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Health benefits of turmeric

4 min read

You probably know Turmeric as a spice used in Indian cookery - it has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavour or colour not just curry powders but also mustards, butters, and cheeses. What you probably didn't realise is that the root of Turmeric is also widely used for medicinal purposes

Turmeric contains active antioxidant compounds called curcuminoids

While Turmeric has been used to treat a wide ranging number of ailments for thousands of years it wasn't until relatively recently that health experts discovered why Turmeric is effective for promoting health. Turmeric contains, amongst other nutrients, all of the following:

  • beta-carotene
  • ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • calcium
  • flavonoids
  • fibre
  • iron
  • niacin
  • potassium
  • zinc

However it is the pigments that give turmeric its distinctive yellow colour that are the primary source of its health benefits. These brightly coloured polyphenols are called curcuminoids. Curcuminoids display very powerful antioxidant properties - strong enough in fact to scavenge the hydroxyl radical which is considered by many to be the most reactive of all oxidants.

Curcuminoids are proving to be more effective than Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and even the Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs) in grape seed and pine bark extracts for mopping up free radicals. When cells are healthy the body is healthy, this means Turmeric offers benefits to general well being, as well as targeting specific health problems. 

Helps promote healthy skin

The ageing process is a direct result of free-radical damage and oxidation to the body at a cellular level. The key to slowing down the natural ageing process is to introduce antioxidants into the body - this is one of the reasons why Turmeric has been considered to be ‘skin food' for thousands of years in India and other cultures.

Turmeric has been known to help:

  • Cleanse your skin and maintain its elasticity
  • Provide nourishment to your skin    
  • Balance the effects of skin flora

Supports joint health

A study evaluating the effectiveness of curcumin alone, and in combination with an anti-inflammatory drug (Voltaren) in patients with active Rheumatoid Arthritis revealed that a highly bioavailable form of curcumin was more effective in alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, including tenderness and swelling of joints, than the drug. Furthermore, those who were taking the curcumin only, experienced the most improvement across the board. The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the Diclofenac sodium [Voltaren] group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse effects.

In 2006, another study also found that Turmeric supplements profoundly lessened joint inflammation and destruction, it is thought by blocking inflammatory pathways and preventing the increased production of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.

Curcumin is most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties - it has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, and it can inhibit both the excessive activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation.

Studies have shown that it is absorbed by the body especially well when paired with the pineapple enzyme Bromelain. So, if you try Turmeric supplements for your joints, perhaps try using it along with a Bromelain supplement.

Helps maintain normal cholesterol levels

Turmeric may reduce the risk of blood clots and prevent the build up of plaque in the arteries, which helps protect against stroke and other clot-related problems.

There are also studies showing turmeric to be effective in lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL, or good cholesterol, both of which play a role in heart health. Read a previous post if you're not sure about the difference between good and bad cholesterol.

Helps the liver

Turmeric removes cholesterol from the liver therefore it plays a role in the treatment of fatty liver disease where the fat accumulation in liver exceeds more than 5-10% of the weight of the liver. Curcumin is believed to communicate with liver cells to produce more LDL receptors. Due to the increase in receptors, more cholesterol is cleared from our body - studies have shown that LDL receptors increase in number when liver cells are treated with turmeric.

Turmeric can assist liver in coping with excess of alcohol and its consequences - studies have shown that when turmeric is fed to rats their bodies' were able to flush out toxins more easily and in a more efficient way. It also protects liver from toxins such as hepatoxins and helps to rebuild in the case of damage.

Turmeric is also known to increase the secretion of bile thus improving digestion too.

Slows the progression of Alzheimer’s

A significant amount of peer-reviewed research has shown that curcumin can be instrumental in the treatment of this disease. It is thought for this reason that India, a region in which the consumption of Turmeric (and subsequently curcumin) is especially high, has some of the lowest Alzheimer’s rates in the world. People in India aged 70 or older have a much lower rate of Alzheimer’s disease than those of the same age group in the United States. Many believe this difference is due to the high intake of Indian curries, which are made with Turmeric.

Further research points to Turmeric’s ability to remove amyloid plaque build up in the brain - believed to put people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

In recent research, it was even unveiled that fruit flies live 75 percent longer when given curcumin. Of course the research was conducted on insects and not humans but nonetheless the study pinpoints just how significantly curcumin can be in enhancing life in all forms.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.