What Are The Health Benefits of Turmeric?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Turmeric?
Turmeric helps beat inflammation and aids in the treatment of inflammatory ailments like cancer and arthritis. Thanks to its compound curcumin, the spice also benefits neural as well as cardiovascular health. Here is the most comprehensive list of curcumin and turmeric benefits.
See How Turmeric Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As per numerous studies, curcumin, a potent compound in turmeric, can reduce inflammation in the body. One way of increasing turmeric intake is by adding it to your dishes while cooking – which you might be doing already. You can drink turmeric tea as well – just boil four cups of water and add one teaspoon of ground turmeric. You can also add lemon or honey to taste.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, curcumin in turmeric can aid in arthritis treatment. The compound modifies the responses of the immune system, and this helps prevent joint inflammation (4).
More importantly, the functioning of turmeric is safe and natural. Unlike ibuprofen or aspirin, the curcumin in turmeric fights inflammation naturally without harming the kidneys or liver (5). In fact, some level of inflammation is necessary for the body’s optimal functioning. It is only when these levels of inflammation go out of control (which, unfortunately, is what happens in most cases) that there is a problem. In one recent study, osteoarthritis patients adding 200 mg of curcumin a day experienced lowered pain and increased mobility. Curcumin also prevents the release of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are so powerful that it is as effective as certain drugs used for the condition (6). These anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric are so potent that it can help in the treatment of cancer as well (7). More interestingly, there has been no long-term study to date that talks of the adverse effects of curcumin. The Food and Drug Administration has declared curcumin as GRAS (generally regarded as safe).
One downside could be the poor bioavailability of curcumin – it has been found that the serum concentration of this compound usually peaks 1 to 2 hours after oral intake, and gradually declines within 12 hours. We already saw how to improve the bioavailability of curcumin. Another way could be combining the compound with piperine (a compound derived from pepper) (8). Turmeric with black pepper is one healthy combination.
Turmeric is also used to treat gastrointestinal issues linked to irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by inflammation (9). According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the human body that are responsible for inflammation (10).
In case you are taking curcumin supplements for arthritis, this is the dosage recommended by the Arthritis Foundation – 500 milligrams of curcumin, twice a day. But we advise you to talk to your doctor before you go for supplements.
As per another study, extracts containing curcuminoids are far more beneficial in relieving arthritis than extracts containing other turmeric compounds as well (11). And yes, curcumin is one of the few curcuminoids in turmeric.
See How Turmeric Offers Excellent Antioxidant Properties
Turmeric is known to scavenge free radicals, inhibit peroxidation, and reduce iron complex – all of which are a direct result of its antioxidant properties (12). And not just ground turmeric, but even its oil has antioxidant properties (13).
In another study conducted on rats, turmeric was able to prevent diabetes-induced oxidative stress – owing to its antioxidant properties (14).
Another study reveals that the antioxidant properties of curcumin can improve memory retention in humans. In yet another study, the compound had also inhibited apoptosis (the death of cells as a part of an organism’s development) – attributing the effects to curcumin’s antioxidant properties (15).
See How Turmeric Promotes Brain Health And Prevents Neurological Diseases
Curcumin in turmeric can also boost the regeneration of brain cells. And aromatic-turmerone, another bioactive compound in turmeric, can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80%.
Given the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric, the herb can also offer overall protection to the brain. It can even prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid, destructive agents present in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. And since patients with Alzheimer’s tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, turmeric could be a direct help (16).
Also, curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier (a semipermeable membrane barrier that separates the extracellular fluid in the brain from the circulating blood) – an ability that makes it an important neuroprotective agent. More interestingly, statistics show that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 25 percent lower in India than in the US, given the extensive use of turmeric in the cuisines of the former. Rats that were fed turmeric developed fewer amyloid plaques (linked to Alzheimer’s) than rats that weren’t. You can simply add turmeric to any of your curry dishes or salads. Sprinkling a pinch of turmeric in your soup can also work wonders.
And here’s another stunning study – scientists have found that turmeric might prevent new fear memories from getting stored in the brain (17). The curcumin in turmeric might also eliminate pre-existing fear memories, paving the way for groundbreaking treatment options for psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. As per researchers, the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin could be the reason behind this.
One Mexican study had proved that curcumin restores the levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor in diabetes and obesity patients (18). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is a vital protein in humans that contribute to nerve cell survival and functioning.
Curcumin also prevents neurotoxicity caused by metals like lead or cadmium. The compound has also delayed the degradation of neurons in patients with Alzheimer’s (19). Numerous other mice studies showed that turmeric not only helps reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms but also lowers the risk of neurodegenerative diseases (20).
Curcumin in turmeric can also aid in the treatment of depression, tardive dyskinesia (impairment of voluntary movement), and diabetic neuropathy (21). In other animal studies, curcumin had also exhibited beneficial effects towards chronic stress.
