Turmeric is a spice with many preventive and curative health benefits. Beyond providing an amazing flavor to our dishes, it is also used for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to prevent certain cancers and protect against diseases related to aging.
Turmeric owes its benefits to its components and active ingredients. Among them are curcuminoids, which are natural pigments with exceptional antioxidant properties. The best known is curcumin. But the plant contains many more, as well as vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and even essential fatty acids, including omega 3.
Origin of turmeric
It is difficult to put a date on the first use of turmeric. Nevertheless, traces of its presence can be found in the writings of Sanskrit literature. These date back to more than 2000 years before our era. If its temporal origins remain unclear, its geographical origins, however, are very clear. The plant comes from parts of southern and southeastern Asia, and more specifically India and Myanmar.
Note that the story of turmeric is twofold. The plant has a very rich culinary past and an equally interesting medical past. In cooking, turmeric is used to enhance the flavor of dishes, but also as a natural coloring and food preservative. It is indeed the main ingredient in a lot of curries.
In traditional medicine, it is used for its anti-inflammatory and natural antioxidant properties. Let’s find out together what are the health benefits of turmeric.
Main Health Benefits of Turmeric
Low-grade inflammation (inflammation) is a protective reaction of the body to minor damage or irritations. These damages can be caused by external sources such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi or can be caused by an autoimmune reaction of the body. For example, if there are many cells in the body that do not function properly, or if there is too much of a certain substance that the body cannot cope with properly.
So, you can say that inflammation is good. They protect the body from acute threats, and without inflammation, we would soon succumb to a proliferation of bacteria.
However, as a result of our Western lifestyle, many people suffer from chronic inflammation. Instead of helping, chronic inflammation poses a threat to our health. It plays a role in the risk of developing diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, etc.
To prevent these chronic diseases, it is first of all important to prevent inflammation by adjusting your lifestyle. Secondly, it is important that chronic inflammation is treated efficiently.
Turmeric is very suitable for this. Studies have found that has an anti-inflammatory effect, which is even stronger than some anti-inflammatory drugs. And that without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
2. Prevents cardiovascular disease
Every year in the United States, about 800,000 people die of cardiovascular disease. CVD is one of the leading causes of death in the country and around the world.
It is therefore good to keep the risk of cardiovascular disease as low as possible. Studies have shown that turmeric helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to this study, a turmeric supplement is equivalent to an hour of exercise every day when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease.
3. May Prevent Alzheimer’s
A lot of research is still being done on Alzheimer’s and unfortunately, no good treatment for Alzheimer’s has yet been found.
However, although much is still unknown about Alzheimer’s, it is clear that oxidative stress and inflammation play a role in the risk of developing the disease.
Turmeric has been shown to have beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation. According to this research, curcumin is the most promising remedy for Alzheimer’s.
Another study shows that turmeric can help clean up the resulting plaques between the brain, which gives hope for a possible treatment of Alzheimer’s.
4. Helps against depression
We all get gloomy or lethargic sometimes. If this is the case for a long period of time, we then speak of depression.
Depression is due to a chemical disruption in the brain. In people with depression, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine are less common in certain parts of the brain. To solve the issue, patients are often given antidepressants.
Turmeric also has been shown to has a positive effect on these neurotransmitters, especially on serotonin and dopamine, making it a potential antidepressant.
This does not mean that you can only take turmeric to tackle depression. Depression is a serious condition for which you absolutely need to seek help. Additional treatments may be required such as conversations with a psychologist, mindfulness, light therapy, physical exertion, and/or psycho-education.
5. Helps with rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which joint inflammation occurs.
As mentioned above, turmeric helps with inflammation. Indeed, researchers have found that turmeric causes a decrease in various complaints and symptoms in people suffering from arthritis. In this study, turmeric was found to work even better than certain medications prescribed to reduce inflammation.
