10 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Updated: May 9

Turmeric is a product that comes from the Curcuma longa, a plant native to South India and now grown widely in South Asia and Southeast Asia (2). In India, it is known as "Haldi," and there is hardly any dish there that makes no use of it.

South Asians use turmeric powder as a colouring and flavouring agent in traditional cooking. They also use it to make golden milk, a drink now gaining popularity in the West.

It is also extensively used in Ayurveda—the traditional Hindu system of medicine. That is why it is also known as the Golden Goddess or Indian Saffron. From India, it reached China and other parts of the world.

Chinese people have also used it in their ancient medicine to treat abdominal pain (1). In the US, it is used in curries, cheese, and butter.

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which gives turmeric its characteristic yellow colour. Curcumin offers almost all the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other healing properties of turmeric.

Thanks to the health benefits curcumin offers, it is increasingly becoming popular in Western medicine. Hundreds of studies now back its use as a dietary supplement for health problems.

However, the curcumin content of turmeric powder is low, averaging about 3 percent only (3). Plus, its absorption into the bloodstream is little as well (2). As a result, many people choose to take curcumin supplements to benefit from the healing abilities of curcumin.

Here are some of the benefits turmeric and curcumin have to offer!

1. Turmeric Has Anti-inflammatory Effects!

Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism of the body against bacteria, viruses, and foreign bodies. However, chronic low-level inflammation causes many health problems as it begins to affect the own cells and tissues of the body. Under such circumstances, the body needs outside help to suppress the inflammation.

Fortunately, many studies show that turmeric and its active ingredients curcuminoids have anti-inflammatory potential (5)(6)(7). Curcumin acts as a pro-drug that transforms into an active agent to show its anti-inflammatory effects (4). However, its therapeutic dose in turmeric is low. So you will have to either take curcumin supplements or drink enough golden milk a day to see the benefits.

2. Turmeric Has Antioxidant Benefits!

Oxidants are highly reactive molecules and free radicals that damage healthy cells and tissues by reacting with amino acids, fats, and the DNA of cells.

Oxidative damage causes many health problems, such as aging, cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases (7). The body has natural substances known as antioxidants to detoxify these oxidants. That is why these antioxidants are so crucial for the body.

One of the substantial benefits of turmeric and its active ingredients is its potent antioxidant properties (8)(9). It is a potent scavenger of free radicals and maintains the activities of antioxidant enzymes (7)(8).

3. Curcumin Relieves Arthritis Pain!

Curcumin is good for pain as well, especially arthritis pain (1). Curcumin may be an effective long-term treatment option for people with arthritis (6). Some studies even suggest curcumin may be as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (4).

Arthritis—a highly prevalent problem in the United States, has many types. Most of them involve inflammation of the joints and bones. Unfortunately, arthritis has no cure, and as a result, it requires long-term medication. Thus, curcumin may prove an effective alternative for the current management of arthritis (8).

4. Curcumin May Prevent Cancer!

Curcumin has been extensively studied in treating or even preventing cancer. However, research suggests it causes tumour cells to die by inhibiting crucial signalling pathways (6)(7). Since cancer and chronic inflammation correlate, the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may explain some of its anti-cancer potentials.

Curcumin also reduces the spread of cancer and prevents the formation of new blood vessels in tumours (7). However, curcumin must be taken in high doses to see significant differences.

5. Curcumin Lowers The Risk Of Heart Diseases!

The function of endothelium—the inner lining of the heart and blood vessels, declines with age. This decline, in turn, causes many heart problems, such as blood pressure.

Fortunately, many studies suggest that curcumin improves endothelial function (7)(2). Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also play a role. One study suggests that patients taking a few grams of curcumin daily before and after coronary artery bypass surgery had a significantly fewer risk of heart attack (6).

Several other studies suggest that curcumin improves heart health and plays a protective role against many diseases, such as heart failure, arrhythmias, and atherosclerosis (6)(6). It may also decrease blood cholesterol levels and protect against heart complications in diabetic patients (6)(0).

6. Curcumin May Delay Or Help Treat Alzheimer's!

Curcumin may be beneficial for Alzheimer's due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, its real benefits come from its ability to prevent the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

Beta plaques are aggregates of abnormally folded proteins, and their build up role in the brain leads to Alzheimer's. Curcumin also promotes disaggregation of beta-plaques (5)(6). It delays the degradation of neurons as well (5).

Curcumin may also prevent Alzheimer's disease by maintaining the structure and function of cerebral vessels, mitochondria, and synapses, which are essential in memory (6). Reduced level of a brain-derived neuropathic factor (BDNF)—a protein that plays a vital role in memory and learning—is also linked to Alzheimer’s.

The good news is, many studies reported that curcumin increases the level of BDNF protein (4)(9). Curcumin also improves the behavioural and psychological symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s (4).

7. Curcumin May Have Benefits Against Depression!

Curcumin increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine. Since curcumin absorption into the blood is low, it was given in combination with piperine (an alkaloid present in black pepper) to increase its absorption (7).

Curcumin also improves mood and memory (4). Most research suggests that curcumin may prove effective for depression as well (6).

Depression is also linked to reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) (6). As we know, curcumin increases the level of BDNF protein and, as a result, decreases depression (5). Curcumin may be as effective as some antidepressant, and when used in combination, they have potent antidepressant effects (8).

8. Curcumin prevents Diabetes And Its Complications!

Curcumin decreases glucose levels in the blood. As a result, it has caught attention as a potential treatment for diabetes and its associated complications, such as neuropathy, nephropathy, liver disorders, pancreatic disorders, and heart problems.

In human and animal studies alike, curcumin has been shown to prevent diabetes mellitus and its associated complications (4)(5). However, more studies would help reach conclusive results.

9. Curcumin may delay aging!

Several compounds and natural products have been studied to see if they delay aging. Curcumin supplements now seem promising as animal studies suggest curcumin may have an anti-aging potential (4)(6).

The benefit may come from not only its anti-inflammatory properties but its ability to inhibit various signalling pathways that cause aging (6)(7).

10. Curcumin May Promote Skin Health!

Curcumin supplements are good for the skin as well. Apart from its anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin, it also promotes wound healing.

Curcumin promotes collagen deposition (collagen is a protein that gives skin elasticity) and the growth of blood vessels (1) (6).

It also prevents skin cancers. Thus, people with skin conditions, such as acne, vitiligo, psoriasis, may benefit from curcumin therapy (7).

Curcumin has recently caught the attention of western medicine. So it is currently still in study, and as time passes, we may see more conclusive findings of its role as a product with extraordinary healing power.

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