What are the health benefits of turmeric? Are there any side effects? What does science say? Keep reading to learn more about this colorful ginger relative.
Where does turmeric come from?
Curcuma longa or turmeric is a flowering plant and belongs to a ginger family. Although this plant has a beautiful flower, only its root is used for cooking. Origins of this plant come from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Ayurveda, the traditional South Asian medical practice, uses turmeric as a remedy, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Turmeric became quite popular in the West too. Not just because of its taste and beautiful color, but because of health benefit beliefs.
How is turmeric made?
The process of turmeric powder preparation starts with the cultivation of roots. The most important parts of this plant are the roots. They are boiled in water and after the boiling, they are dried and ground into fine orange-yellow powder.
Turmeric powder is mostly used as a spice or for food coloring in Asian cuisines. Curry mix is one of the most popular spices that gets its recognizable color from turmeric.
What does turmeric taste like?
Turmeric powder tastes a bit warm and bitter. It has an earthy-black pepper flavor, and aroma similar to mustard.
Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing?
Curcumin is a curcuminoid’s bioactive compound, and turmeric has the curcuminoids in it. Turmeric contains about 2-9% curcuminoids, but 75% of the actual curcuminoids are curcumin.
So, turmeric and curcumin are not the same things but they are related and connected.
Are there any health benefits of turmeric alone?
Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have areas with the same health benefits. But researchers suggest that turmeric by itself has wellness perks too. Some of the health areas in which is believed turmeric rates well are:
- Treatment of Parkinson’s disease ( 1 2 3 )
- Fungal growth inhibition ( 4 )
- Tumor cells growth suppression ( 5 )
However, because of the curcumin’s presence in turmeric, it’s hard to determine precisely whether turmeric is better for other medical issues. More research is required to compare both elements.
Turmeric nutrition facts
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon of turmeric contains:
- 29 calories
- 0.91 grams of protein
- 0.31 g of fat
- 6.31 g of carbohydrates
- 2.1 g of fiber
- 0.3 g of sugar
- 26 % of daily manganese needs
- 16 % of daily iron
- 5 % of daily potassium
- 3 % of daily vitamin C
What is piperine?
Studies show that curcumin as the most active ingredient of turmeric has its own health benefits. The problem is that the human body can absorb only a small amount of curcumin. That’s where the black pepper kicks in.
Black pepper has the bioactive compound piperine. Although piperine has other health benefits (relieve headaches, poor digestion, anti-inflammatory), its most notable advantage is the ability to increase the absorption of curcumin.
It’s not mandatory to consume turmeric with black pepper, you can simply use turmeric for better food taste. But, combining turmeric and black pepper will enable your body to absorb curcumin more thoroughly.
What are the health benefits of turmeric?
After the terminology clarification, you can easily continue to read and learn more about the health benefits of turmeric and its active compound curcumin.
Anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin
Inflammation is the main fighter in the human body. It protects us from various bacteria and viruses and has a part in damage repairing.
While short-term inflammation is very important for normal body functioning, it can cause serious problems if it becomes chronic and begins to attack your body’s tissues.
According to scientific researches, low-level inflammation has a major role in nearly every chronic disease in the West. Health problems like cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease represent a huge medical issue.
When it comes to natural remedies, science says curcumin is very powerful against inflammation. It is so great that it has matching effectiveness with some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Curcumin blocks certain molecules in your body that are responsible for inflammation. Some scientists believe that curcumin fights inflammation at the molecular level.
Turmeric vs ibuprofen
This study compared the similarities and effectiveness of turmeric to an anti-inflammatory drug named diclofenac. One trial had 139 patients with knee pain. All the patients took 500mg of curcumin three times a day or 50mg of diclofenac twice per day.
Scientific research says that both groups felt notable pain relief. The research said curcumin has a very similar potency to diclofenac.
The scientists said curcumin can be an alternative medical option for patients with knee osteoarthritis who are intolerant to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Is turmeric a powerful antioxidant?
It is believed that various kinds of diseases and the aging process can be triggered by oxidative damage. You probably heard of free radicals. They have a tendency to react with proteins, fatty acids, or DNA.
Antioxidants are very useful for body protection from free radicals. Some studies say that the chemical structure of curcumin can neutralize free radicals. Curcumin has the ability to boost the activity of the body’s antioxidant enzymes, that way your body can combat oxidative stress easier.
If you like natural ingredients rich in antioxidants, check out some interesting info about matcha benefits.
Can curcumin lower the risk of brain diseases?
Today it is well-known that neurons are able to divide and multiply. They can create new connections, and increase in number.
The main operator in this process is a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a type of growth hormone. A lot of brain diseases have been linked to lowered levels of this hormone.
Interesting thing is that curcumin can actually make BDNF’s numbers higher.
Some studies say this could mean that curcumin may be able to postpone or even treat particular brain diseases. Despite current information more research is needed when it comes to curcumin and brain diseases in humans.
