20 Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric
What can turmeric do you for you? A lot, apparently. The superfood – or superspice, rather – may help with diabetes, heart health, eczema and psoriasis, pain relief and so much more.
This vibrant yellowish-orange root is a natural wonder. Used in Asia for thousands of years both as a dye and for medicinal purposes, turmeric has also been and still is a cooking staple (its hue makes curry and mustard, yellow). Originating from the same family as ginger, the most active element in turmeric is curcumin, and is where most of this golden spice gets its long list of healing properties. To get more details about the impressive health benefits of this spice, we turned to Joy McCarthy, certified holistic nutritionist and founder of Joyous Health to get the scoop.
“Turmeric’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s super anti-inflammatory,” explains McCarthy. Chronic inflammation has been shown to cause diseases including cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and more. One study done on curcumin found it had significant anti-inflammatory properties, powerful enough to match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Packed with Antioxidants
Another big bonus of turmeric is its antioxidants. Antioxidants help us fight free radicals, and excessive amounts can be damaging to our DNA and cells. Curcumin is the key component in turmeric offering its antioxidant powers. Studies have shown it’s extremely effective in both fighting free radicals and boosting the body’s antioxidant enzymes.
There’s definitely hope that turmeric can help to regulate mood, including the treatment of depressive disorders. A 2014 study tested the efficacy of curcumin with a common antidepressant, fluoxetine, shares McCarthy. Individuals were either given 1,000 milligrams of curcumin and 20 milligrams of fluoxetine individually or combined, and found 1,000 milligrams of curcumin can be used to treat patients exclusively suffering with major depressive disorder.
Improves Your Complexion
The health benefits of turmeric extend beyond internal health. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can also boost the complexion when applied topically, boosting radiance and controlling oily skin. Unfortunately the answer isn’t slathering it directly onto your face, as it can stain skin yellow, instead look for a product that incorporates it, like Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque.
Balances Blood Sugar
“The blood sugar balancing effects of turmeric make it a great option for those with type-1 or type-2 diabetes,” says McCarthy. “It helps to lower blood-sugar levels and fight insulin resistance.” One tasty way to incorporate it into your day is on food and drinks. McCarthy’s favourite is her turmeric ginger tea recipe. Look for fresh and ideally certified organic turmeric.
Reduces Joint Pain
We’ve already mentioned turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s no surprise it may help to reduce joint pain. A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine had 107 subjects with knee osteoarthritis take either curcumin or ibuprofen for their pain. The researchers found that curcumin is comparable to the drug for dealing with pain relief and improved function.
Detoxifies the Body
The body naturally gets rid of waste, mostly with the help of the liver. But some experts feel you can help the process. “Turmeric helps support our organ’s natural detoxification systems,” explains McCarthy. “It does this by thinning the bile. This allows the bile to flow more freely through the intestines and eliminate it from the body.”
Boosts the Immune System
A strong immunity can help your body better fight off germs and viruses. Turmeric has been shown to increase the immunity-boosting proteins in the body. Consider whipping up a batch of curry soup and be sure to top with some black pepper, which has been shown to help the body’s absorption of curcumin.
Lowers Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” And chronically elevated cortisol levels have been linked to a wide range of mental and physical conditions — from depression to obesity. A study published in The Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that curcumin may lower cortisol and elevate positive neurotransmitters (think: serotonin).
May Help Protect Against Cancer
Some studies are showing promising results for turmeric and cancer. In one clinical trial, 25 patients with precancerous cells in various organs were treated with curcumin. The researchers concluded that it may stop the precancerous cells from growing into cancer. Another small study from 2008 suggests that curcumin, when taken at high levels, may help fight against pancreatic cancer cells. More research is needed on whether turmeric can treat or prevent cancer.
Helps Lower Cholesterol
Since the early ’90s researchers have been studying the effects of turmeric on lowering LDL cholesterol levels (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol). There are published studies that suggest curcumin may help increase the amount of LDL cholesterol the liver rids from the body, and may prevent the intestines from absorbing LDL.
Reduces Body Fat
For now, eating healthy and exercise are the two best ways to maintain healthy body fat levels. But Korean researchers suggest that turmeric might be another option. Their 2015 study suggests that curcumin may alter the composition of fat cells in our bodies. They also noted curcumin’s anti-obesity effects could be related to its inflammation-reducing properties.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Another impressive turmeric bit is the suggestion that it may improve cardiovascular health. One study published in the Nutrition Research journal in 2012 found curcumin may be as effective in improving vascular function in post-menopausal women as a moderate exercise routine. Another study found combining exercise and curcumin into a program significantly slowed age-related degeneration of the heart.
Calms the Digestive System
Turmeric is widely used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to help with various bodily issues, including digestion and gas. And, it appears there is some science to back it up. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric reduced bloating and gas symptoms in subjects suffering from indigestion. Be warned, though, as there is some evidence it may increase stomach acid.
It’s still early for research to say for sure, but some evidence suggests turmeric may help reduce the inflammation of nerves in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. That same study also found that curcumin may help to protect the brain against oxidative stress. Further, large-scale, human studies are required, but it looks promising.
Lowers Blood Pressure
A natural blood thinner, the curcumin in turmeric has the ability to dilate the arteries. Because it relaxes blood vessels, it may reduce the risk of hypertension. Its anti-inflammatory properties also may help with overall cardiovascular functioning, which in turn helps maintain a healthy blood flow. Know that curcumin can be problematic for some to use, as it may increase risk of bleeding.
Helps You Get a Better Sleep
Logging seven to eight hours of shut-eye is crucial for good health, as sleep deprivation can wreck havoc on everything from your hormones to your appetite. One animal-based study found curcumin helped protect 72-hour sleep-deprived mice from the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Works as an Antiseptic
Multiple studies done on the health benefits of turmeric have found that it has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it useful to disinfect cuts and burns. A 2001 study found it may also speed up the healing of wounds. For very minor scrapes and cuts, creating a paste with the powder with water can be a quick at-home remedy.
Natural Headache Remedy
Migraines tend to be caused by inflammation of blood vessels in the brain, and curcumin might just help to relieve the pressure. That’s thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Eczema is linked to chronic inflammation, and those with eczema know the frustration of suffering with dry and itchy skin. To date, there have been a handful of clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of curcumin on both eczema and psoriasis, with positive results with ingested curcumin. Other studies suggests that when curcumin is used topically it may benefit skin health.