Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the main spice in the Indian curry dish, according to many doctors, is one of the most powerful herbal remedies on the planet for the fight against diseases. The benefits of turmeric to the body are incredibly extensive and very carefully studied. Currently, more than 10,000 peer-reviewed articles have been published confirming the benefits of this plant, especially one of its most famous healing compounds – curcumin.
Thanks to its amazing beneficial properties, turmeric is rightfully at the very top of the list of the most frequently mentioned medicinal herbs in all of science. Following her go: garlic, cinnamon, ginseng, ginger and milk thistle.
In the article, we will consider in detail the basic scientific facts about what turmeric is, its benefits to the body and potential harm. We will also learn how to take turmeric correctly, and whether it is effective to drink it with milk and why they do it.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which grows in India and other countries in Southeast Asia. The dried root of the Curcuma longa plant is pulverized to a rich yellow color.
Turmeric has several chemical compounds known as curcuminoids. The active ingredient in this spice is curcumin. Curcumin is what makes turmeric a “functional food” —that is, “a product that has a potentially positive effect on health besides a basic diet.”
What is the best known about turmeric? It is not only well-studied, incredibly effective as a medicine and historically significant, but also a safe product. Turmeric has very few known side effects, and those that exist are incredibly rare and generally very mild.
What is the use of turmeric for the body
Consider the beneficial properties of turmeric.
1. May slow or prevent blood clots
For many people, the formation of blood clots is a serious concern. Blood clots form as a result of a process called platelet aggregation, when platelet blood cells concentrate in one area and eventually thicken.
In both laboratory and animal studies, the use of curcumin from turmeric significantly reduces platelet aggregation and potentially reduces the risk of blood clot formation ( 1 ).
Curcumin modifies the internal process known as eicosanoid biosynthesis. Eicosanoids are composed of four different molecules in the body that are involved in the process of natural inflammation. It has been suggested that one of the reasons that curcumin has anti-blood coagulation properties is because it affects the biosynthesis of thromboxanes, one of the four eicosanoids ( 2 ). The same mechanism is one of the reasons why turmeric is an anti-inflammatory substance.
One study conducted in 1986 even suggested that curcumin may be the preferred treatment for people “prone to vascular thrombosis and requiring anti-arthritis therapy” ( 3 ). However, this result still needs to be repeated in human experiments.
2. Reduces symptoms of depression
Although few studies have been conducted in humans, dozens of animal studies have shown that turmeric is particularly effective in reducing symptoms of depression (9). These results seem to be related to how curcumin affects neurotransmitter function through the neurotrophic factor of the brain (BDNF) ( 4 ).
To solve this problem, Phytotherapy Research magazine published the results of an amazing innovative study in 2014. The study involved 60 volunteers with a diagnosis of depressive disorder (MDD) – half took curcumin to treat their condition, the other half took fluoxetine (PROZAC ®). It was found that all patients tolerate curcumin well, and that curcumin is equally effective as fluoxetine in treating depression for 6 weeks. The combination of fluoxetine with curcumin led to a slightly higher improvement, but it was not considered statistically significant ( 5 ). According to the authors, “this study presents the first clinical evidence that curcumin can be used as an effective and safe therapy for the treatment of patients with mild depression.”
After this breakthrough study, in at least two other studies, the effect of the main curcumin compound on patients with depression was discovered. The first involved 56 people (men and women), and the second involved 108 male participants. In both studies, a placebo was used to compare with curcumin. Both studies have shown that curcumin effectively reduces symptoms of depression more than placebo ( 6 ).
Synthetic antidepressants are known to mitigate the symptoms of depression by only 10% -20%. Based on these data, it can be said that turmeric is a truly unique alternative to antidepressants, showing significant results.
3. Fights inflammation
The best known benefits of turmeric for the body are its ability to control inflammation.
Oncogene magazine published the results of a study evaluating several anti-inflammatory compounds. It was found that among the most common NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), aspirin and ibuprofen are the most ineffective. At the same time, curcumin is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world ( 7 ).