The compound has shown to benefit patients with multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord). Curcumin achieves this by regulating the inflammatory cytokines. Multiple sclerosis also involves the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier and autoimmune attack – and as per a study, neuroprotective approaches (like the intake of turmeric) work better before the initiation of damage (22).
See How Turmeric Prevents Heart Diseases
The antioxidant properties of turmeric are known to offer cardiac protection, especially in the case of diabetes. Curcumin in turmeric also helps reduce the serum cholesterol levels, thereby contributing to heart health (23).
Research shows that turmeric was used for treating chest pain in ancient Indian and Chinese medicine. In other cases of obesity, the herb had reduced cholesterol concentrations – and more importantly, had increased the levels of good cholesterol. Curcumin had also shown to prevent numerous heart disorders, the most prominent of them being myocardial infarctions (obstruction of blood supply to the tissues in the heart) (24).
As per a report by the Michigan State University, curcumin can also prevent the clogging of arteries (25). Another study states the benefits of curry powder, with turmeric being one of its primary ingredients. We often experience a spike in our blood sugar levels post a meal. This sudden sugar rush can lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, eventually causing a heart attack. The curry powder with turmeric as one of the ingredients could increase the blood flow of the individual, averting danger (26).
In yet another study conducted by the University of Indonesia, curcumin had reduced the cholesterol levels in patients with the acute coronary syndrome (27).
See How Turmeric Prevents Cancer
Curcumin had exhibited anticancer properties in numerous studies (28). In fact, countries that consume about 100 to 200 milligrams of turmeric every day were found to have lower incidences of cancer. In some cancer patients who were given turmeric, the tumors had shrunk. In a few others, the chemicals of the immune system that destroy cancer cells became more concentrated.
Laboratory studies have shown that curcumin in turmeric can slow cancer growth and even make chemotherapy more effective. It also protects the healthy cells from damage from radiation (29). More research is underway.
Curcumin is also found to suppress the initiation, progression, and metastasis of numerous kinds of tumors (30). Curcumin also employs numerous mechanisms for killing cancer cells because of which the cells may not develop any kind of resistance against the compound (31). Other studies have proven that curcumin is well tolerated even at higher doses (32). It is known to offer protection against the cancers of the brain, breast, bone, and the gastrointestinal system.
In one Chinese study, curcumin was found to be effective in the treatment of breast cancer (33). The compound was also found to protect against colorectal cancer in yet another study. It achieves this by sensitizing the cancer cells to chemotherapy, which paves the way to their smoother elimination (34). Curcumin can also work in the mouths of patients suffering from neck and head malignancies and reduces cancer growth. It was also found that curcumin binds to an enzyme named IKK, and prevents its functioning (the enzyme promotes cancer growth) (35).
Curcumin has incredible potency, speaking from the perspective of curing cancer. One metabolite in curcumin, which could be available in very low amounts in the blood post its ingestion, could still have remarkable anti-metastatic effects (36). Curcumin can also prevent cancer of the prostate.
What is more interesting is that curcumin also activates certain proteins in the body that suppress tumors. It can even differentiate a healthy gene from a sick gene, and stunningly enough, can alter the expression of the sick gene. This simply means that curcumin can change DNA, alter the course of genes, and totally turn around the health of cells.
Another Chinese study had discovered that curcumin could inhibit cancer-associated fibroblasts (connective tissues that produce collagen and other fibers) – which might lead to prostate cancer (37). The compound also prevents prostate cancer metastases. It makes the tumor cells synthesize less of cytokines, which promote metastasis. This leads to a reduced frequency of metastasis formation.
Though not clinically tested yet, curcumin also shows great promise in treating melanoma (or skin cancer) (38). In studies, it had stopped the laboratory strains of melanoma and provoked the cancer cells to commit suicide (39).
Turmeric has also been found to shield the DNA from exterior pollutants that can cause leukemia. In fact, turmeric spice can also reduce the risk of childhood leukemia by cutting the effects of some of the risk factors (40).
See How Turmeric Delays Aging
Turmeric contains curcuminoid pigments that turn on the genes that enhance the body’s synthesis of antioxidants. This protects the cells of the brain and skin from free radical damage, improves concentration, and even slows down the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
In one animal study, curcumin and its metabolite (tetrahydrocurcumin) were found to increase the lifespan. This was found to be achieved by regulating the responses to oxidative stress and age-related genes (41). Aging is also caused by random errors in DNA replication – and curcumin might correct these errors, slowing down the aging process (42). Another study states the possibility of curcumin extending the lifespan of humans (43).
