You might know turmeric as a spice commonly found in many curries and Indian dishes. This yellow perennial root is full of flavor, but it is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular spices for a different reason. Turmeric has a medicinal history that dates back as far as 4,000 years in cooking, ceremonies and medicine. Now, turmeric is the topic of literally thousands of scientific studies that have connected it to powerful anti-inflammatory benefits and natural medicinal uses that could pose a threat to some prescription medications.
What Is Turmeric?
Part of the ginger family, turmeric root (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant found in India and Southeast Asia. The dried root is ground into a yellow powder and used in cooking and in medicine. Specifically, turmeric has a rich history of being used in traditional Ayurveda medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
The true power of this natural medicine comes from its active ingredient, curcumin. By weight, curcumin only makes up about 3% of turmeric powder, which is why it is often consumed as a concentrated supplement. This nutrient is one of the three curcuminoids found in turmeric and it is the subject of over 10,000 scientific reviews and studies. Curcumin is believed to possess medicinal uses for inflammation, immunity, beauty, cognitive function, cancer prevention, weight management and more.
Does it Really Work?
Turmeric is shown to be effective in numerous studies specifically in the areas of inflammation, joint health and immunity.
Which benefits are really backed by science?
Turmeric is the topic many scientific reviews, but one benefit that seems to appear the most is turmeric’s ability to reduce inflammation. One study in 2004 compared a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements, including aspirin and ibuprofen, and found curcumin to be among the most effective. A recent study published in International Journal of Molecular Medicine confirmed the findings of previous research that curcumin possessed anti-neuroinflammatory abilities that could aid in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.
7 things you need to know about turmeric (Hint: you won’t get the full value from turmeric unless you get these things right)
1. What is turmeric used for?
Among the thousands upon thousands of studies on turmeric, many potential benefits have been discovered. Not every use of this yellow root has been studied extensively, but a handful of its scientifically-backed uses indicate turmeric could be one of the most potent superfoods on the market.
Although it occurs naturally as the body’s positive response to injury, chronic long-term inflammation can harm healthy tissues in your body and cause a host of health issues. Currently, inflammation is believed to be involved in the most major diseases in the United States including heart disease and cancer. It also plays a secondary role in poor weight health and atherosclerosis. With so many links to harmful and even deadly diseases, it’s no wonder why scientists are searching for every way possible to combat inflammation.
In studies, turmeric seems to be one of the potential solutions. A review published in 2009 concluded that the curcumin in turmeric “may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer” with the need for further research. Turmeric also seems to match the effectiveness of certain anti-inflammatory drugs in clinical studies.
Another review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found curcumin to be safe according to six trials and possess anti-inflammatory activity.
While it is still being studied, turmeric seems to possess attractive anti-inflammatory benefits that could help ward of a number of health issues and diseases.
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a potential treatment for something as minor as skin redness to something as major as heart disease. Although inflammation has not been scientifically proven to cause heart disease, there does seem to be a strong link between high inflammation and heart problems. In addition, early studies suggest that curcumin could help prevent the accumulation of plaque in the arteries that causes heart attacks and strokes.
A review of curcumin’s cardiovascular benefits concluded that:
“The antioxidant effects of curcumin have been shown to attenuate adriamycin-induced cardiotoxicity and may prevent diabetic cardiovascular complications. The anti-thrombotic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin and the effect of curcumin in decreasing the serum cholesterol level may protect against the pathological changes occurring with atherosclerosis (cardiovascular disease.)”
You probably already know that antioxidants are immensely beneficial to your health. They are the super power of some of the world’s healthiest foods.
What do antioxidants do? Antioxidants keep your immune system healthy and running at its peak performance so your body is ready to fight off disease. Additionally, antioxidants can benefit many other areas of your health including keeping your skin young and glowing, preventing memory loss and even reducing inflammation.