This sensational news had to reach every home, every family – because we are so used to treat inflammation with aspirin and nurofen when there is a more effective herbal remedy.
More and more common diseases today – such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, high cholesterol and chronic pain – are associated with inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin has also been studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, evidence of the effects of turmeric on Alzheimer’s patients is inconclusive; they are not sure that turmeric can prevent or treat the disease ( 8 ).
Several animal studies have been conducted investigating the relationship between curcumin and Alzheimer’s. In rat experiments, curcumin “cancels the existing amyloid pathology and associated neurotoxicity”, a key feature of the progression of this neurological disease associated with chronic inflammation ( 9 ).
Some human trials have also been conducted. In a six-month study in Hong Kong, curcumin was well tolerated, but both the placebo and curcumin groups did not have a statistically significant loss of cognitive function, so the two groups could not compare. Similar results were found in other studies, and scientists cite a small thematic sample, limited study time and poor bioavailability of curcumin in the test samples as possible reasons for which no effect was recorded reflecting the results of the animal study ( 10 ).
Today, scientists are still looking for a curcumin formulation that has the best bioavailability (which means that the human body absorbs and metabolizes it as much as possible) and that crosses the blood-brain barrier ( 11 ). And although this may take some time, the results of existing research are still incredibly promising.
4. Improves skin health
The benefits of turmeric include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which have proven effective in treating multiple skin conditions. Skin benefits include:
- increase in “glow and shine” of the skin,
- accelerate wound healing
- pore narrowing
- reduce rashes and acne
- psoriasis treatment.
One study involving 814 participants even suggests that turmeric paste can cure 97% of cases of scabies within 3-15 days ( 12 ).
It is very useful and effective to make a mask of turmeric for problem skin. Do not be alarmed by the slight color of the skin after such a mask – it will be washed off for several hours. Therefore, such a mask is best done at night. The mask is perfect for problematic and oily skin.
To prepare the mask:
- Dissolve turmeric in water until a thick creamy consistency is obtained.
- Apply to the face with your fingers or a special brush.
- Leave on for 15 minutes.
- Rinse with warm water and apply the cream according to the type of skin.
- This mask can be done 2 times a week.
5. May be superior to arthritis drugs
Since curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, a study was conducted in 45 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to compare the benefits of curcumin with the drug diclofenac sodium (NSAID), which has a serious side effect in the form of increased intestinal permeability and heart disease.
The study divided the volunteers into three groups: taking only curcumin, taking only diclofenac sodium, and a combination of the two. The results of the study were shocking:
The curcumin group showed the highest percentage improvement in the overall activity score [Disease Activity Score], and these rates were significantly better than in patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was safe and did not cause any side effects. This study is the first evidence of the safety and superiority of curcumin treatment for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis and emphasizes the need for future large-scale studies to confirm these results in patients with this disease and other arthritis.
Published in Phytotherapy Research in 2012, the results of this study contributed to the organization of larger-scale human studies to evaluate the amazing effects of turmeric on the treatment of various types of arthritis ( 13 ).
A review of available controlled trials confirmed that of the 8 available studies that met the criteria, all unequivocally confirmed the effectiveness of turmeric extract (about 1000 mg / day of curcumin) in the treatment of arthritis. Trials also had a very low risk of bias, which means that the results are unlikely to be biased by researchers ( 14 ).
Although arthritis cannot be completely cured, it seems that a high dosage of curcumin may be as (or more) effective than at least the most common drug prescribed to alleviate this condition.
6. Can treat or prevent certain cancers
Of all the topics that scientists have decided on turmeric and its effect on the treatment of diseases, cancer (of various types) is one of the most thoroughly studied topics. According to world authorities such as Cancer Research UK:
A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin has anti-cancer effects. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent growth. It has the best effect on breast cancer, intestinal cancer, stomach cancer, and skin cancer cells ( 15 ).
An animal study in July 2017 from the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute showed that curcumin can even break through chemoresistance in pancreatic duct adenocarcinoma (PDAC), an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer ( 16 ).
