Turmeric – the golden spice that was once reserved for curries, is now in, well, practically everything! But why?
How come turmeric is so popular that people are even switching their beloved coffees for ‘golden lattes’? Does it really stand up to it’s ‘healthy’ hype? And what are turmeric’s health benefits anyway?
Find out everything you need to know with our ultimate guide to turmeric!
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the same plant family as ginger. It’s commonly used in Asian cuisines and added to a range of foods such as curry powder, mustard, butter and cheese for its flavour and colour (1).
What Are The Nutrients In Turmeric?
Turmeric contains iron, vitamin B6, magnesium and some calcium, but what gives it such potent health powers is its curcuminoid content. The most commonly studied curcuminoid is curcumin. A bit of a mouthful to pronounce, but research is showing that it packs a punch when it comes to fighting disease and inflammation (2).
Why Is Curcumin So Good For You?
When you hear about the benefits of turmeric in the media, you can bet they’re actually talking about curcumin.
Most studies examine the benefits of incorporating a certain amount of curcumin into your diet daily. This powerful plant compound has been shown to reduce inflammation, combat pain, prevent eye conditions, help to ward off cancer, keep your cholesterol in control, and so much more (3)!
The quickest way to get more curcumin into your diet is by consuming more turmeric or taking a curcumin supplement. It’s extremely low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense addition to your meals!
Turmeric Nutrition Information
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of turmeric powder provides you with
- 29 calories
- 0.3g fat
- 0.1g saturated fat
- 0.8mg sodium
- 55.6mg potassium
- 6.3g carbohydrate
- 2g dietary fibre
- 0.3g sugar
- 0.9g protein
As well as giving you 26% of your daily manganese, 16% of your iron, 5% of your potassium and 3% of your vitamin C needs for the day.
12 Powerful Health Benefits Of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a natural medicine alternative. Its health-promoting properties have assisted in the treatment of diabetes, cough, sinusitis, flu, rheumatism and liver disorders to name a few (4).
What’s fascinating though, is that the power of turmeric is only recently being discovered by researchers in modern medicine. What their studies are finding is nothing short of amazing. And once you read all about the benefits of turmeric below, you’ll be wondering ‘what can’t turmeric do?!’
The incredible health benefits of turmeric and its key compound, curcumin, include:
1. Diabetes Prevention And Symptom Reduction
Approximately 1 million Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes. If diabetes continues to rise at the current rates, up to 3 million Australians over the age of 25 years will have diabetes by the year 2025. (5).
It sounds crazy, but turmeric may actually have the potential power to prevent and improve many of the key signs and symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, including insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and damage to the cells in your pancreas (6).
Long-standing diabetes leading to signs of kidney problems may also be managed with the help of a turmeric supplement (7). Research is still in its early days but the few human studies available are very promising!
2. Reduced Trauma Post-Brain Injury And Healthy Brain Function Support
By consuming curcumin, the key active compound in turmeric, after a brain injury, it may, in fact, help heal the brain! This is thanks to its amazing ability to help minimize the activation of systems that break down damaged brain cells (8). Fascinating, right?!
Aside from this, another study showed curcumin can help boost the conversion of omega’s from plant foods (ALAs) to the more beneficial form (DHA) by increasing the number of enzymes involved in this process, that occurs in both the liver and the brain. This leads to increased DHA in the brain, which is linked to improved moods and healthy brain function (9)!
3. Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease And Lowered Cholesterol
Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes. (10). However, by taking as little as 45 mg/day of curcumin for 2 months, patients with acute coronary syndrome saw a reduction in their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (11). Powerful stuff!
Curcumin is also a polyphenol, which is a class of potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidants. One study showed that curcumin could actually reduce the number of fatty acid deposits found in arteries. One of the key risk factors for heart disease (12)!
This could be due to its role in increasing the body’s ability to manage, process, dispose and remove harmful fats, and promote a healthier, balanced cholesterol level in the body (13).
This was also shown when 65 people took either a curcumin extract capsule containing 630 mg, three times a day, or a fake pill without curcumin. After 12 weeks, those who had the curcumin capsules had significantly lowered their cholesterol levels (14).
High triglycerides levels in the body are now known to be one of the main risk factors for heart disease (15). As little as 1 gram per day can reduce your triglyceride levels!
Plus, turmeric reduces inflammation and oxidation, and improves the functioning of your artery walls just as much as what exercise can (16)! All of which can help prevent heart disease.