Most importantly, antioxidants play a key role in combating oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is believed to be the cause of many signs of aging and disease. Triggered by harmful free radicals, oxidative stress can even impact your daily health in ways you might not expect. Things like brain fog, fatigue and joint pain are just a few of the damaging daily symptoms it can cause. Antioxidants are necessary to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
Turmeric, as it turns out, is a potent antioxidant because of its unique chemical structure. It is also shown to promote the production of the body’s own antioxidants in studies. One study published in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling found curcumin to be a free radical scavenger that also possessed anti-inflammatory properties. (Yet another study to link turmeric to anti-inflammatory benefits!)
Joint Health and Mobility
Since many of turmeric’s most powerful benefits assist in naturally relieving inflammation, mobility issues and pain, it is commonly used to promote joint health.
In 2012, researchers sought to understand how each of these turmeric benefits could work together to improve mobility and comfort among people who suffered from joint pain. A randomized study published in Phytotherapy Research examined how curcumin affected 45 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Patients who consumed 500 milligrams of curcumin experienced improvements in tenderness, pain and swelling. The study ultimately found curcumin to be a safe and superior treatment for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers continue to examine curcumin’s uses in treating joint pain, tenderness, inflammation and mobility.
2. What form should I use?
Although turmeric is a top health food, many of its benefits are derived from its active ingredient, curcumin. Since curcumin only makes up about 3% of turmeric root, many people prefer taking turmeric in a concentrated form rather than sprinkling it on every meal possible. Potent sources of turmeric can be found in supplements.
While searching for a good quality turmeric supplement, be sure to check for purity. We recommend 95% curcumin. Also look for complementary ingredients such as piperine. Piperine is an extract of black pepper and has been shown in studies to increase the adsorption of curcumin in the gut by as much as 2,000%! Other ingredients that can support the benefits of turmeric include boswellia serrata, another powerful indian spice, ginger, selenium, zinc, boron, and vitamin C.
3. How much should I take to get results?
To reap the most from turmeric’s wealth of benefits, you need about 500 to 1,000 milligrams of curcuminoids per day. Per teaspoon, turmeric powder contains 200 milligrams of curcuminoids. Making sure you’re consuming at least 500 milligrams a day can insure you benefit from the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric.
4. What should I take turmeric with?
Turmeric possesses many potent health benefits. The catch? It has low bioavailability, meaning only some of the benefits of the root are absorbed while the rest go to waste.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to increase the bioavailability. First, consume turmeric with a healthy fat such as coconut oil. Turmeric is soluble in oil, but not in water so it should be paired with a fat to increase absorption. Many people will consume turmeric as “golden milk,” a recipe that combines turmeric with grass-fed dairy milk, coconut or almond milk, along with honey, ginger and black pepper to increase adsorption.
However, the most popular way to improve the bioavailability of turmeric is to consume it with not just a healthy fat but also piperine found in black pepper. A study published in Planta Medica found that consuming just 5mg piperine with turmeric increase its bioavailability by a whopping 2,000%.
5. What should I avoid taking turmeric with?
While turmeric is beneficial for many areas of your health, it can react negatively with some medications just like any food or supplement. Since turmeric has anti-thrombotic properties, it can thin the blood and reduce blot clots. If you already use a blood-thinning medication, do not combine it with turmeric. Medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, heparin and clopidogrel should not be taken in combination with turmeric. In fact, since turmeric is a natural food without the nasty side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, many doctors recommend turmeric instead of conventional pharmaceutical blood thinning medications.
Other medications to avoid are ones that reduce stomach acid, such as Tagamet and Pepcid. Turmeric could actually react with the medication and cause even more acidity in the stomach when taken with an anti-acid.
Consult with your doctor before a taking any supplement, such as turmeric, to understand potential drug interactions or effects it may have on your health – especially if you are pregnant, nursing, under the age of 18, or taking medication. If you notice allergic symptoms while taking turmeric, reduce your consumption or stop taking it altogether.