Doctors usually face the problem of patients who respond first to chemotherapeutic drugs and then develop resistance. Curcumin appears to re-sensitize the cancer cells of these patients to drugs, although the exact mechanisms of chemosensitization of curcumin remain unknown.
Thus, we can conclude that the benefits of turmeric for the body lies in the ability to treat cancer (proven in relation to breast cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer). The plant can also help cope with chemotherapy resistance in patients with PDAC.
7. Useful for diabetes
In 2009, Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications published a laboratory study from Auburn University that examined the potential of curcuminoids to lower glucose levels. Research has shown that curcumin in turmeric is literally 400 times more effective than metformin (a common diabetes drug) when activated with the AMPK enzyme (AMP-activated protein kinase). One compound obtained by fermenting curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin, activated AMPK 100,000 times more than metformin in certain cells! ( 17 )
Activation of AMPK is considered by researchers as a “therapeutic target” for type 2 diabetes. This means that figuring out how to activate this enzyme has great potential for developing more effective treatments for reducing insulin resistance and reversing diabetes ( 18 ).
Other mechanisms by which turmeric can effectively reduce or reverse diabetic symptoms are related to its anti-inflammatory effect. Numerous meta-analyzes have confirmed that curcumin from turmeric significantly reduces inflammatory markers, including TNF-α and IL-6, both of which are associated with diabetes ( 19 ).
One of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, which takes several forms and can cause serious symptoms throughout the body from muscle weakness to blindness. A study in rats showed that the addition of curcumin significantly reduces the risk and existing manifestations of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (usually localized on the legs, legs, arms and hands) ( 20 ).
Diabetic neuropathy can also lead to kidney failure. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials confirmed that curcumin protects the kidneys of patients with diabetes from damage to diabetic neuropathy ( 21 ).
8. Helps for weight loss
A study published in the journal Biofactors showed that curcumin can help reduce the proliferation (growth) of fat cells based on laboratory results. Researchers have found that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are effective in suppressing inflammatory processes (obesity is also an inflammatory process) and therefore help reduce obesity and its “adverse health effects” ( 22 ).
9. Supports the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease
An in-depth analysis of all studies evaluating turmeric’s ability to treat ulcerative colitis (UC) showed that curcumin plus mesalazine (a typical NSAID prescribed for this condition) was tested against placebo plus mesalazine in one very well-designed study. Patients taking placebo and mesalazine alone were more than four times more likely to experience a relapse or an outbreak of ulcerative colitis during the six months of the study. Therefore, it has been suggested that the benefits of turmeric for the body include helping maintain a remission of this chronic disease ( 23 ).
One small study examined the benefits of curcumin supplements for patients with UC and patients with Crohn’s disease. Although the sample size was very small, all patients with UC and four out of five patients with Crohn’s disease had noticeable improvements within two months ( 24 ).
For many patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs) reduce pain symptoms, but eventually damage the intestinal membrane, which worsens the condition. That is why these medicines cannot be used long-term and are intended only for the beginning of remission. However, curcumin supplementation did not have these side effects in both studies and, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, probably helped to heal the intestines and support the growth of good bacteria (probiotics).
10. Can regulate cholesterol
One of the causes of heart disease is high cholesterol, which is also a symptom of a prediabetic state (high blood sugar).
People with prediabetes and diagnosed diabetes suffer more from oxidative stress, which damages the cells inside the blood vessels. Due to this damage to the arteries, cholesterol begins to build up mass to repair damaged areas, which leads to high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
The traditional drugs used to control cholesterol (statins) are widely known and harm the kidneys and liver and cause a number of deadly side effects. They lower cholesterol, but they never cure the root cause – the same oxidative stress caused by high blood sugar and inflammation.
Fortunately, doctors are more and more aware of the dangerous side effects of statin drugs and are instead prescribing natural alternatives such as curcumin and fish oil ( omega-3 fatty acids ).
A study by Drugs in R & D showed that the benefits of turmeric to the body are comparable to the effect of atorvastatin in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in treating high cholesterol in humans ( 25 ).
