Turmeric is a common ingredient in many South Asian and Indian dishes but it also provides many unexpected health benefits. Turmeric is what gives mustard its bright yellow color. It has a warm, peppery and bitter flavor. It smells a bit like orange and ginger. The main compound in turmeric, curcumin, gives the spice its potential to provide health benefits.
Used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine, turmeric also has antiseptic, antibacterial and antioxidant qualities. It causes few to no side effects and is easy to ingest in food or in supplements.
Researchers have published more than 9,000 studies on the health benefits of turmeric. The results of these studies reveal the many surprising health benefits of turmeric.
Turmeric is a superfood that supports health in a surprising number of ways.
Turmerich as anti-inflammatory compounds that fight inflammation on a molecular level. Inflammation is associated with a variety of health issues, such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
2. Reduces joint swelling
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can alleviate joint swelling, like that associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric also shortens morning stiffness to help you move better.
3. Boost antioxidant levels
Curcumin is an antioxidant, which means it fights dangerous free radicals that can damage body cells. Consuming antioxidants is associated with a lowered risk for certain diseases.
4. Supports the immune system
The antioxidant effects of turmeric support the immune system to help your body fight off colds and flu. Including turmeric in your diet may boost your immune system to help protect you from infection and infectious diseases. Research shows curcumin can help activate a number of cells associated with the immune system, including T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells and dendritic cells. Curcumin can also enhance antibody response, which helps your body respond faster and more efficiently to infectious agents. A strong immune system decreases your chances of catching colds and flu.
5. Optimizes brain health, memory and mood
The curcumin in turmeric boosts the levels of BDNF in the brain. BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) is a protein that helps nerve cells grow, mature and live. In other words, curcumin helps build strong nerve cells in your brain. This makes turmeric especially helpful for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.
Turmeric can improve attention and memory in older adults. It is also a natural antidepressant. The curcumin in turmeric improves your mood by boosting your serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that work to stabilize moods.
6. Soothes digestive problems
As a potent anti-inflammatory, turmeric can relieve the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. The curcumin in turmeric can tame heartburn and soothe an upset stomach. One study found that curcumin was more effective at extinguishing heartburn and calming indigestion than a placebo.
Bile breaks down fat in the food you eat to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. Turmeric stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder, which improves digestion while reducing gas and bloating.
Because it works as an anti-inflammatory, turmeric addresses certain forms of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.
7. Lowers cholesterol
Curcumin can lower cholesterol levels. Scientists studied 75 patients with acute coronary syndrome, a type of serious heart problem, and found that eating moderate amounts of curcumin can lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Curcumin also prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol becomes oxidized when LDL cholesterol combines with oxygen and free radicals. Oxidized cholesterol tends to be more reactive, which means it causes more damage to tissue. Oxidized cholesterol produces inflammation in your arteries to prevent blood from flowing to your heart, lungs, brain and body.
8. Improves cardiovascular aging
Consuming turmeric can improve the way your heart and blood vessels age, according to a 2012 study, which showed eating turmeric can provide the same cardiovascular benefits as exercise. Researchers in this study assigned 32 post-menopausal women into one of three groups. Women in the curcumin group ingested curcumin for eight weeks while the women in the exercise group underwent moderate aerobic exercise training for eight weeks. Women in the control group continued with their regular diets and exercise routines. At the end of the study, women in the curcumin and exercise groups showed equal improvements in cardiovascular health, whereas the cardiovascular health of the women in the control group did not improve.
9. Improves skin health
The anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric can promote skin health by reducing irritation and redness. Its antibacterial properties stop blemishes and acne to give you smooth, healthy-looking skin.
10. Blood sugar control
Research shows that curcumin reduces blood sugar and slows the production of glucose in the liver. It helps tissues absorb glucose from the bloodstream, which gives your body the energy it needs and further reduces your blood sugar levels. A study published by the American Diabetes Association shows that curcumin can even delay the development of type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes.
Who knew a little spice could do so much for your health? For more information on the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin supplements, contact Moongazing Herbal Apothecary.
Toni is a Holist Health Practitioner (HHP) & Herbalist in San Diego, California. She holds a PhD in psychology from SDUIS, an Herbalist Certificate from Self-Heal School and a HHP certificate from the School of Healing Arts in San Diego. In private practice as a HHP for over 10 years, she has been influenced by a variety of clinical modalities and orientations, and by the diverse life experiences of her clients. Toni’s approach to healing is holistic & transpersonal. In her work, she integrates the principles of Eastern and Western nutrition, herbololgy, energy medicine, Buddhist mindfulness and personal counseling to assist others in working through their physical or emotional blocks to attain optimal health.