6. What are the potential side effects of turmeric?
When taken in large amounts, turmeric may upset your stomach. It creates gastric acid, which can be beneficial to people who have low acidity but very discomforting to people that have high acidity in their stomachs. Bloating, discomfort, diarrhea and nausea are just a few of the symptoms you might experience if you take too much turmeric or have sensitivity to it. If you take medication to reduce stomach acid, you should be especially careful when consuming turmeric as a food or supplement.
7. What other supplements complement turmeric?
If you’re looking to add turmeric into your health plan or meals, you might be wondering what ways you can best maximize its benefits. Other vitamins and nutrients that can complement the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric include:
- Glucosamine: This naturally occurring chemical is found in fluid that surrounds your joints. It is shown to promote joint health, comfort and mobility.
- Chondroitin: It is yet another beneficial substance that is naturally found in the body around the connective tissues of cartilage and bone. Chondroitin is believed to reduce pain and improve shock absorption. Additionally, a study in 2006 found that glucosamine and chondroitin together significantly reduced pain in participants with moderate to severe arthritis.
- Collagen peptides: provide the body with the building blocks for repairing the gut wall and cartilage.
- Fish Oil: Popular for its cardiovascular benefits, fish oil can also play an important role in inflammation and thus, joint mobility. The Omega-3s found in fish oil possess anti-inflammatory properties and can also reduce joint stiffness, discomfort and pain. Another benefit of taking fish oil with turmeric is that fish oil is a healthy animal fat, so it greatly helps the adsorption and utilization of the active ingredient curcumin in the body.
- Boswellia Serrata: or Indian Frankincense is possibly one of the most powerful substances found anywhere in nature for fighting inflammation. It has a plethora of health benefits and has been a champion of traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years. Frankincense oil was one of the gifts brought by the wise men to the young Jesus in the nativity story. One study in 2010 found that just 30 mg daily of AKBA, the most active component of Boswellia, significantly reduced inflammation in human subjects suffering from osteoarthritis. What’s more, the benefits of taking AKBA became significant in as little as 7 days. The study also reported that AKBA was safe for human consumption.
Soothing Turmeric “Golden Milk”
Also called turmeric tea, golden milk is a refreshing beverage that has existed for centuries as a method to consume turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine. Try a warm mug to wind down before bed or drink it iced for a boost in the afternoon.
This recipe is quick, easy and very nourishing. Customize the spices to your taste preferences, but make sure to include peppercorns to ensure that turmeric is absorbed effectively by the body.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- Pinch grated ginger root
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar (optional)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Add all the ingredients to a pot then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and let the milk simmer, mixing occasionally.
- Cook on low heat until the flavors completely infuse, about 15 minutes.
- For a stronger flavor, let the ingredients simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Strain the ingredients then serve with a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Other important ways to support Joint Health
Turmeric may truly seem like the holy grail of superfoods, but that doesn’t mean a few lifestyle adjustments should be ignored. A balanced health plan will keep your body moving and performing at its best as you age. Try some of the tips below to give your joint health plan a boost.
- Fill up on nutrient-rich foods. Your joints need nourishment just like the rest of your body, so make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet of proteins, fruits and vegetables (seasoned with your new favorite spice!)
- Get moving. It’s the simplest trick in the book: if you want to avoid stiffness, keep your joints moving. Like a well-oiled machine, they need plenty of exercises to avoid discomfort. If you have a job where you are sitting most of the day, plan to go on a walk for lunch or a short jog in the morning.
- Low Impact. Even though exercise is great for your joint health, high impact movements might be too intense for stiff, sore joints. Instead of jogging, try hiking, walking, swimming or cycling.
Pure Vitality a natural supplement company based in an isolated village nestled against the snow-capped Southern Alps of New Zealand. We research health conditions thoroughly to discover the underlying root causes, find the most effective natural remedies, target the root causes rather than use a Band-Aid approach, use a multi-prong approach to fix the root causes from many directions and use high potency ingredients at scientifically supported amounts.