4. Selectively Killing Cancer Tumor Cells
Unfortunately, it’s very likely that we all know at least one person who has been affected by cancer. Thankfully, there are many natural ways we can help support our bodies through cancer treatment.
While the primary treatment choice is up to you and your medical professionals, studies have shown curcumin can help to selectively kill cancer tumour cells, without harming normal cells. It does this by affecting a number of cell signalling pathways involved in tumour growth (17).
While research is still needed to fully understand how powerful turmeric can be for preventing and helping to support cancer treatment, the results of this study aren’t to be taken lightly!
Turmeric’s health benefits also include the ability to prevent cancer in the first place (18).
Plus, the best part is that it’s well tolerated at high doses for most people, it’s affordable, and it’s easy to find. See some easy turmeric options at the end of this post!
5. Potentially Reducing Symptoms Of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition many people suffer from. It causes great pain and immobility and typically requires the use of strong medications just for the person to get by on a daily basis.
Until now! In one particular study, 500mg of curcumin was given to study participants which significantly improved their disease activity. They also didn’t have any unwanted side effects and found relief using a safe, obtainable-sized dose (19)!
However, one thing to note is that curcumin is not too easy to absorb on its own. So many studies have had to use a curcumin extract or mix to get a higher concentrated dose that helps to ensure adequate absorption in the body (20).
For long-term, chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, extracts of the Curcuma species, curcuminoids and enhanced curcumin supplements would likely be required to see any significant improvements. One study successfully used curcumin extracts to improve pain, physical function, and quality of life in those with osteoarthritis (21).
Despite this, turmeric itself is a naturally nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory ingredient and there are easy ways to increase the absorption rate by up to 2000%! You’ll learn how to do this later in this article!
6. Lowering Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s And Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are progressive brain disorders that occur from degeneration of the body’s central nervous system (22).
It’s a horrible thing to watch someone you love struggle with these disorders, however, there may be hope with curcumin. In cell-based studies, curcumin has been shown to have a protective effect (23).
Researchers believe that a decline in the function of brain insulin receptors may be part of the reason why people get these brain disorders. In one rat study, researchers simulated dementia symptoms using a drug called streptozotocin. The rats were given 200 mg/kg of curcumin before and after they were given the drug and found that it restored memory function and brain insulin receptors (24).
Another potential factor in the development of a variety of common brain disorders, including depression and Alzheimer’s, is the reduction of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, a type of growth hormone in the brain. Curcumin can increase brain levels of this hormone, and by doing so, may help to prevent or even reverse these conditions (25)!
7. Reducing Depression Symptoms Without Harmful Side Effects (It Beats Prozac!)
So many people with various mental health conditions are prescribed medications that have horrendous side effects. Some of which include suicidal thoughts and other psychotic disorders (26)! It’s crazy that we are giving these medications to people who desperately need help, and yet it’s making them feel worse! Researchers are continually on the hunt for solutions to optimise treatment for depression without these unwanted side effects, and curcumin may be a natural support needed!
One exciting study has shown taking curcumin to be just as effective as Prozac for depression, without the unwanted side effects (26)!
Participants of another study who were on antidepressants took 2 capsules containing either 1000 mg of curcumin or soybean powder daily for 6 weeks. Those who took curcumin reportedly experienced a significant antidepressant effect (27).
8. Powerful Antioxidant Protection And Anti-Inflammatory Power
Many of the key benefits from turmeric and curcumin are believed to come from the potent antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory properties it possesses.
The beginning of many chronic diseases may stem from inflammation and excessive oxidation from free radical damage to our cells. Our cell structure, membranes, and even DNA can be affected by this, and curcumin may play a vital role in preventing complications such as cancer, clogged arteries, and brain disorders because of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (28).
An example of its effectiveness occurred in one study for an inflammatory bowel condition called Ulcerative Colitis. Curcumin enemas were given to study participants which resulted in reduced inflammation of the colon (29).
9. Soothing And Healing Gastrointestinal Disorders
If you’ve ever been told to have a ginger tea with an upset stomach, you might want to add some turmeric to it too!
There’s a lot of research out there revealing the benefits of using turmeric or a curcumin supplement for digestive health. Showing ways how it helps to reduce symptoms of many gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (30).
Turmeric may play a role in repairing the lining of the gut in people who have ‘leaky gut’ or issues with their digestive health because of eating a standard Western diet (31).
One particular study found a mix of curcumin and fennel essential oil could improve the symptoms and quality of life in patients with IBS in 30 days (32)!
