Turmeric is a spice belonging to the ginger family. It has been a longstanding component of traditional medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. It can be found as the main ingredient in just about any Indian curry, but it is the active ingredient curcumin that possesses most of the beneficial properties. The vast and powerful benefits of turmeric are becoming increasingly recognised within the western world and its use in alternative medicine is only rising. For anyone who may not enjoy the taste of curry, don’t worry there are alternative ways to get your turmeric dosage, for example, in supplemental form, as a latte or even as a face mask!
So what are the Turmeric benefits?
It can be said that the most well-known and powerful benefit of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory capacity. Inflammation is a key player in the development of many common illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and autoimmune diseases. Research conducted over the past two decades confirms that curcumin assists in mitigating inflammatory responses, therefore helping to prevent, manage or fight diseases. 1
May promote weight loss
A correlation between chronic low-grade metabolic inflammation and obesity has been established. Growing research identifies that phytochemicals, like curcumin, ameliorates inflammation directly linked with adipose tissue (fat) and promotes antioxidant activity counteracting such inflammation. 2 A study conducted on mice looking at the efficacy of orally consuming curcumin for obesity-associated inflammation, concluded that at a cellular and biochemical level curcumin significantly reduces inflammation, thus enhances weight loss. 3 Not only that, it has a favourable impact on body composition and improves glycemic status – great news for any diabetics or those trying to watch their weight!
Improvement in skin integrity
If you’re looking to improve skin quality, turmeric is what you need! With its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, the benefit of incorporating turmeric into your diet could be the secret to radiant skin. Turmeric has been shown to assist in delaying the appearance of ageing, diminishes hyperpigmentation, diminishes psoriasis flare-ups, decreases the appearance of acne by calming the pores and improve wound healing. Literature reviews support evidence that curcumin suppresses the body’s natural response to cutaneous wounds like oxidation and inflammation and helps strengthen collagen deposition and tissue formation. 4 Therapeutic benefits are evident with the consumption of turmeric within the diet or rubbed topically on the skin.
Natural pain reliever
Turmeric can be described as a natural pain reliever, mainly by mediating inflammatory responses. 5 Interestingly, in the western world, the solution to pain has predominately been non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) however, with growing awareness of alternative medicines’ effectiveness, turmeric is now seen as a viable natural alternative treatment.
Turmeric has been found to be particularly beneficial for arthritis patients. A randomised pilot study assessed the effectiveness of curcumin compared to the drug diclofenac sodium (an NSAID) on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients. Results showed that the curcumin group had a significantly greater percentage of improvement compared to the diclofenac sodium group (NSAID). 6 Additionally, curcumin was seen as a safe treatment with no adverse reactions recorded.
Works best when combined with black pepper
Did you know that when turmeric is combined with black pepper, it can increase the bioavailability of curcumin as much as 2000%? Without it, most of the curcumin just passes through the digestive tract along with many of the beneficial properties.
Have a go at making golden turmeric lattes with a sprinkling of black pepper, try adding to curries, soups, stews and even your morning porridge!
Simple ways of incorporating turmeric into your diet:
- Turmeric tea benefits
- Turmeric latte (mix turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg together with some hot milk)
- Toss with roasted vegetables
- Use in soups
- Add to scrambled eggs, tofu and frittatas
- Add it to rice
- Blend into a smoothie
- Add to stews and curries
Does turmeric have any side effects?While turmeric is safe for most, there are cases where turmeric may come with side effects:
- Pregnancy - turmeric is likely to be safe if consumed in the amount commonly found in food, however, if taken in high dose supplements this may put the pregnancy at risk.
- Gallbladder problems - turmeric can make gallbladder conditions such as gallstones worse.
- Bleeding problems - as turmeric might slow blood clotting, it should be avoided 2 weeks prior to surgery and in those with bleeding disorders
- Diabetes - quantities of turmeric consumed should be assessed carefully as it may lower blood pressure.
- Iron deficiency - high amounts may prevent the absorption of iron so should be used with caution in people with iron deficiency.