However, there is another study conducted in 2014. It concluded that turmeric does not affect blood cholesterol (together or divided into LDL and HDL) or triglycerides. The author of the study noted that these results may be caused by the short-term duration of the study and poor bioavailability of the curcumin compositions studied ( 26 ).
Therefore, scientists have yet to study the real effects of turmeric on cholesterol.
11. Works as a pain reliever
One of the most widely recognized benefits of turmeric in the scientific community for the body is its ability to control pain.
In early 2014, the European Journal of Pharmacology published a study in which curcumin naturally activates the opioid system in diabetic rats. This natural process in the body serves as an essential tool for relieving pain.
However, this is not just anesthesia for negative conditions in diabetes. Other breakthrough studies and reviews (in animals, and in humans) have found that turmeric may be helpful in alleviating:
Pain from open wounds
Inflammatory arthritis pain
Orofacial pain (concerns the mouth, jaw and face, most often associated with dental problems)
Sciatic nerve pain from chronic joint trauma
Interestingly, the effect of turmeric on the brain can help reduce psychomotor pain from depressive conditions. A study in 2011 in animals showed that a high dose of curcumin eases depressive behavioral problems associated with pain ( 27 ).
These results suggest that turmeric is definitely on the list of powerful natural painkillers.
12. Helps Detox
The benefits of turmeric for the body are also manifested in its ability to cleanse, that is, detoxify the body. Every day, you are probably exposed to environmental toxins and harmful foods known as xenobiotics. These chemicals are usually not present in the human body and often cause inflammation and increase the risk of cancer.
Most detoxification from xenobiotics occurs in the liver in two phases: Phase I and Phase II. However, many people are so prone to these toxins that the liver is so tense that it cannot function at the optimal level. There are herbal products that can help the body maintain its natural detoxification rhythms and help the liver function properly. Turmeric is one of the main such remedies. It also contributes to detoxification: milk thistle, oats, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions and peel of citrus fruits.
It has been proven that consuming turmeric and its active compound, curcumin, can help the liver effectively detoxify the body and alleviate some of the effects of dangerous carcinogens. This process works in tandem with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric.
Turmeric is particularly effective when consumed with black pepper.
Turmeric in ancient medicine
Why do many doctors and nutritionists consider krukum perhaps the most powerful drug compound in the world? Yes, this is supported by more than 10,000 peer-reviewed studies, but if you dig deeper, you will find that turmeric was used in ancient medicine much earlier than modern scientific records have proven. The timeless principles of the practice of natural medicine in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are what led modern scientists to document the mechanisms of valuable spices and herbs such as turmeric.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners refer to turmeric as a “warming spice,” but first it acts by “cooling” and “drying” the body in the short term.
Depending on which Ayurvedic doshu you classify, a practitioner may prescribe turmeric for a long or short intake, because it may produce pink effects.
Turmeric is often prescribed to people with congestion in the body, and therefore in the spiritual energy of qi. Typically, congestion is characterized by symptoms such as: pain during menstruation, trauma, enlarged liver or spleen, cirrhosis and bleeding disorders. Some Chinese doctors offer turmeric for conditions such as cramps, disorders, epilepsy, or mania.
Since turmeric can dry and cool “moist heat,” it can also be prescribed according to Chinese medicine to treat jaundice or gallstones.
Oriental medicine focuses a lot on combinations of different elements. Scientists also confirm that the absorption of turmeric is highly dependent on what you consume with it.
For example, both TCM and Ayurveda assume that turmeric is consumed with healthy fats (like coconut oil) and black pepper. Modern researchers have also confirmed that taking turmeric along with healthy fats and black pepper significantly increases the absorption of turmeric (and then curcumin) in the body. Both of these processes make sense, since turmeric is fat-soluble, and piperine in black pepper stimulates digestive enzymes and reduces inflammation associated with the rapid destruction of turmeric in the body ( 28 ).
How to take turmeric
You may be wondering how to use turmeric root. One popular recipe is turmeric tea, sometimes called liquid gold or golden milk.