When it comes to IBD, inflammation is a key component of the active disease and typical treatment involves strong steroid medications. However, in mild to moderate cases, the use of curcumin and steroids together was much more powerful than steroids alone for inducing remission, without any side effects (34). But in order to get this effect, you need to have a higher dose than 450 mg/day (35).
Curcumin supplements are even well tolerated in children with mild IBD according to one small study. The children took 500mg of curcumin, twice daily, for 3 weeks in addition to their standard treatment. The supplement was well tolerated and a number of children had improved disease markers (33).
The potent anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and curcumin are as impressive as they seem. But make sure to read below for how to take turmeric to get the best effect, if you’re looking to take it to improve your gut health!
10. Possible Support For Asthma And Allergies
In traditional medicine, turmeric is used to enhance the immune system and support respiratory diseases including asthma. However, many of the studies to prove this has only occurred in animals so far. Despite this, the evidence is showing an exciting potential for turmeric and curcumin to aid in treating allergic rhinitis, airway inflammation, and allergic encephalomyelitis (36, 37, 38)!
The theory being tested is that curcumin has antiallergic properties with the ability to inhibit histamine release in the body. In animal studies, the results are indicating a substantial potential for curcumin to assist with reducing the allergic response and alleviating symptoms (39, 40).
Amazing news for those with allergies as turmeric and curcumin may be a natural alternative to current medical therapies!
11. Reduced Severity Of Common Skin Conditions
A lot of the conditions we’ve discussed already can be really serious and life-threatening. The fact that turmeric can help with these diseases is mind-blowing, but what you also need to know, is that it’s also amazing for what’s on the outside! It’s essentially a beauty food too!
Turmeric has the potential to help skin conditions ranging from acne, alopecia, and atopic dermatitis, to oral lichen planus, pruritus, psoriasis, radiodermatitis, and vitiligo. A number of studies have reported seeing significant improvement in a range of skin conditions and their severity by using turmeric or curcumin as a treatment (41).
It may even work when applied topically to assist with eczema (42)!
12. Eating Grilled Meat Safely
Say what? It sounds strange I know, but bear with me. When you prepare meat on the grill, the cooking process actually creates a range of mutagens called heterocyclic amines or HCAs. Unfortunately, while grilled meat is delicious, these compounds can place you at a higher risk of cancer.
But! Turmeric is once again here to save the day! Curcumin, thanks to its antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects can inhibit against seven of these HCAs by up to 80% (43)! All you have to do is use a marinade on your meat that has a base of ground turmeric. Satay sticks, anyone?
Can Turmeric Replace Steroids And Pain Medication?
I would never recommend you completely stop your medication for a trial of turmeric or curcumin without consulting your doctor first. However, turmeric can reduce inflammation just like steroids. Several studies show similar effects when comparing common steroid treatments and a curcumin supplement of some type (44).
For example, corticosteroids are the only available treatment for the inflammatory eye condition chronic anterior uveitis. Yet, research shows curcumin can produce very similar effects (45).
Pain can also be managed with turmeric. Just like steroids, turmeric controls pain and burning sensation caused by many disorders, injuries and cancer. When comparing steroid gels and curcumin gels on ulcers, within 7 days curcumin gel users had the same significant reduction in pain, size and number of ulcers (46).
It can also help reduce pain during PMS with two capsules a day; is just as effective as ibuprofen for knee arthritis, and may even help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness after heavy exercise (47, 48, 49)!
So yes! Effects are fascinatingly similar, but most importantly, those nasty steroids and strong painkiller side effects don’t exist with turmeric. In fact, it can actually help to reduce the side effects of using steroids as well (50)!
How To Take Turmeric
Turmeric can be grated fresh into curries, mixed into marinades, blended into your smoothies and soups, made into gelatin gummies, or added to your milk-based drinks (nut milks work too!).
If you can’t get your hands on fresh turmeric, you can also use turmeric powder in your cooking or as a supplement. It’s just as beneficial!
How Much Turmeric Should I Have?
Around 1000mg per day is the most common dose in human studies, but this does vary from 400-2000mg depending on the condition. This amount appears to offer health benefits and is likely safe for most people up to 8000mg per day (3).
What About A Turmeric Or Curcumin Supplement?
For the majority of people, turmeric and turmeric supplements as a part of a healthy diet do not cause any side effects. We recommend you work with your health practitioner to determine the appropriate dose tailored to your personal needs.
