8 Health Benefits of Turmeric, According to Science

From Indian curries to teas to cosmetics, turmeric is one versatile ingredient used across countless cultures and countries. Besides adding a touch of exoticness to your dishes, turmeric is a well-known medicinal herb that’s been popular for more than 4,000 years.

In this article, we will look at the various health benefits of turmeric and how to include it in your daily routine.

What Is Turmeric?

Curcuma longa
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Of a golden-yellow color, turmeric doesn’t just spice up your cooking. Derived from the roots of the ginger plant, Curcuma longa, turmeric has long been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions like skin diseases, arthritis, and diabetes. The reason for its potency lies in curcuminoids — bioactive compounds of turmeric that benefits your health in a myriad of ways.

Curcumin in Turmeric

Curcumin is the most talked-about curcuminoid and for good reason, too. Possessing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, curcumin is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s precisely these properties of curcumin that gives turmeric its efficacy in treating many health ailments.

One thing to note: Curcumin has limited bioavailability due to its chemical structure. In other words, your body may not fully absorb it when ingested. Don’t fret, though, as we will share a nifty trick to help you get the most out of this amazing ingredient.

8 Health Benefits of Turmeric — From the Inside Out

Coming back to the main star of the article, turmeric, let’s look at what science has to say about its health benefits.

1. Reduce Inflammation

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Pro-inflammatory cytokines, like nuclear factor (NF)-κB, are present in almost every chronic disease — arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, to name a few. Lowering and even preventing excess inflammation is the key to stopping these illnesses from occurring in the first place.

Thankfully, curcumin has been proven effective in fighting off inflammation.

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, curcumin supplementation significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in individuals with metabolic syndrome.

Since turmeric contains curcumin, including a spoonful of the golden spice in your meals can downplay inflammation in your body for better health.

2. Protect Your Liver

Besides staving off inflammation, turmeric also protects your liver from toxic compounds.

How it works: Turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties is a double whammy against the buildup of toxins in your body.

So, the next time you’re making a detox smoothie, pile on the turmeric.

3. Improve Blood Circulation

Not many people realize that turmeric also wards off blood clots. That’s because curcumin (present in turmeric) acts as an anticoagulant. It’s the reason why turmeric is a natural alternative to blood-thinning medications.

Still, it’s not advisable to consume turmeric and prescription blood thinners at the same time since this may increase the risk of bleeding. If you’re already on blood thinners, check with your physician first before consuming the golden spice.

For healthy individuals, turmeric is a must-have in any heart-healthy diet if you’re looking to ward off clogged arteries the natural way.

4. Aid With Diabetes

Eating sweets
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

Did you know there is a projected 700 million people living with diabetes by the year 2045? That’s how prevalent Type 2 diabetes is in today’s society. While modern science has rolled out diabetic medications and treatments, nature may already have a solution for us.

Based on a 2012 study in the Journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, curcuminoids (i.e., the powerhouse of turmeric) reduced blood glucose levels and insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetic patients.

That’s not all, though. Curcumin was also discovered to display neuroprotective properties in a 2014 study featured in the European Journal of Pharmacology. What this means is, curcumin — and by some extension, turmeric — is effective against diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage in diabetic individuals).

5. Treat Arthritis

Joint stiffness and swelling is a sign of old age catching up to you. But rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is increasingly common these days — in 2017, about 20 million people were dealing with RA. Does this mean a significant portion of humanity is doomed to suffer joint pain for life?

While physical therapy and inflammation-reducing medications help manage joint pain, consider turmeric as an alternative treatment.

2012 study in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research pit the effectiveness of curcumin against an arthritis drug called diclofenac sodium. In this study, 45 volunteers with RA were split into three groups:

  • One group ingested curcumin (500mg)
  • One group consumed diclofenac sodium (50 mg)
  • One group took a combination of curcumin and diclofenac sodium

The results showed that the group who only took curcumin experienced the greatest reduction in joint pain and swelling. In other words, curcumin is potentially more effective than the standard arthritis drug. And the best part? No side effects were reported when using curcumin to treat RA.

6. Improve Skin Complexion

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Besides being a cooking staple, this yellow spice is often used in DIY face masks, too.

With a reputation for brightening skin tone, tackling acne, and fading hyperpigmentation, it’s easy to understand why dermatologists constantly rave about turmeric as the skincare ingredient that does it all.

But are all these claims true? Science seems to think so. According to a 2014 review in the Journal of Life Sciences, curcumin’s use as a skin-healing agent can be traced back to centuries ago. By reducing inflammation and encouraging collagen production, curcumin not only speeds up wound healing but also help your wounds heal better. Think lower chances of scarring, especially when it comes to acne.

As curcumin is present in turmeric, albeit in small amounts, adding turmeric powder to your DIY mask will do wonders for that fresh, radiant glow once you wash it off. Don’t knock it until you try it!

7. Protect Against Photoaging

Photoaging (prolonged sun exposure) manifests as dry and wrinkled skin. Ultraviolet rays, more specifically ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, destroys collagen in your skin. Since collagen is one of the key components for smooth, supple skin, reduced collagen levels inevitably lead to an uptick in wrinkles and dryness.

Fortunately, curcumin extracted from turmeric has photoprotective effects against harmful UVA rays.

Research has shown that curcumin stops UVA-induced inflammation and collagen degradation while promoting collagen production. All good things for the skin as far as you’re concerned. So the next time you’re at Ulta or Sephora, why not go for a skincare product that contains turmeric to enhance your skin’s photoprotection?

8. Alleviate Chronic Skin Conditions

Skin disease
Image by Kjerstin Michaela Haraldsen from Pixabay

Psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, rosacea — these chronic skin conditions have one thing in common — they are rooted in inflammation. While over-the-counter creams and dermatologist-endorsed prescriptions can help alleviate the symptoms of these skin ailments, a more natural solution exists.

Turmeric is well-known for reducing inflammation, so it makes sense to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties to resolve these skin ailments.

In fact, there’s promising scientific evidence for turmeric’s effectiveness — a 2016 study published in the Journal of Biochimie showed that oral curcumin positively managed psoriasis symptoms in mice.

How to Use Turmeric in Your Daily Routine?

Now that you’re completely sold on the health benefits of turmeric, let’s discuss how to include the spice in your everyday life. For example, is there any difference between fresh turmeric powder and turmeric supplements? Can you apply the spice directly to your skin?

Oral Consumption

There are two ways to ingest turmeric — in the form of fresh turmeric or a dietary supplement. Which should you choose?

It depends on what you’re using turmeric for.

If you’re primarily looking at turmeric as a cooking spice, ground turmeric powder is a popular choice. On the other hand, if you intend to use turmeric to boost your overall health or treat certain health ailments, a supplement might be better.

Image by sarahisaghost from Pixabay

The rationale behind this is that pure turmeric powder only contains about 3% of curcumin, i.e., the bioactive compound largely responsible for its health potency.

On the other hand, most turmeric supplements have 95% of the good stuff (curcumin), which is an insane thirty-fold increase! As a rule of thumb, aim for 500–2,000 mg of turmeric daily.

Help Your Body Absorb Turmeric Better

Remember when we said your body doesn’t do a good job of absorbing curcumin? To overcome this obstacle, a 1998 study featured in the Journal of Planta Medica discovered that piperine (found in black pepper) helped boost curcumin’s bioavailability by a whopping 2,000 percent!

The next time, you’re in the kitchen, mix turmeric and black pepper together to help you reap the full benefits of this powerful antioxidant.

Topical Application

Aloe Vera
Image by endri yana yana from Pixabay

While a DIY turmeric face mask does convey a sense of personal touch, you don’t have to risk yellow-stained fingers by making your own. In fact, many beauty brands, both big and small, have rolled out their own turmeric-based skincare products.

But if you’re still big on the au naturel route, this DIY recipe by u/Strong18Love on Reddit has garnered quite a lot of love (note: This particular mask recipe is best for oily skin types.):

  • Mix turmeric powder, Fuller’s Earth, and chickpea flour together. Turmeric powder should only make up 10% of the weight in ingredients, the other 90% should be a mixture of Fuller’s and chickpea flour.
  • Add honey or aloe vera gel for a moisturizing boost.
  • Add enough water to get a liquid consistency so you can easily spread the mixture on your skin.

As with all other new skincare ingredients and products, it’s best to do a patch test first to determine whether turmeric is right for your skin. After all, you want to make friends, not enemies.

Turmeric: The Gold Standard in Health and Skincare

With 4,000 years of being a powerful medicinal herb, turmeric has proven itself time and time again. Countering inflammation, chronic illnesses, and skin disorders, it’s easy to see why this spice comes highly recommended by doctors and dermatologists alike. In fact, you could say that turmeric is indeed the gold standard in health and skincare — both literally and aesthetically.

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