See How Turmeric Might Aid In Diabetes Treatment
As per a scientific review, curcumin can lower the glucose levels in the blood, thereby helping prevent diabetes (44). In another study, people with prediabetes who were given a dose of curcumin for 9 months were found to be less likely to develop the disease (45). The compound can also change how the overactive immune system works in patients with type 1 diabetes. It can also boost the immunomodulatory medicines prescribed for the patients with type 1 diabetes. In another study, curcumin supplementation had reduced the oxidative stress experienced by diabetic rats (46).
Curcumin in turmeric can also aid in the treatment of liver disorders associated with diabetes. It had suppressed diabetic cataracts in rats in yet another study conducted by the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (47).
Ingestion of 6 grams of turmeric was found to increase postprandial insulin levels (48). This could be due to the stimulation of beta-cell functioning by the curcumin in turmeric. Turmeric may also be supplemented as an adjuvant to prevent molecular complications in type 2 diabetes.
According to one Iranian study, curcumin can promote bone resorption in diabetic animals (49). It can also be beneficial for diabetes-induced endothelial dysfunction. Curcumin supplementation had also shown to reduce insulin resistance, improve the functioning of pancreatic beta-cells, and enhance glucose tolerance (50).
See How Turmeric Improves Immunity
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can help boost immunity to a great extent. It was found that curcumin stops the recruitment of certain immune cells which, when overactive, can lead to ailments like heart disease and obesity.
Curcumin was also found to stimulate the immune system and destroy the bacteria that cause drug-resistant tuberculosis. It also induces apoptosis (a mechanism used by human immune cells to kill bacteria) (51). Curcumin also changes the way immune cells communicate with each other, enhancing the overall immunity of the individual.
The curcuminoids in turmeric also modulate the response of various types of immune cells – these include the T cells, B cells, neutrophils, macrophages, dendritic cells, and natural killer NK cells. This action improves the immune system of a person (52).
See How Turmeric Works As A Natural Antiseptic
Turmeric displays excellent antibacterial properties against various types of bacteria, some of them which include E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella typhi – accentuating its antiseptic properties (53).
In yet another study, curcuminoids in turmeric had shown inhibitory activities against 8 types of dangerous bacteria. The application of aqueous curcumin extract to cheese had reduced the bacterial counts of S. typhi bacterium. The compound had also demonstrated a synergistic effect in combination with certain antibiotics. And not just bacteria, but turmeric had exhibited its protective properties against various kinds of fungi and viruses as well (54).
Another study states that turmeric has been extensively used for ages for its antiseptic properties. It even helps treat dental pain and other periodontal problems (55).
See How Turmeric Detoxifies The Liver
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin in turmeric stimulates bile production by the gall bladder. The liver, as we know, uses bile to flush out toxins. Bile also rejuvenates the cells in the liver that break down harmful compounds.
The detoxification effects of curcumin are so good that the compound can also be used to treat mercury intoxication (56).
See How Turmeric Reduces Menstrual Pain
According to one Iranian study, curcumin in turmeric was found to reduce the severity of PMS symptoms. This effect could be attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects (57).
As per a report by the Evergreen State College, turmeric can be used to treat menstrual pains – as was used by the ancient Chinese and Indian healers (58).
See How Turmeric Works As A Natural Painkiller
Since it helps relieve inflammation, turmeric can act as a natural painkiller. This is particularly true for arthritis pains (59). Turmeric also improves circulation, which can help eliminate pain. Simply mix two tablespoons of turmeric with water to get a paste, and apply this to the affected area.
See How Turmeric Treats Digestive Disorders
As per one study, gastric issues like GERD could be caused by inflammation and oxidative stress and must be treated with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants (60). Which is why turmeric could be a great option. Turmeric can also reduce the sensitivity of the esophagus to acid, reducing GERD symptoms.
In numerous preclinical trials, turmeric had shown to protect the gastrointestinal tract because of its anti-inflammatory effects. It can also improve the symptoms of dyspepsia (indigestion) and maintain remission in patients with ulcerative colitis (61).
Studies of human tissues have shown that curcumin in turmeric preferentially gets accumulated in the intestine, liver, and colon. This could be another reason for its promise in treating digestive disorders. Curcumin can also help prevent colorectal cancer. It also provides opportunities to cure or even prevent liver ailments (62). Turmeric also reduces bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion (63).
See How Turmeric Aids Weight Loss And Metabolism
Do you know that obesity leads to inflammation in the body that eventually leads to diabetes and heart disease? The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric deal with this right at the beginning. This helps prevent cholesterol and high blood sugar, which also contribute to obesity. When your body is not busy fighting too much inflammation, it is easier to focus on weight loss.
Also, when you gain weight, your fat tissues expand and new blood vessels form. Curcumin was found to prevent the formation of these blood vessels – and might contribute to less fat gain. This study has been performed only on mice, and hence, we need more studies to confirm similar possibilities in humans.
