and oxidative damage are harmful to many aspects of your body, and for your neurons, as well (40).
Therefore, curcumin can fight Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a buildup of protein tangles known as Amyloid plaques, which are a key feature of this disease.
Studies have come up with the results that curcumin can clear these plaques (41).
Helps Arthritis Patients
Arthritis, a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation is a common disease in the Western world.
Taking into consideration that it involves inflammation, it comes as no surprise that curcumin may be effective in fighting this disorder due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies go in favor of curcumin when it comes to arthritis.
In one of them, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were treated better when using curcumin compared to an anti-inflammatory drug (42).
Beneficial in Fighting Depression
Curcumin can treat depression, as well, according to studies.
In a controlled environment, 60 patients were divided into three groups (45).
The first group took Prozac, the second group took a gram of curcumin, and the third group took both Prozac and curcumin.
After 6 weeks spent in the controlled environment, the patients that took curcumin felt the improvements similar to Prozac.
What’s more, the group that took both Prozac and curcumin gave the best results.
It may be said that curcumin is as effective as an antidepressant, according to the study.
Reduced brain-derived neurotrophic factors, which are linked with depression, are actually increased with the curcumin intake.
Curcumin boosts the levels of BNDF, therefore reducing the risk for depression (46).
Also, a shrinking hippocampus, which is a brain area responsible for learning and memory, can also be boosted with curcumin.
Delays the Aging Process
If we take into account the benefits curcumin brings about, i.e. prevents heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer, then, it goes without saying that curcumin will help you to both live longer and look younger.
For this reason, curcumin has become a major anti-aging supplement in the last few years (49).
In one study from the University of Colorado, it was stated that curcumin improved several functions that are responsible for premature aging .
Namely, lab animals were noticed to have the reduced levels of arterial stiffness, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress and increased collagen levels.
Endothelial function is particularly important for aging because endothelium cells release substances that are responsible for vascular health, blood clotting, and the immune system.
Oxidative stress plays an important role in aging as well as arterial stiffness.
The authors of the study concluded that curcumin supplementation reduces the arterial stiffness and endothelial dysfunction., thus delaying the aging process.
Improves the Pancreatic Function
When we look around us today, what we can notice is that type 2 diabetes is on the rise.
Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease including factors such as insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
All of this affects one organ, i.e. pancreas.
Turmeric has proved to positively influence beta cell function, which are the cells in the pancreas.
A study conducted by The Journal of Endocrinology showed that turmeric regulated insulin secretion (51).
In addition, it also enhanced pancreatic function.
Fascinatingly enough, researchers also found that turmeric is 400 times more effective than Metformin, one of the most common drugs for regulating diabetes.
Turmeric was noticed to have antioxidant and antidiabetic abilities, particularly in the case of type 1 diabetes (52).
Plus, it was also capable of improving metabolic function and preventing the buildup of plaques in the arteries of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (53).
Helps Respiratory System
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can clear the mucus in the lungs, soothe the irritation and reduce the inflammation, thus unblocking the airways.
Also, the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of turmeric will also take part in killing the infection that blocks the air to travel through your respiratory system.
Curcumin is an enzyme or pigment that is very effective in controlling bronchial asthma.
Curcumin is, in that way, responsible for an easier dilation of blood vessels, thus enabling better airflow, restoring normal breathing patterns, alleviating the muscle spasms, thinning the blood and relieving asthmatic inflammation that causes swelling in the lungs and heavy breathing (54).
In general, the allergic asthma is promoted by the release of a specific compound known as T-lymphocytes from the immune system, thus causing inflammation and irritation.
Turmeric can block this process and regulate the frequency of asthma attacks.
By boosting the immune system with fiber and minerals like iron, potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6 that are found in curcumin, you lower the inflammatory enzymes known as COX-2 and LOX, which are responsible for asthma.
Cholesterol starts in the gut with digestion and absorption of fats.
In order to preserve your health, you have to control that absorption.
According to one study, regulating cholesterol absorption from the intestine will likely reduce blood cholesterol by up to 36% (55).
That said, curcumin has been tested whether it can decrease cholesterol levels and aid in lipid metabolism.
As a result, the study discovered that curcumin inhibits one of the key transporters of cholesterol called NPC1LC1.
Another study was also in pursuit of finding the same thing, and it proved that NPC1L1 transporter was halted by curcumin, where curcumin modulates, reduces, and regulates cholesterol absorption (56).
Reduces the Risk for Childhood Leukemia
Childhood leukemia and its risks have increased by more than 50% since 1950.
It has been proved that environment and lifestyle factors are crucial when it comes to this increase.
Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia compared to Europe, and it may be concluded that the stems of this phenomenon may lie in the differences in diet.
Namely, turmeric is a frequent supplement of a healthy diet in Asia.
The factors that play an important role in childhood leukemia are prenatal and postnatal exposure to radiation, benzene, environmental pollution and some chemotherapeutic drugs.
In one study, it has been discovered that turmeric and its coloring component known as curcumin can reduce the risk factors for childhood leukemia.
What’s more, curcumin inhibits radiation-induced damage of chromosomes.
Second, it prevents the formation of some harmful compounds that result in your body when eating processed foods such as processed meat that contain these harmful substances like nitrosamines.
Third, it blocks hydrocarbons to mutate when exposed to the burning of carbon-based fuels including cigarette smoke).
Irreversibly, curcumin prevents leukemia cells from multiplying.
The dosage varies depending on age. For adults, the recommended dosage is taken by mouth and is as follows:
- If you are having and upset stomach, take 500 mg of turmeric four times per day.
- For treating osteoarthritis, take 500 mg twice per day of a specific turmeric extract (Meriva, Indena)
- When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, take 500 mg twice per day along with some turmeric constituent (BCM-95®, Arjuna Natural Extracts, India).
Turmeric Side Effects
Some people are prone to allergic reactions when taking turmeric, especially after skin exposure.
They are likely to experience an itchy rash.
High dosage of turmeric have been associated with:
- Liver complications
- Skin burn
- Increased risk for bleeding
- Increased liver function tests
Also, avoid taking some medications when you use turmeric.
It may be harmful to your health if you are using it with aspirin, clopidogrel or warfarin.
How to Use Turmeric
One of the great things about turmeric is that you can prepare turmeric in many ways.
If you want to use it for medicinal and healing purposes, the easiest way of taking it is in the form of a capsule.
On the other hand, if you want this potent herb to give you a younger look, you should add it into your face mask or simply buy a turmeric scrub for your face.
Finally, turmeric can be incorporated into your healthy diet in many dishes.
How about trying adding it to soups or marinades, or simply rubbing your grill with it?
All of this makes this plant very useful and tasty.
Given the dozen of health benefits of turmeric, incorporating this powerful plant into your diet will certainly improve the quality of your life.
Used for healing purposes by our ancestors, it has become one of the best methods of treating many body diseases such as cardiovascular or brain diseases.
Furthermore, being rich in many useful substances such as minerals and fiber makes this herb high-quality.
Nevertheless, it may be stated that turmeric requires further research on its benefits as well as side effects.
Until then, we might find out some incredible facts about this potent herb, who knows.
One thing’s for sure, and that’s the best is yet to come.
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