Top 4 Health Benefits of Turmeric
Written for Sage Wellbeing by Jenna Carroll | BHSc Naturopath & Nutritionist
Top 4 Health Benefits of Turmeric.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has received a lot of press over the recent years due to its long list of benefits that continue to be discovered as science and research advances. In fact, there are over 3000 publications dealing with turmeric that have been produced in the last 25 years!
Turmeric has a very long history of use dating back around 4000 years, where it was grown for its root in India and used as a fabric dye, culinary spice and was said to have religious significance. It eventually spread to China and Africa, and began being utilised as a therapeutic preparation in traditional medicine systems for centuries. Modern medicine eventually caught on 100 years ago, and has been routinely using the plant in the treatment of various diseases since.
Turmeric and its powerful constituent curcumin, have a wide range of beneficial actions within the body. The 4 most recognised amongst research includes anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and neuroprotective activities, which will be explored in more detail below.
Turmeric is most widely recognised as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, thanks to its active constituent curcumin. Inflammation is a necessary process in the body that allows us to fight off harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses along with repair damage due to injury. However, long-term systemic inflammation has been recognised in chronic conditions such as heart disease, autoimmunity and cancer.
Curcumin in turmeric has proven, strong anti-inflammatory properties that block the action of various inflammatory mediators and pathways in the body. Research shows it can produce symptomatic relief in chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, allergies, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, colitis, respiratory disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmunity and cancer.
Oxidative stress is a huge issue we face with our environment becoming increasingly more toxic, from the air quality, to the foods we eat and our lifestyle habits. Curcumin has been shown to have a large capacity to bind free radicals and neutralise them, protecting our DNA from oxidative stress. These antioxidant activities also have an affinity for the liver, where turmeric has been shown to induce phase 2 liver detoxification enzymes and lower blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides). Antioxidants in turmeric may also reduce the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
A number of animal studies have began exploring turmeric’s influence on cancer cells, with many revealing an affect on cancer formation, growth and development at a molecular level. Research suggests it may reduce the spread of cancer and contributes to the death of cancerous cells. However, turmeric and curcumin are best used as a preventative strategy as it has been shown to counteract the effects of some carcinogens in our environment.
Evidence suggests curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It works to reduce inflammation and the build up of plaque proteins in the brain characteristic of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Research is also beginning to explore its use as an antidepressant in the treatment of depression, as it demonstrates an ability to boost levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (reduced levels of this chemical are associated with depression).
How to get the most out of Turmeric
Due to its low solubility and oral bioavailability, the key to reaping the health benefits found within Turmeric may lie in how it’s consumed. Firstly, research suggests the best way to ingest it is with a source of healthy fat (such as avocado, nut butters, fish, coconut oil or milk, etc.). Secondly, adding a 1/20th of a teaspoon of black pepper or more can further enhance the absorption of curcumin by 2000%. The alkaloid piperine in black pepper is responsible for its pungent flavour and helps to inhibit drug metabolism. For example, the liver removes foreign substances by making them water-soluble so they can be excreted, and piperine can inhibit this process so curcumin is not excreted and absorbed instead.
When will it start to work?
The above effects may be noticed after 2 weeks of consistent use. However, as most conditions where turmeric may be beneficial are chronic in nature, treatment should be considered long-term.
In summary, turmeric can be considered a great therapeutic food and herbal medicine for a variety of inflammatory conditions along with general health amplification and disease prevention.
Written by Jenna Carroll | BHSc Naturopath & Nutritionist
- Akram, M., et al. (2010). Curcuma longa and curcumin: a review article. Rom J Biol Plant Biol.
- Dei Cas, M & Ghidoni, R. (2019). Dietary Curcumin: Correlation between Bioavailability and Health Potential. Nutrients.
- Labban, L. (2014). Medicinal and pharmacological properties of Turmeric (Curcuma longa): A review. Int J Pharm Biomed Sci.
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