It’s best to avoid taking turmeric supplements during pregnancy or lactation, as its safety during this time hasn’t yet been determined.
Also, if you are controlling your diabetes with medications or are taking medicine to control your blood sugar levels, please check in with your doctor first, as you may need to adjust your medication.
Side Effects of Turmeric
The impressive benefits of adding turmeric to your diet are undeniable, and what’s most exciting, is that despite having such potent results to rival modern medicine, it comes without the endless list of unwanted side effects!
For most people, turmeric won’t have any side effects at all. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing, even if it’s natural. When some people have consumed very high doses, they’ve ended up feeling nauseous, having diarrhoea, an increased risk of bleeding, abnormal liver function results, hyperactive gallbladder contractions, low blood pressure, uterine contractions and an increased menstrual flow in women.
In saying this, doses of up to 8g of curcumin in humans have been shown to be fairly well tolerated (3).
Turmeric Drug Interactions
Turmeric is completely natural and has little to no side effects in comparison to the man-made medicines available for the same conditions.
However, even though it’s natural, turmeric may interfere with some medications, so it’s important to make sure you’re not taking any of the following before dosing up on turmeric:
- Anticoagulants including aspirin, clopidogrel and warfarin,
- Blood sugar medications,
- And non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (1).
Even if you are on medications, turmeric has such powerful health benefits it’s important not to discount it completely. In fact, taking curcumin can help reduce the side effects of many long-term medications (51)!
Speak with your doctor to make sure the amount of turmeric you’re taking is right for you and your personal circumstances.
Turmeric Tip #1!
Eat Turmeric With Healthy Fats
As the nutrients in turmeric are fat soluble, it’s best consumed with a healthy source of fat, e.g. coconut milk, avocado, olive oil, ghee, nut butters, or butter. This helps to boost the absorption, and in turn, the benefits (52)!
Turmeric Tip #2!
Combine Turmeric And Pepper
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is naturally metabolised rapidly via the liver and intestinal wall. This means that it’s actually not very bioavailable (53). If we ingest it without much else, say, for example, tea. Then it’s going to make its way through us pretty quickly, without our body actually absorbing the beneficial nutrients (3).
But I have a trick to change that! Studies have shown how a nutrient in pepper known as piperine can increase the body’s uptake of curcumin by up to 2000%! Just by adding 20 mg of piperine per 2000 mg of curcumin, the researchers were able to greatly increase the absorption, bioavailability and serum concentration of curcumin in the study participants (54).
So how can you do the same?
Simply add a sprinkle of black pepper to the same turmeric-containing meal or drink. Easy! For example, you can enjoy a turmeric latte with black pepper using the Golden Grind blend which already contains black pepper. For dinners, make sure to add black pepper to your turmeric-infused sauces and marinades! Easy!
Turmeric Tip #3 (don’t miss this if you have gut health issues!!)
Turmeric For Gut Inflammation (Important!)
When it comes to adding pepper to your dishes, there’s only one little catch. The benefits of adding pepper and consuming your turmeric with a healthy fat source are undeniable, but if you’re suffering in particular from an inflamed gut, then it’s best that you leave out the pepper.
Why? Because when you add the pepper, thanks to the piperine compound in pepper, the body absorbs the beneficial nutrients into the bloodstream, before it reaches your colon.
If you want the maximum benefit of curcumin to soothe and calm an inflamed colon, then you need to let it make its way through your system. So skip the pepper if gut healing is at the top of your health concerns (3).
Where To Buy Turmeric?
You can usually buy fresh or ground, dried turmeric from your local fresh food store or market. Or simply add it to your daily routine with one of these delicious options!
- Choose from pure, organic turmeric powder, perfect for adding to savoury dishes like curries.
- Or easily enjoy it in a comforting elixir with this Alchemy Golden Turmeric Cordial Blend, perfect for making turmeric lattes!
- If you prefer to skip the sugar, try this Golden Grind blend of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper for the ultimate anti-inflammatory Golden Latte!
- Or if a herbal tea blend is more your cup of choice, then you can get your turmeric fix in the I am Golden Little Wildling Co Turmeric Tea.
How to make a Golden Latte (Recipe)
- 1 cup of your favourite milk
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon of honey or maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla powder
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of mixed spice
- A pinch of black pepper
Simply combine all of the ingredients and stir over medium heat until warm. Serve as a soothing, anti-inflammatory drink perfect for any time of day.