Another Korean study found that turmeric changes white fat to brown fat. It even enhances your metabolism and suppresses the production of new fat. Turmeric can also lower blood cholesterol levels, promoting weight gain (64). Turmeric also lowers the levels of certain proteins that can contribute to fat production. Evidence suggests that curcumin can induce weight loss and prevent obesity-related diseases (65). Though curcumin doesn’t seem to affect appetite, it had shown to reduce fat cells (66).
Turmeric also increases body heat, which can improve your metabolism. Curcumin regulates lipid metabolism, which has a role to play in obesity and the associated complications (67).
See How Turmeric Benefits The Skin?
The antioxidants in turmeric play a vital role in enhancing skin health. The spice aids in the treatment of acne and even psoriasis. It can also cure stretch marks and skin pigmentation. Turmeric benefits for skin include the following.
See How Turmeric Helps Treat Psoriasis
As per researchers, turmeric might obstruct the inflammatory enzymes linked to psoriasis. It can also lower the levels of cytokines, which stimulate cell inflammation and might eventually lead to psoriasis.
Using turmeric for psoriasis is pretty simple. You can take half a teaspoon of powdered turmeric and slowly add water to it. Keep stirring till you get a paste. Apply a thin layer of this ointment to the psoriasis lesions. Cover with some breathable fabric and leave it on overnight. Remove the fabric and rinse your skin with warm water the next morning.
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric might have excellent benefits in treating psoriasis (68).
See How Turmeric Aids In Acne Treatment
The antibacterial properties of turmeric aid in acne treatment. And its anti-inflammatory properties treat the inflammation caused by pimples. Turmeric can be used for oily skin as a face wash or a face pack.
You can also use turmeric milk for this purpose. Turmeric and milk have great healing properties that can help treat acne. All you need are 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 3 tablespoons of milk – along with 2 tablespoons of flour and a few drops of honey. Mix well, and apply a thin layer of this mixture on your face. Allow it to dry for 20 minutes. You can then rinse the mask off in the shower and apply your favorite moisturizer after the bath.
Turmeric milk can also help treat dry skin. The same face mask can serve the purpose.
See How Turmeric Prevents Wrinkles
According to a Japanese study, turmeric can prevent the formation of wrinkles and melanin. It also prevents the reduction in skin elasticity caused by chronic UVB exposure (69).
See How Turmeric Cures Stretch Marks
Turmeric works great for stretch marks. This is, again, because of curcumin – which penetrates the cell membranes. Curcumin is known to alter the physical properties of the cell membrane – and hence, it might cure stretch marks as well.
You can also use turmeric with clotted cream or curd. Simply apply this paste to your waist and stomach before your bath. Wait for about 20 minutes – allowing the treatment to soak in. Wash the paste in your bath.
And by the way, turmeric can treat scars too. A similar treatment should help.
See How Turmeric Soothes Burns
The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of turmeric help soothe burns as well. Also, the burns (at least, most of them) won’t swell up when you use turmeric. You can also mix turmeric with other oils to enhance the treatment. Simply apply the mixture to the affected areas.
The astringent and antioxidant properties turmeric help heal wounds and reduce scarring (70).
See How Turmeric Treats Skin Pigmentation
The bleaching properties of turmeric can help treat skin pigmentation. The herb can also keep the skin free from infection. All you have to do is mix one teaspoon each of turmeric powder and lemon juice. Apply the mixture to the affected area and leave it on for 20 minutes. Don’t go out in the sun for at least an hour. Rinse with cold water. You can do this once daily before showering.
This wonder spice also helps reduce tan. So, how to take turmeric? Take a pinch of turmeric along with some raw milk and lemon juice. Apply this solution to the affected areas. After allowing it to dry properly, wash it off with water.
You can also use a turmeric night cream to improve your complexion. You need a few soaked (and peeled) almonds, and one teaspoon each of turmeric, curd, lemon juice, saffron, and sandalwood powder. Mix all well and store in your refrigerator. Apply the mixture every night, and wash it off in the morning.
See How Turmeric Treats Hirsutism
This is the condition where facial hair gets excessive – and it is a result of hormonal imbalances. Topical application of turmeric helps in this regard. Even taking turmeric orally can treat hormonal imbalances that cause hirsutism.
See How Turmeric Heals Cracked Feet
The astringent properties of turmeric help heal cracked feet as well. You can mix equal quantities of castor oil and coconut oil and add a pinch of ground turmeric to make a paste. Apply this paste to your cracked heels and leave it on for 15 minutes. Rinse off with cool water.
See How Turmeric Aids In Exfoliation
You can prepare a turmeric scrub that helps exfoliate your skin. Mix a tablespoon of turmeric with a tablespoon of water and apple cider vinegar (or rose water). Massage the mixture into the problem areas gently. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then rinse well. Pat dry. You can use a gentle cleanser if the yellow color remains. Using this scrub twice to thrice a week helps remove dead cells from the skin.