6. May Help Prevent or Treat Cancer
There are more than 100 types of cancer. In all cancers, there is an uncontrolled division of body cells. Depending on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is located, the patient’s life may or may not be saved.
It is a profound disease and everyone in their area has lost someone to this disease. There is therefore a huge amount of research into cancer.
For example, research has also been carried out into the use of turmeric as a substance in the fight against cancer. Researchers have found that turmeric can indeed have a beneficial effect on inhibiting the growth of cancer and its spread.
Another research also shows that turmeric can contribute to the killing of cancer cells and slow down the spread of cancer.
7. A strong antioxidant
Antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidation to the body’s cells and tissue if they are in too high quantities.
Free radicals arise from the normal metabolic processes of the body but also from external factors like smoking and prolonged sun exposure. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E limit the action of free radicals.
Turmeric is a strong antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals. In fact, a study has shown that turmeric also appears to increase the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
8. Slows down the aging of the brain
As we get older, the brain’s cognitive abilities slowly deteriorate. Turmeric can help slow down this.
9. Useful against type 2 diabetes
Turmeric can be useful to people suffering from type 2 diabetes. It reduces chronic inflammation and oxidative stress and reduces the risks of the complications associated with type 2 diabetes as shown in this study.
10. Relieves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, is a functional intestinal disorder. People with IBS often have to experience for themselves which things and types of nutrition exacerbate or decrease the symptoms.
The use of Turmeric seems to improve the symptoms in many people. In this study, by taking Turmeric supplements daily, the pain complaints in many people are significantly reduced.
11. Lowers LDL cholesterol
Elevated LDL cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. An increased LDL cholesterol is a sign that there are (chronic) inflammations present somewhere in the body.
LDL cholesterol is also called bad cholesterol and HDL is the good cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol helps to lower LDL cholesterol.
According to this study, turmeric supplements lower bad LDL cholesterol which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
12. Strengthens the immune system
A certain type of protein known to play an important role in the immune system and help against infections is increased by turmeric consumption. This strengthens the immune system and increases resistance to certain diseases.
13. Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes in prediabetes
Prediabetes can be seen as a pre-stage of type 2 diabetes. The body has already become less sensitive to insulin, so the blood glucose is already a bit higher than normal. But not yet high enough to speak of type 2 diabetes.
By intervening with lifestyle changes, prediabetes can in many cases be prevented from becoming type 2 diabetes.
This study has shown that turmeric can help in preventing prediabetes to become type 2 diabetes. After 9 months of treatment, 16.4% of participants in the placebo group were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus, while no type 2 diabetes mellitus was detected in the turmeric-treated group.
14. Supports the kidneys
For people with type 2 diabetes, in particular, it is very important that the kidneys function properly. This is important to regulate blood glucose. Turmeric has been shown to support the proper functioning of the kidneys and thus helps to regulate blood glucose.
15. Helps with psoriasis
Psoriasis Vulgaris is a skin condition and chronic autoimmune disease in which red and flaking spots appear. Psoriasis is not curable but there are treatments that can improve the condition.
Turmeric has been shown to improve psoriasis vulgaris in patients with mild to moderate symptoms This is attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant.
Who shouldn’t use turmeric?
While turmeric is a healthy substance, as a precaution, it is not recommended in people:
- suffering from obstructions and gallstones
- suffering from liver disease
- showing signs of allergy to the plant (rashes, pimples, etc.)
- having a medical intervention or tooth extraction within 15 days
These people should take advice from their doctor before taking turmeric. Also, if you have a stomach ulcer or duodenum, avoid consuming high doses of turmeric as it may increase irritation.
Turmeric is an excellent spice and has exceptional health benefits. Indeed, the benefits of turmeric are considerable, especially thanks to the antioxidant properties of the curcuminoids it contains. In recent years, the many studies on it have made it a particularly popular medicinal plant. Whether you use it in your curries or make a tea with it or take supplements in the form of pills, you’ll be amazed by the benefits it provides. Enjoy!
Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.