The Health Benefits of Turmeric: Natural Magic or Scientific Fact?

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Turmeric has sparked headlines such as “Nature’s wonder drug”[1], “A Universal Cancer Treatment” [2] and “It’s superior to medication”[3], so what is the big deal about Turmeric, should we all be taking a daily dose?

Long famed for its medicinal properties in Indian culture, Turmeric has once again stolen the limelight in the health world. Recent studies have revealed claims that it prevents a multitude of common health problems that affect our nation. Turmeric is a hugely popular spice used in the continent of Asia. It’s easily recognised by its distinctive bright golden colour and tangy flavour. The name “Turmeric” comes from the Latin “Terra Merita” meaning Meritorious earth which is associated with a yellow/orange coloured pigment found there [4].

Where do you find Turmeric?

Turmeric is extracted from the Curcuma Longa which is a herbaceous plant from the same family as Ginger. It produces beige/brown thick roots (rhizomes) from which Turmeric is extracted. The most common use of Turmeric today is in cookery, used in popular dishes such as Tikka Masala and Tarka Daal, but, do we really know the health benefits of Turmeric?

Why should you take Turmeric?

The active ingredient of Turmeric and what gives it its characteristic colour is Curcumin. This potent active ingredient has been associated with aiding a long list of common health ailments. Turmeric has been proven to be anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-microbial [4], helping the following:

  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis (particularly Rheumatoid)
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Colitis
  • Depression
  • Skin Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • HIV
  • High cholesterol [5]

Turmeric and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease is commonly associated with the elderly. Although, its definitive cause is not yet known, one thing is for certain, Turmeric has been proven to slow progression of the disease. It’s thought that the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin cause a reduction in nerve cell degradation. A study of 1,010 Asian people looked at curry consumption of 60-93 year-olds. The goal was to study the effect Curcumin-packed curries had on MMSE (mini-mental state examinations). Those that rarely ate curry performed poorly in the MMSE and those that had regular consumption performed well [6].

Turmeric and Inflammation

The most common use for Turmeric within health is for Inflammation. It’s known to interact with multiple genes causing expression and depression of their actions. One mechanism within the body it particularly effects is the COX-2 (cycloxygenase-2) which is responsible for inflammation. Curcumin directly targets and down-regulates this mechanism to reduce symptoms of inflammation. An animal study found that intake of daily Curcumin reduced joint inflammation by 75% in acute suffers and 68% in chronic suffers [7].

Turmeric and Cancer

Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses in the modern world. According to science there are a number of precautions that can be undertaken to reduce our chances of Cancer, one of which is taking Curcumin. It’s all to do with Methylation of genes, now, there is no need to get into the complexities of gene packaging, however incorrect methylation can lead to cellular mutations known as Cancer. A 2013 study stated that,

...the chemopreventive effects of curcumin highlights its therapeutic value in the treatment and prevention of a wide range of cancers.”[9]

A 2016 study confirmed this idea by releasing that Curcumin has the ability to stop or reverse methylation within the body [8].

How do I take Turmeric?

To gain maximum health benefits from Curcumin you must take 80-500mg per day, this is made difficult by just consuming it in food alone [10]. Moreover, in studies where powdered Turmeric was required to be eaten it was described as “lingering” and “awful” [8]. There is an alternative and much easier way to take Turmeric, that is via supplement. Supplements can range anywhere between 0.5g-3g per day (500mg-3000mg). Turmeric can sometimes be poorly absorbed, one natural ingredient that boosts its absorption is Piperine found in Black Pepper.

Turmeric is a valuable commodity in nature as well as in medicine. The future for Turmeric research seems bright and promises to provide us all with a long and healthy lives.

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  1. Greger, M.. (2016). Turmeric - Nature's wonder drug! The healthiest herbs & spices revealed . Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3470432/Turmeric-Nature-s-wonder-drug-healthiest-herbs-spices-revealed.html.
  2. Mercola.J. (2015). Turmeric- The Spice of Life. Available: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/04/curcumin-turmeric-benefits.aspx.
  3. Axe.J. (2015). 10 Turmeric Benefits: Superior to Medications?.Available: https://draxe.com/turmeric-benefits/.
  4. Benzie.I, Wachtel-Galor.S. (2011). 13: Turmeric, the Golden Spice. In: Benzie.I, Wachtel-Galor.S Herbal Medicine, Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Pg 302-340.
  5. Kiefer,D. (2015). Turmeric (Curcumin). Available: http://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-turmeric.
  6. Ng.TP, et-al. (2006). Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly.. American Journal of Epidemiology. 164 (9), Pg. 898-906.
  7. Jurenka,JS. (2009). Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research.. Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. 14 (2), Pg. 141-53.
  8. BBC. (2016). Could Turmeric really boost your health?. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37408293.
  9. Shehzad,A. (2013). Curcumin in various Cancers. Biofactors (Oxford, England). 39 (1), Pg.56-58.
  10. Examine. (2016). Curcumin. Available: https://examine.com/supplements/curcumin/

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