Turmeric: A Spice with Surprising Health Benefits


Turmeric is a spice that has been used for centuries in Indian cuisine and traditional medicine. It is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which belongs to the ginger family. Turmeric has a bright yellow color and a distinctive flavor that adds warmth and depth to dishes like curry, soup, and rice. But turmeric is more than just a culinary ingredient. It also contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to have various health benefits. Here are some of the surprising ways that turmeric and curcumin can improve your well-being.

Turmeric and Curcumin Can Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response of your immune system to fight infections and injuries. However, chronic inflammation can also contribute to many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and pain. Several studies have found that curcumin can lower the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood and tissues, such as cytokines and prostaglandins.

Turmeric: A Spice with Surprising Health Benefits
Turmeric: A Spice with Surprising Health Benefits

Curcumin can also inhibit the activity of enzymes that are involved in inflammation, such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB). Curcumin may be especially beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that taking 2 grams of curcumin per day, along with conventional medication, was more effective than medication alone in maintaining remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.

Turmeric and Curcumin Can Boost Brain Function and Mood

Turmeric and curcumin may also have positive effects on your brain and mood. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can reach the brain cells and influence their function. Curcumin can increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes the growth and survival of neurons and synapses. BDNF is essential for learning, memory, and mood regulation. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. A study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that taking 90 milligrams of curcumin twice a day for 18 months improved memory and attention in older adults without dementia. Curcumin also reduced the levels of amyloid and tau proteins, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Another study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that taking 500 milligrams of curcumin twice a day for eight weeks improved the symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with major depressive disorder.

Turmeric and Curcumin Can Support Heart Health

Turmeric and curcumin may also protect your heart from various risk factors and complications. Curcumin can improve the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of your blood vessels. The endothelium regulates blood pressure, blood clotting, and inflammation. Endothelial dysfunction can lead to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that taking 150 milligrams of curcumin per day for eight weeks improved the endothelial function and reduced the levels of oxidative stress in people with type 2 diabetes. Curcumin can also lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are fats that can clog the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that taking curcumin supplements significantly reduced the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, compared to placebo.

Turmeric and Curcumin Can Help Prevent and Treat Cancer

Turmeric and curcumin may also have anticancer properties that can prevent and treat various types of cancer. Curcumin can modulate the expression of genes and proteins that are involved in the initiation, progression, and metastasis of cancer. Curcumin can also interfere with the signaling pathways that regulate the growth, survival, and invasion of cancer cells. Curcumin can also enhance the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation, and reduce the side effects of these treatments. A review of 44 studies published in the journal Anticancer Research found that curcumin had beneficial effects on various cancers, such as breast, colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, and lung cancer. Curcumin was able to inhibit the growth and induce the death of cancer cells, as well as prevent the formation of new blood vessels that feed the tumors. Curcumin also enhanced the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation, and reduced the toxicity and resistance of these treatments.

How to Use Turmeric and Curcumin for Health Benefits

Turmeric and curcumin are generally safe and well-tolerated, but they may cause some side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and allergic reactions, in some people. Turmeric and curcumin may also interact with some medications, such as blood thinners, anticoagulants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your doctor before taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications. The recommended dosage of turmeric and curcumin may vary depending on the purpose and the product. However, most studies use doses ranging from 500 to 2,000 milligrams of curcumin per day. The curcumin content of turmeric is only about 3%, so you would need to consume a large amount of turmeric to get the same benefits as curcumin supplements. Moreover, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, so it may not reach the target tissues and organs. To enhance the absorption and bioavailability of curcumin, you can combine it with black pepper, which contains a compound called piperine that can increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%. You can also consume curcumin with a source of fat, such as oil or milk, as curcumin is fat-soluble and can dissolve in fat. You can use turmeric and curcumin in various ways, such as:

  • Adding turmeric powder or fresh turmeric root to your dishes, such as curry, soup, rice, and salad.
  • Making a turmeric tea by boiling water with turmeric, ginger, lemon, and honey.
  • Making a golden milk by heating milk with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and honey.
  • Taking curcumin capsules or tablets, following the instructions on the label.
  • Applying turmeric paste or cream to your skin, for wounds, acne, or inflammation.

Turmeric and curcumin are natural substances that have many health benefits, thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. They can help reduce inflammation and pain, boost brain function and mood, support heart health, and prevent and treat cancer. You can use turmeric and curcumin in various ways, such as adding them to your food, drinking them as a tea or milk, taking them as supplements, or applying them to your skin. However, you should consult your doctor before taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications. You should also be aware of the possible side effects and interactions of turmeric and curcumin, and use them with caution and moderation.


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