10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. There are so many studies showing that Turmeric has many major benefits for your body and your brain. Here we have accumulated some of the top evidence-based health benefits of Turmeric.
1. Turmeric Contains Bioactive Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color and has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time… it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties.
These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is Curcumin. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
2. Curcumin is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound
Inflammation is incredibly important. It helps our bodies to fight off foreign invaders and plays an important role in also repairing damage. Without inflammation, pathogens like bacteria could easily take over our bodies and kill us.
Although (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term). It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions.
Now we all know that anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases. In comes our wonderful Turmeric to the rescue, it’s strongly anti-inflammatory. In several studies, its potency has compared favorably to anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs… except without the side effects.
3. Turmeric Dramatically Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of the Body
The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial, is that they protect our bodies from free radicals. Turmeric happens to be a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. But Curcumin also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. This how our wonderful spice delivers its one-two punch against free radicals.
4. Turmeric is linked to Improved Brain Function and a Lower Risk of Brain Diseases
Back in the day, it was believed that neurons weren’t able to divide and multiply after early childhood. However, it is now known that this does happen.
“The neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain, they can also multiply and increase in number. One of the main drivers of this process is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain.”
Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF. By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function. There is also the possibility that it could help improve memory and make you smarter.
5. Turmeric can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the world.
It has been studied for many decades and researchers have learned a lot about why it happens. It turns out that heart disease is incredibly complicated and there are various things that contribute to it but there are so many things we can do to fight against this horrible disease. In addition to a heart healthy diet and regular exercise, Turmeric may help reverse many steps in the heart disease process.
Perhaps the main benefit of curcumin when it comes to heart disease, is improving the function of the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels). Endothelial dysfunction is a major driver of heart disease and involves an inability of the blood vessels to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting, and other various other factors.
Several studies suggest that Curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function. But Curcumin also reduces inflammation and oxidation (as discussed above), which are also important in heart disease. In one study, 121 patients who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery were randomized to either placebo or 4 grams of Curcumin per day, a few days before and after the surgery. The Curcumin group had a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack in the hospital. Pretty convincing numbers if you ask us.
6. Turmeric Can Help Prevent (And Perhaps Even Treat) Cancer
Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells and it sad, but there are many different forms of cancer, but they do have several commonalities, some of which appear to be affected by Turmeric supplementation.
Researchers have been studying this great beneficial herb in cancer treatment. It can affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level. Studies have shown that it can reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Multiple studies have also shown that Curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumors in test animals.
Whether high-dose Curcumin (preferably with an absorption enhancer like pepper) can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be tested properly. However, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system (like colorectal cancer). In one study in 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes turn cancerous, 4 grams of Curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%.
Maybe Turmeric will be used along with conventional cancer treatment one day. It’s too early to say for sure, but it looks promising and this is being intensively studied as we speak.
7. Curcumin May be Useful in Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia. Unfortunately, no good treatment is available for Alzheimer’s yet. Therefore, prevention is of utmost importance.
There may be good news on the horizon though, because Turmeric has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. Inflammation and oxidative damage play a huge role in Alzheimer’s disease and as we have learned, Curcumin has beneficial effects on both.
One key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of proteins called Amyloid plaques. Studies show that Curcumin can help clear these plaques. Whether Turmeric can really slow down or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease still needs to be furthered studied properly, but in the mean time we can all aid ourselves through prevention.
8. Arthritis Patients Respond Very Well to Curcumin Supplementation
Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries, most involve pain and inflammation in the joints. Given what we know about Turmeric’s great potent anti-inflammatory, it makes sense that it could help with arthritis.
In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. Many other studies have also looked at the effects of Turmeric on arthritis and have noted many improvements in various symptoms.
9. Studies Show That Curcumin Has Incredible Benefits against Depression
Curcumin has shown some promise in treating depression. In a controlled trial, 60 patients were randomized into three groups. One group took Prozac, another group took a gram of Curcumin and the third group took both Prozac and Curcumin. After 6 weeks, Curcumin had led to improvements that were similar to Prozac. The group that took both Prozac and Curcumin fared best. According to this (small) study, Curcumin is as effective as an antidepressant. Depression is also linked to reduced levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area with a role in learning and memory. Curcumin boosts BNDF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes. There is also some evidence that Curcumin can boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
10. Curcumin May Help Delay Ageing and Fight Age-Related Chronic Diseases
If Turmeric can really help prevent heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s… then this would have obvious benefits for longevity. For this reason, Curcumin has become very popular as an anti-aging supplement. But given that oxidation and inflammation are believed to play a role in ageing, Curcumin may have effects that go way beyond just prevention of disease.
In closing we would like to encourage you to go do your research, know what you can pair Turmeric with (such as Black Pepper) to aid its absorption and usefulness in the body. There are so many good recipes and ways you can use this wonderful spice as to not only enjoy its great flavors but it wonderful benefits as well.
Resources and References
Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview
Monika Nagpal and Shaveta Soda
Antioxidant Activities of Curcumin, Journal of Aricultural and Food Chemistry 2012
Curcumin Enhances Neurogenesis and Cognition in Aged Rats: Implications for Transcriptional Interactions Related to Growth and Synaptic Plasticity
Published: February 16, 2012
The top 10 causes of death
Chemopreventive Effect of Curcumin, a Naturally Occurring Anti-Inflammatory Agent, during the Promotion/Progression Stages of Colon Cancer
Curcumin as an Anti-Cancer Agent: Review of the Gap between Basic and Clinical Applications – Author(s): G. Bar-Sela, R. Epelbaum and M. Schaffer Pages 190-197
Phase IIa Clinical Trial of Curcumin for the Prevention of Colorectal Neoplasia
Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease
Article first published online: 3 SEP 2010
Curcumin, inflammation, ageing and age-related diseases
1 Laboratory of Molecular Bases of Ageing, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS, Warsaw, Poland
2 Department of Health Sciences, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy
3 Geriatric Unit, Dept of Internal Medicine and Emergent Pathologies, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy