Even though most spices are linked to certain health benefits, turmeric is the one that shines for its medicinal properties. As a matter of fact, you have probably seen turmeric in the news as a potential treatment for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer`s, psoriasis, and diabetes.
People are still not familiar with the directions of use, meaning they are not sure whether ingesting turmeric provides the same benefits as the turmeric supplementation. It is important to mention that turmeric and curcumin are used interchangeably and the most detailed information in regard to the health benefits of turmeric is presented below.
Traditional Health Benefits of Turmeric
This spice derives from the root of Curcuma longa, a flowering tropical plant which is native to India. It has been widely used for thousands of years and it has held a special place in the India`s 5,000-year-old natural healing system, commonly known as Ayurveda.
Thanks to the cooking residue found on pottery shards we can conclude that people in Asia have used this spice for culinary purposes 4,500 years ago. Turmeric is usually used dry, even though the root can be also used fresh and grated. This spice is one of the several spices used to make curry powder, one of the most important ingredients in south Asian cuisine.
This ancient root has been traditionally used to relieve arthritis, alleviate symptoms of allergies and colds, dissolve gallstones, and improve digestion. In addition to this, it has been applied topically for skin issues and it has been used as a beauty treatment. As a matter of fact, the creams and soaps containing turmeric are all the rage nowadays.
The Relationship Between Turmeric and Curcumin
Most authoritative medical sites tend to use the terms turmeric, curcumin, and curry powder interchangeably. However, this only leads to confusion which has to be cleared up!
Turmeric: It contains many compounds, all of which contain unique properties. Turmeric has been shown to be beneficial for over 600 ailments!
Curcumin: This compound is found in turmeric and ginger, both of which are known for their long history of medicinal use. Curcumin is the most promising and the most widely studied of all the compounds in turmeric. In fact, most of the studies were done on the isolated compound curcumin, not turmeric.
Curry Powder: It is a mix of many spices, including turmeric.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “… there is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.”
The main reason for this is that it is much easier to study a compound, such as curcumin, which can be isolated and standardized. However, the overriding reason may be that there is little interest in financing a research on a spice which is so common and widely used in every kitchen. Unlike the turmeric, curcumin may be transformed into a substance and patented.
Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric
After an extensive research on curcumin, it seems that there is no health condition that this compound won`t help with. Some of the health benefits of this compound include decreasing the risk of heart attack, easing the pain of arthritis, alleviating allergies, treating depression, breaking up the brain plaques of Alzheimer`s, and controlling diabetes.
When it comes to turmeric, it has been found that it contains at least 20 antibiotic properties, 10 antioxidants, 14 cancer preventatives, 12 anti-inflammatory, and 12 anti-tumor properties.
Therefore, turmeric acts as powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant agent.
1. Turmeric for Arthritis
Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases are so common these days that over $650 million is spent in the US annually on natural remedies for chronic inflammation. Given the fact that turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, it has been found to be extremely beneficial for arthritis, regardless of whether it is taken internally or applied topically.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, turmeric can provide an improvement in pain in the long run. The same is applied for osteoarthritis as well. The suggested dosage for osteoarthritis is to take one capsule (400-600 mg) three times daily or 0.5-1.0 gram of powdered turmeric root up to 3 grams daily.
2. Turmeric for Alzheimer`s
Its ability to prevent Alzheimer`s is probably one of the most exciting benefits of turmeric. Interestingly, villagers in India who consume turmeric on a regular basis have the lowest rate of Alzheimer`s worldwide. Curcumin is not the only compound being studied for Alzheimer`s and there are more than 200 compounds identified.
Turmerone, another compound in turmeric, stimulates the production of new neurons, which in turn encourages the brain to repair itself. In addition to being a useful treatment for Alzheimer`s, this property is beneficial for stroke, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson`s disease.
3. Turmeric is Better than Prozac for Depression
Due to its outstanding antidepressant properties, turmeric has been found to work even better than Prozac, one of the most popular antidepressants. Its efficacy lies in its ability to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to happiness.
The ones who have tried antidepressants without success or the ones who experience side effects of Prozac will be happy to hear about this! More importantly, turmeric is highly versatile and it can be used as food or supplement. Moreover, it doesn’t cause any side effects when combined with other natural remedies for depression, such as SAM-e and St. John`s wart.
4. Turmeric for Cancer
Turmeric kills tumor cells selectively, which means that it leaves the normal cells unaffected. It works synergistically to increase the efficacy of both radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. Saraswati Sukumar, a medical oncologist who has been involved in many studies on the effects of turmeric on cancer, has found that the consumption of turmeric is more beneficial than taking turmeric or curcumin supplements.
Enhancing Turmeric Naturally
Curcumin is not very well absorbed and unless the right steps are taken, it can end up unutilized through the intestines. Adding black pepper increases curcumin absorption by staggering 2,000 percent.
Boiling turmeric in water for about ten minutes increases the solubility of curcumin up to 12 times. The preparation of turmeric tea is extremely simple! All you have to do is to put ½ tsp of turmeric powder in a cup of water and simmer for ten minutes. Strain and serve.
Liquid Gold Turmeric Tea
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
– 1/2 cup coconut milk
– 1 tablespoon coconut oil
– Honey or stevia to taste
First, bring water to boil and add the turmeric powder. Simmer for about ten minutes and then add the coconut milk and coconut oil. Finally, sweeten with honey or stevia, to your preference.
Feel free to add other ingredients or replace coconut milk with other types of milk, such as almond or regular milk.
The suggested turmeric dosages for adults are as follows:
– Cut root: 1.5-3 grams per day
– Dried, powdered root: 1-3 grams per day
– Fluid extract (1:1): 30-90 drops per day
– Tincture (1:2): 15-30 drops, 4 times per day
The recommended curcumin dosage for a standardized powder supplement is 400-600 mg, 3 times daily.
Turmeric Supplement Side Effects
Even though turmeric is a spice and it is considered safe, the turmeric supplements are associated with some side effects. You shouldn’t take turmeric supplements if:
1. You have an iron deficiency: Turmeric can prevent the absorption of iron.
2. You have GERD, ulcers, or other stomach problems: Turmeric can make GERD worse and cause nausea, diarrhea, gastric irritation, and stomach upset, nausea.
3. You are pregnant: Curcumin stimulates the uterus and raises the risk of a miscarriage.
4. You are trying to conceive: If you are having trouble conceiving, turmeric could worsen the condition.
5. You take drugs to reduce stomach acid: Turmeric can interfere with the actions of medications like Zantac, Tagamet, and Nexium, increasing the production of stomach acid.
6. You take medications that slow clotting such as aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, and warfarin: Turmeric increases the risk of bruising and bleeding.
7. You have a hormone-sensitive condition: Turmeric can act like estrogen, which means that you should avoid it if you suffer from reproductive cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.
8. You are scheduled for surgery in the next two weeks: Turmeric increases the risk of bleeding.
9. You take diabetes medication: Turmeric increases the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
10. You have gallstones or gallbladder disease: Turmeric can make gallbladder problems even more difficult.