Turmeric Golden Milk – Recipe
Ingredients (2 servings):
1 cup coconut milk (other types can be consumed)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon turmeric (powder or grated root)
How to cook:
Pour milk and water into a pan and heat for 2 minutes.
Add butter, raw honey and turmeric powder for another 2 minutes.
Stir and pour into mugs.
Turmeric (curcumin) nutritional supplements – how to take
Although using turmeric in cooking is a great way to use spice (especially with healthy fats and black pepper), turmeric contains only about 3% of the absorbed curcumin in powdered form used for food. Along with adding turmeric to your diet, you can also consider taking it or curcumin in the form of a dietary supplement – some high-quality turmeric supplements contain up to 95% curcuminoids.
There are several things to consider when buying a good turmeric supplement.
First, try finding a turmeric supplement containing black pepper to get maximum absorption.
Secondly, look for turmeric in capsules – this will help you absorb it more efficiently.
An effective dosage is considered to be from 500 to 2000 mg of turmeric per day.
According to studies, the following norms have been highlighted for taking turmeric for the treatment of diseases:
Osteoarthritis : 500 mg of turmeric extract twice a day for 2-3 months.
High cholesterol : 700 mg of turmeric extract twice a day for 3 months.
Itchy skin : 500 mg of turmeric three times a day for 2 months.
High doses of turmeric and curcumin are not recommended for a long time, since studies confirming their absolute safety are not enough.
Turmeric harm to the body, side effects and warnings
What are the side effects of eating turmeric? Some people have reported allergic reactions to turmeric, especially after exposure to the skin. This usually manifests itself as a mild, itchy rash. In addition, the following side effects have rarely been observed:
Increased risk of bleeding
Increased liver function (ALAT and ASAT)
Hyperactive contractions of the gallbladder
Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Uterine contractions in pregnant women
Lengthening the menstrual cycle
People taking certain medications should also be careful when using turmeric in their food or taking food supplements. Turmeric may interfere with anticoagulants such as aspirin, clopidogrel, and warfarin. It can also affect medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Turmeric should also be used with caution: pregnant and lactating women, people suffering from gallbladder dysfunction, problems with bleeding, diabetes, GERD or hormonal disorders (breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc.), men with fertility problems and iron deficient. As a rule, these precautions imply that you are under the supervision of a doctor. With the exception of pregnancy, people with the above conditions can tolerate turmeric well and should just be aware of any potential unpleasant symptoms they experience with their illnesses.
All of the above side effects can occur with the use of turmeric dietary supplements in large doses and for long periods of time. For most people, turmeric is safe for daily use at recommended doses.
Remember that you need to stop taking turmeric two weeks before any scheduled surgery, as it tends to slow down blood clotting and can interfere with bleeding.
A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology describes how combining curcumin with prednisone (a steroid) effectively reduces the side effects of this dangerous drug, so it may be helpful to talk with your doctor about reducing some of the side effects of the drug by adding turmeric to your diet ( 29 ).
Final thoughts on the benefits of turmeric for the body
Turmeric is one of the best nutrients in the world. There is a reason why it has been used throughout the history of mankind.
Twelve of the best benefits of turmeric include the ability to:
Prevent blood clots
Reduce symptoms of depression
Fight inflammation Improve
Mitigate symptoms of arthritis
Treat or prevent certain types of cancer
Cope with diabetes
Be effective in losing weight
Maintain treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases
Work as a natural painkiller
Cleanse the body of harmful substances
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have been using turmeric for centuries. There are more than 10,000 peer-reviewed studies examining the effectiveness of turmeric on a huge number of problems.
We strongly recommend using turmeric in recipes, and perhaps even buy it in the form of a dietary supplement. Be sure to add only organic turmeric to your food and find high-quality turmeric supplements (combined with black pepper and preferably cooked by fermentation).
Side effects of turmeric are rare and mostly limited. Pregnant women should not take turmeric, as this can cause uterine contractions, but most other people can safely take the recommended doses.