Top 10 health benefits of turmeric

Read Time:   |  22nd February 2022

Turmeric has been widely utilised for hundreds of years for both culinary and medicinal uses thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Discover the top 10 health benefits of turmeric and find out how to maximise its therapeutic properties.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a flowering plant called Curcuma longa from the ginger family and it is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Its root is bright orangey-yellow colour and has been used in cooking, medicine and as a dye for millennia.

Moreover, curcumin, the antioxidant found in turmeric has been shown to have a wide range of therapeutic effects.

Read on to discover all the amazing health benefits of turmeric and why you should add it to your diet today.

What are the top 10 health benefits of turmeric?

1. Turmeric contains a super-strong antioxidant called curcumin

One of the main reasons why people promote the health benefits of turmeric is because it’s packed with an antioxidant called curcumin which also has great anti-inflammatory properties.

Its antioxidant capacity means it goes around disabling those pesky free radicals that can damage your cells, DNA and other molecules and contribute to disease.

2. Curcumin primes your immune system to be more effective

Turmeric it stimulates your body’s own defences (white blood cells) and antioxidant compounds, making them more efficient.1 It makes your immune system stronger and sharper!

3. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory

Thanks to curcumin, which blocks some inflammatory reactions in your body and supresses existing inflammation, turmeric may be useful in prevention of some diseases, such as cancer or heart disease, but also in treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma.1,2

Turmeric is a flowering plant, the root of which has been used in cooking, medicine and as a dye for millennia.

Turmeric is a flowering plant, the root of which has been used in cooking, medicine and as a dye for millennia.

4. Golden joint relief

Turmeric can help in the treatment of arthritis, a painful joint condition that affects people from a relatively young age.

Studies found that curcumin significantly reduces pain, swelling and stiffness associated with both main types of arthritis – rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

The daily dose that offered relief in these studies was around 1,000 milligrams of curcumin.3

Bear in mind that it takes a while for curcumin work its magic so don’t expect instant miracles. In fact, you may only start to feel noticeable improvements after five or six weeks.

5. Turmeric may help soothe irritable bowel diseases

Adding turmeric to your diet can be beneficial in helping ease the symptoms of bowel diseases such as IBS or ulcerative colitis.4, 5

Curcumin extracts were used successfully to offer relief from symptoms in several studies. Scientists explain that this is mainly due to the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric.

6. Curcumin from turmeric may help to prevent cancer

Turmeric could help to prevent cancer in two ways – one is that it protects our DNA from damage and prevents it from mutating into cancer-type cells.

The second is that even if cancerous cells do start growing, curcumin seems to be able to limit or even halt their growth.6

Cancer cells don’t have a natural expiry date like other cells and can keep growing and multiplying – unless curcumin makes an appearance.

It is able to trigger an expiry date in at least some cancer cells so they naturally die.

However, turmeric isn’t magical so eating it daily cannot guarantee that you will be 100% cancer-free forever nor is it a cancer cure.

It may certainly help make you healthier and support treatment but it won’t make you bullet-proof.

Eating turmeric is a great way to boost your immune system to help prevent illnesses.

Eating turmeric is a great way to boost your immune system to help prevent illnesses.

Discover more about the incredible power of plants here:

7. Turmeric protects your heart and blood vessels

Consuming turmeric can help lowers blood fat levels, including harmful cholesterol and so helps to lower your risk of heart disease.7

Of course, a healthy diet is crucial for a healthy heart but turmeric can offer some extra help.

Studies also suggest that curcumin can improve the health of our blood vessels – making them better able to regulate blood flow and lowering inflammation of blood vessel walls.8

8. Curcumin may help alleviate depression and anxiety

Several studies showed that taking curcumin supplements significantly lowered symptoms in people suffering from depression and anxiety.9

It is not clear how curcumin helps but it is certainly effective in treating depression.

9. Turmeric may help to protect your cognitive health

Another benefit that curcumin brings to the table is that it may help to protect your memory and prevent cognitive decline that can happen with age.10

Scientists are exploring how to effectively use it to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

10. Turmeric extract supports liver health

Curcumin doesn’t just boost liver function and support liver enzyme activity, it can actually help people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease recover.11

Golden milk is a delicious way to enjoy turmeric if you're looking for easy ways to add more to your diet.

Golden milk is a delicious way to enjoy turmeric if you're looking for easy ways to add more to your diet.

How to incorporate turmeric into the diet

Turmeric is usually sold as fresh root or dried powder. Arguably, it’s easier to use the powder because the root has to be peeled and grated first and also dyes your fingers as you work with it.

However, fresh turmeric is more nutritious and so more potent in its health effects.

To get the most out of turmeric, it’s important to make sure you can absorb its most powerful compound – curcumin.

There’s a simple trick to achieve it – always combine it with black pepper. Black pepper contains piperin, which increases our absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000 per cent!

Many turmeric supplements contain piperin but it’s good to follow this rule in the kitchen too.

Turmeric is an essential ingredient in curries but don’t be afraid to use it in other stews, soups, risottos, sweet baked products, smoothies.

And, of course, there’s golden milk – turmeric, pepper, cinnamon and ginger steeped in plant-based milk and lightly sweetened.

Turmeric adds both colour and health perks to your life so enjoy it liberally whenever you can!

Looking for some tasty turmeric recipes now that you know all about the health benefits of turmeric?

Make this turmeric tofu with wild rice recipe.

References

  1. Jagetia GC, Aggarwal BB, 2007. “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 27(1):19-35.
  2. Menon VP, Sudheer AR, 2007. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 595:105-25.
  3. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S, 2016. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Medicinal Food. 19(8):717-29.
  4. Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Booth J, 2004. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 10(6):1015-8.
  5. Coelho MR, Romi MD, Ferreira DMTP, Zaltman C, Soares-Mota M, 2020. The Use of Curcumin as a Complementary Therapy in Ulcerative Colitis: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. Nutrients.12(8):2296.
  6. Fabianowska-Majewska K, Kaufman-Szymczyk A, Szymanska-Kolba A, et al., 2021. Curcumin from Turmeric Rhizome: A Potential Modulator of DNA Methylation Machinery in Breast Cancer Inhibition. Nutrients. 13(2):332.
  7. Qin S, Huang L, Gong J, et al., 2017. Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Journal. 16(1):68.
  8. Li H, Sureda A, Devkota HP, et al., 2019. Curcumin, the golden spice in treating cardiovascular diseases. Biotechnology Advances. 38:107343.
  9. Fusar-Poli L, Vozza L, Gabbiadini A, et al. 2019. Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 60(15):2643-2653.
  10. Sarker MR, Franks SF, 2018. Efficacy of curcumin for age-associated cognitive decline: a narrative review of preclinical and clinical studies. Geroscience. 40(2):73-95.
  11. Mansour-Ghanaei F, Pourmasoumi M, Hadi A, Joukar F, 2019. Efficacy of curcumin/turmeric on liver enzymes in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Integrative Medicine Research. 8(1):57-61.

Written by

Veronika Charvatova

Veronika Charvátová MSc is a biologist and Viva! Health researcher. She studied MSc Biology and Teaching of Biology at the University of South Bohemia and is a Human Biology lecturer at the University of New York in Prague. Veronika has spent years uncovering the links between nutrition and good health and is an expert on plant-based diets.

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