Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Otuebo Harrison
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), like many other spices, has a long history of usage in traditional medicine. Apart from giving curry its vivid yellow color, turmeric is noted for having strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is typically grown from the rhizomes, or roots, of a flowering plant that grows in India and other regions of Southeast Asia.
Curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive yellow color, is the main active ingredient in the spice and the health benefits of turmeric seems to be endless.
In fact, the majority of turmeric’s purported health benefits can be attributed to curcumin.
“Curcumin is a natural antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as [possible] benefits related to slowing the aging process, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and, potentially, depression,” explains Liz Shaw, RDN, the creator of Shaw Simple Swaps.
Dana White, RD, the proprietor of Dana White Nutrition, laments that because turmeric (and curcumin on its own) doesn’t penetrate well into the bloodstream, eating curry with it once a month is unlikely to provide you with the needed anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. You’ll need to take supplements to get the levels of turmeric and curcumin that research studies have shown to be beneficial. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements and neither has curcumin or turmeric been assigned a safe or recommended daily intake.
However, if you take a turmeric supplement that also contains black pepper, you could be able to get even more advantages from using it. Black pepper has a substance called piperine that aids in increasing the bioavailability of turmeric, according to White. The term “bioavailability” describes how much of a material is absorbed or used by the body.
For instance, a previous animal study discovered that combining 2 grams of curcumin with 20 mg of piperine per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) enhanced bioavailability by 2,000%.
Of course, more investigation is required to ascertain whether the outcomes would be the same in humans. Here, we list the several possible health benefits of turmeric and curcumin.
1. Curcumin May Help Prevent (and Possibly Treat) Certain Types of Cancer
Anti-inflammatory substances like curcumin may aid in the treatment and prevention of a number of cancer types, including colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, breast, and gastric cancers, as inflammation is connected to the growth of tumors.
Curcumin may help limit the growth of tumor cells and may even stop them from forming altogether, according to research in mice.
It may accomplish this in a number of ways, such as by obstructing the development of malignant cells at different phases of the cell cycle, obstructing cell signaling pathways, or even by inducing the death of those cancerous cells.
Curcumin has not yet been proven to be effective in treating cancer in people, but study is still being done.
Curcumin, or turmeric, may be able to aid with some cancer symptoms, according to some research. It has been suggested that taking supplements of turmeric or curcumin may have benefits based on 11 studies on the impact of turmeric on prostate disease, eight of which were individuals with prostate cancer.
While some studies found supplements containing curcumin or turmeric had no effect on patients with prostate diseases, others revealed positive effects on blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (a protein produced by the prostate gland; these levels are frequently higher in men with prostate cancer), urination frequency and urgency, and quality of life.
Researchers note that more studies are needed to assess the true impact of curcumin on prostate conditions like cancer.
2. Curcumin May Help Delay or Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease
Even against common degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, turmeric may offer some protection for the brain. How? By raising the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that is present in the brain and spinal cord and is important for maintaining the health of nerve cells (neurons) and regulating communication between them, both of which are essential for learning and memory.
Because prevalent brain disease like Alzheimer’s are linked to decreasing levels of BDNF, turmeric (and specifically curcumin) may help prevent or slow down brain aging.
That said, much of the research has been done in rats.
Researchers note more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of turmeric in the prevention and treatment of common brain diseases.
3. Curcumin May Help Ease Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
For those with osteoarthritis (OA), curcumin may be a safe and reliable long-term treatment choice because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties. The authors conducted a review on the therapeutic usage of curcumin for the treatment of osteoarthritis and came to that conclusion, at least.
In a previous trial, participants with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg of Meriva daily saw significant improvements in stiffness and physical function after eight months, but the control group did not. Meriva is a patented medication that combines a natural curcuminoid mixture (75% curcumin, 15% demethoxycurcumin, and 10% bisdemethoxycurcumin), phosphatidylcholine (a substance present in foods like eggs, soybeans, and other foods), and other ingredients.
For those with osteoarthritis (OA), curcumin may be a secure and reliable long-term therapeutic choice because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties. The authors conducted a review on the therapeutic usage of curcumin for the treatment of osteoarthritis and came to that conclusion, at least.
In a previous trial, participants with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg of Meriva daily saw significant improvements in stiffness and physical function after eight months, but the control group did not. Meriva is a patented medication that combines a natural curcuminoid mixture (75% curcumin, 15% demethoxycurcumin, and 10% bisdemethoxycurcumin), phosphatidylcholine (a substance present in foods like eggs, soybeans, and other foods), and other ingredients and microcrystalline cellulose, a refined wood pulp that is frequently utilized in the culinary and pharmaceutical sectors.
