10 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Golden-yellow spice turmeric, found in curries and Indian cuisine, is often touted as a medical cure-all that helps conditions as diverse as chronic pain and cancer. But are the claims true?

Turmeric, which grows readily in tropical areas, contains a substance called curcumin (also found in ginger) that can fight inflammation. According to Dr. Amy Baxter of Georgia Regents University, studies have shown that curcumin can lessen inflammation in conditions as different as gum surgery and osteoarthritis. Inflammation plays a part in many chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

Studies are looking into whether curcumin can slow cancer growth. The substance has been proven to help with cognitive issues like depression and memory. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that turmeric helped reduce the knee pain of osteoarthritis. That study used Alappuzha turmeric, which is nearly 6% curcumin. Many varieties of turmeric contain 2% to 5% curcumin.

Dr. Shideh Chinichian, a primary care physician in California, notes that turmeric can stimulate the body’s antioxidant defenses. Oxidative damage is linked to aging and diseases.

It can take a lot of turmeric to reap any benefits, so unless you plan on adding it to everything you eat, taking a curcumin or turmeric supplement might be a better choice. Dr. Chinichian explains that in most studies on the effectiveness of curcumin, the researchers gave the study patients over 1 gram per day of curcumin. It’s pretty hard to eat that much curry every day. But even with supplements, not all turmeric is the same.

As Dr. Baxter explains:

“Curcumin isn’t very bioavailable unless it’s in nanoparticles.”

If the supplement contains curcumin in a form that the body can’t absorb, it’s ineffective. Also, some turmeric supplements can contain lead, which is dangerous to ingest. Those who take curcumin supplements need to seek varieties that have been subjected to rigorous third-party testing.

Curcumin works even better when used in combination with substances such as piperine, which is found in black pepper, according to Dr. Chinichian. Piperine increases the bioavailability and absorption rate of the curcumin. Taking curcumin with a fatty meal is also a good idea, because the substance is fat soluble.

While curcumin is thought to be safe, talk to your doctor before adding a lot of it to your diet. At higher doses, it can cause a fever or kidney stones. And, says nutritionist Laura Krebs-Holm of Austin, medical advisor at at eMediHealth, as is true of many supplements, it can take a long time to notices the good effects from taking curcumin.

Here are 10 health benefits that have been associated with turmeric:

  1. Cancer-fighting properties
  2. Helps with intestinal issues such as diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloating
  3. Might lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood
  4. May lower the risk of heart disease
  5. Blocks free radicals
  6. Linked with lower rates of Alzheimer’s dementia
  7. May help regulate blood sugar
  8. Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
  9. Reduce swelling and stiffness of arthritis
  10. May boost weight loss

Will using turmeric work for you? We can’t know for sure. Meanwhile, keep enjoying that golden milk latte. For most people, it probably can’t hurt.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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