Can curcumin lower the risk of heart diseases?
Heart disease is the major health problem in the world. It is the actual number one when it comes to human health issues.
During past years scientists discovered many things that have an effect on cardiovascular health. It is believed that curcumin can be of help in prevention of heart diseases.
Research says that the main health benefit of curcumin for heart-related issues is improving the lining of blood vessels. Dysfunction of endothelium (the blood vessel’s lining) is a well-known cause of cardiovascular conditions.
Some studies imply that curcumin can improve endothelial function. There is a study that found curcumin can be powerful as the drug called Atorvastatin, and the other study says it can be effective as exercise.
One study says that one group of 121 people who went on coronary bypass surgery were given either 4 grams of curcumin or a placebo per day, a few days before and after the surgery procedure.
The group who took curcumin had a 65% reduced risk of having a heart attack during a hospital stay.
Can turmeric prevent cancer?
Unfortunately, there are various types of cancer in the world. Turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, has been analyzed as a helpful ingredient for treating cancer.
It is found that curcumin can affect cancer growth at the molecular level.
Some studies have shown curcumin can be one of the factors that cause the death of cancerous cells.
Can a very high dose of curcumin (enhanced with piperine) really help in cancer treatment in humans needs yet to be analyzed well? Though there is data that says curcumin may prevent cancer, primarily digestive system cancers.
Turmeric and diabetes
Research from 2013 suggests that curcumin, turmeric’s active compound, can lower the levels of glucose in the blood.
Curcumin may even have a part in diabetes prevention. Despite this data, more clinical trials with humans are required to better understand turmeric’s and curcumin’s effects.
Can curcumin prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease?
As you probably know, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative conditions, it can also lead to dementia. So far no good treatment is found for this disease, so prevention is very important.
It is well-known that oxidative damage and inflammation have a great role in Alzheimer’s disease, and curcumin shows great results for both conditions.
Like all the studies about turmeric and curcumin regarding health benefits need more in-depth research on humans, this one needs as well.
Is curcumin good against arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition of various types, most of them include inflammation in the joints. So far, curcumin is known to have anti-inflammatory compounds, and anti-inflammation can possibly reduce the risk of arthritis in the long run.
In one study, in people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin showed better effectiveness than an anti-inflammatory medicine.
Is curcumin good against depression?
When it comes to depression treatments, there is a small study that showed that curcumin can actually be considered as an antidepressant.
A controlled trial of 60 people with depression was put in three groups. One of the groups took Prozak, one took curcumin, and the third group took both Prozac and curcumin.
After 6 weeks of testing, curcumin gave positive changes that were similar to Prozac. The group that received both Prozac and curcumin showed best results.
Depression also can be linked to lowered levels of BDNF, and some studies say that curcumin potentially can change these levels and make them higher. There is also some evidence that says curcumin can support serotonin and dopamine.
Can curcumin fight age-related chronic diseases?
If curcumin is really effective against cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, that may mean it can have anti-aging benefits. Studies show curcumin has become a common anti-aging supplement.
Can turmeric remove pimples?
Because of its antioxidant compounds, turmeric can give you glowy skin. It can even be used for a homemade face mask.
The anti-inflammatory components of turmeric can reach pores and soothe the skin. It is said that turmeric can also reduce scarring. So different turmeric compounds may decrease acne breakouts.
Although turmeric has some good skin health benefits, it can have side effects on the skin. Be careful when applying turmeric to the skin because it can leave yellow stains.
This is a normal reaction, but if you have allergies, direct contact with the skin can cause redness, irritation, and swelling. Before applying turmeric on your skin, make sure to test a small amount of it on your forearm.
Apply a dime-sized amount on the skin and wait for 24 to 48 hours to see if there is any allergic reaction before using it on the face. Do not use turmeric anywhere on your skin if you are allergic to the spice in food.
Turmeric and curcumin side effects
Turmeric and its active compound curcumin seem to be usually well tolerated. But be sure not to consume too much of it.
The most frequent side effects seen in clinical studies are dyspepsia, constipation, diarrhea, distension, gastroesophageal reflux, nausea, vomiting, yellow stool, and stomach ache. You can check here for more information about turmeric side effects.
COVID-19 note: Some specialists warn that turmeric may conflict with the body’s response against Coronavirus disease.
Although there is no strong data to prove this warning, there is also no valid data that recommend using turmeric for COVID-19. So, be sure to have a healthy lifestyle and follow established prevention methods instead.
As you can see, turmeric and curcumin both have some health benefits. But, there are still some divided opinions regarding their health advantages.
So, it is good to know that science goes more towards the natural remedies path, and maybe in the future, we will have much more herbal medications for various health conditions.
Until then, keep learning new things about natural ingredients, but always be careful when consuming them. Just because something has a natural origin doesn’t mean it can’t be powerful as medicine, and potentially have some side effects.
All health content on foodscene.net is for general information only, and you should not take it as medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.