In the meantime, a current clinical investigation investigated the possible impacts of curcumin supplementation on people with osteoarthritis of the knee. After six weeks, the group receiving 40 mg of nanocurcumin in a capsule every 12 hours had significantly less pain and stiffness than the control group.
Additionally, a study in mice revealed that topical application of curcumin considerably reduced pain while oral administration of 50 mg of curcumin per kg of body weight significantly slowed the progression of OA.
But it has to be discovered whether these particular advantages also apply to people.
4. Curcumin Is an Anti-Inflammatory
One of the main benefits of turmeric is that it is frequently used to reduce inflammation, and curcumin is primarily responsible for this property. In fact, at the correct dosage, curcumin may be an even more potent anti-inflammatory drug than aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), which are frequently used to treat inflammation.
Additionally, more study is required in this area.
Curcumin may aid in the treatment of disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and arthritis because chronic inflammation is a factor in many chronic diseases.
5. Curcumin May Help Treat or Prevent Diabetes
A previous evaluation of studies suggested that curcumin might help treat and prevent diabetes as well as related conditions such diabetic nephropathy, often known as diabetic kidney disease, which affects persons with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The fact that many of the research were conducted on animals rather than people is a negative.
For instance, one study discovered that 45 days of administering 80 mg of tetrahydrocurcumin (one of the primary components of curcumin) per kg of body weight to type 2 diabetic rats resulted in a considerable reduction in blood sugar levels as well as an increase in plasma insulin.
After 16 weeks, supplements containing curcumin helped lower blood insulin levels, according to a study on obese mice with type 2 diabetes.
Curcumin may help with insulin resistance, blood sugar control, and lowering blood lipids (fatty compounds found in the blood), according to the authors of a recent review.
Curcumin, meanwhile, may reduce a number of the factors that cause diabetes, such as insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and hyperlipidemia (a medical term for high levels of fat in the blood; one type of hyperlipidemia is characterized by high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol). This is because curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. More human research is yet required to confirm.
6. Curcumin May Help Protect Against Heart Disease
According to a study, curcumin may improve endothelial function, or the condition of the delicate membrane lining inside the heart and blood vessels. Blood pressure is significantly regulated by this membrane.
Aging and an increased risk of heart disease are related to lower endothelial function. Curcumin may therefore lessen your risk of developing heart disease and protect against age-related loss of function.
In one study, scientists evaluated how an eight-week aerobic exercise program and a supplement containing curcumin affected the function of endothelial cells in post-menopausal women. The endothelial function in the exercise and curcumin groups both improved equally, however there were no changes in the control group.
Another study indicated that atorvastatin (Lipitor), a treatment frequently used to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, and curcumin were equally efficient at improving endothelial function in persons with type 2 diabetes (heart disease is a major comorbidity of type 2).
Even still, more investigation is required to decide whether curcumin is a safe and reliable long-term treatment option for persons with heart disease.
7. Turmeric Protects Your Body From Free Radicals
Free radicals, a group of extremely reactive atoms produced by our bodies and present in environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke and industrial chemicals, can harm your health and antioxidants can help prevent this from happening.
Free radicals can tamper with your body’s DNA, proteins, and fats, which can result in a number of common diseases and health issues like cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
As a result, spices like turmeric that are high in antioxidants may help to shield you from the harm caused by free radicals.
According to a review, curcumin in particular has the capacity to scavenge various kinds of free radicals, regulate enzymes that neutralize free radicals, and stop some enzymes from producing particular kinds of free radicals.
8. Turmeric May Improve Skin Health
Turmeric may be a helpful treatment for a number of skin diseases, including acne, eczema (atopic dermatitis), photoaging, and psoriasis, because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Strong research is, however, lacking.
Prior to making suggestions, clinicians should conduct more research on the benefits of turmeric for skin health . One evaluation suggests that oral curcumin in particular may be an efficient and safe treatment choice for psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease).
The authors of a different review claim that topical curcumin treatments may be effective in treating skin conditions, particularly given that prior research indicates curcumin is generally safe even at large doses. However, curcumin is an unattractive topical skin therapy due to its brilliant yellow-orange hue, poor solubility, and poor stability at high pH.
According to the authors of one study, curcumin would likely need to be used in addition to, not as a substitute for, other skin therapies because of its limited absorption.