Turmeric or Indian saffron is an herb that is native to southern Asia.
The ground deep-orange-yellow powder is generally used as a spice and for coloring in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Turmeric has been used medicinally for centuries in Ayurveda practices to treat a variety of internal problems such as liver problems, and common colds.
It has also been used topically to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores for centuries.
Turmeric has a long list of health benefits which is why it is popular with scientists.
There are over 6,000 published, peer-reviewed scientific articles, all confirming its various health benefits. (1)
Scientists have even compared its effectiveness to many pharmaceutical drugs and it has proven to be more effective than many of them.
Turmeric’s medicinal properties are due to compounds called curcuminoids, the chief one being curcumin and the other ones being demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin and also various volatile oils including zingiberone, tumerone, and atlantone.
These compounds give it its analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic and other properties.
Turmeric has no known side effects unless it is taken in excessive amounts which is why it’s a favorite among people who prefer herbal medicines.
TURMERIC HEALTH BENEFITS
1. Turmeric Is Anti-Inflammatory
The most powerful property of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation.
A study that was published in the journal Oncogene evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds.
Curcumin was among the most effective while ibuprofen and aspirin were the least effective.
Another study found that it reduced inflammation by reducing histamine levels and possibly by enhancing production of cortisone by the adrenal glands. (2)
Yet another study found curcumin, the major active ingredient in turmeric, to be as effective as phenylbutazone or cortisone, but half as effective when used for chronic inflammation. (3)
2. Improves Oral Health
Because of its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, turmeric can be used to improve oral health.
For toothaches, roasted ground turmeric can be used to massage the aching teeth to eliminate pain and swelling.
A paste made up of 1 teaspoon of turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of mustard oil can be applied twice a day to teeth and gums to bring relief from gingivitis and periodontitis. (4)
Alternatively, turmeric can be used as a mouthwash.
One study used turmeric mouthwash prepared by mixing 10mg of curcumin extract with 100ml of distilled water and, if preferred for flavor, 2 drops of peppermint oil.
Scientists found that the mouthwash reduced the microbial count and swelling. (5)
3. Turmeric Is An Anti-Coagulant
Turmeric has been found to be very effective for treating people with blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and in the veins (deep vein thrombosis).
There were several ground-breaking studies which confirmed this well-known effect of turmeric in the 1980s.
Since then scientists have suggested that curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric, is a better treatment option for people with blood clots.
4. Antioxidant Action
The active compound, curcumin, is a strong antioxidant that protects against free radical damage.
It works by neutralizing free radicals and stimulating the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
In one study, curcumin and water- and fat-soluble extracts of turmeric exhibited antioxidant activity that is as powerful as that of vitamins C and E. (6)
In another in vitro study, incubation with curcumin for 18 hours managed to enhance cellular resistance to oxidative stress.
5. Fights Degeneration Of The Brain
Curcumin increases production of the brain hormone Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) (7), a growth hormone, as has been found by a number of studies.
This hormone enhances the growth of new neurons and prevents a number of degenerative processes in the brain.
Neurons are able to develop new connections and, in certain areas of the brain, they can even multiply and increase in number.
One of the main propellers of this process is BDNF. A decrease of the levels of this hormone in the brain is linked to many common brain disorders, like depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
By increasing levels of BDNF, curcumin may help to delay or even reverse many brain disorders as well as age-related decline in brain function.
Related to this activity, there is the possibility that it may help improve memory and make people smarter but this needs to be tested in human controlled trials.
6. Anti-Depressant Action
Turmeric may help prevent depression possibly by boosting the brain-builder BDNF.
It also boosts the production of serotonin and dopamine (happy hormones) in the brain. It also shows potential for relieving depression in affected people.
A 6-week study published in the Phytotherapy Research involved 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder such as manic depression.
One group was given curcumin, the other Prozac and the last group a combination of Prozac and curcumin.
The study found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, was as effective as Prozac in relieving depression but those who took both Prozac and curcumin had the best results. (8)
7. Relieves Arthritis
Due to its anti-inflammatory action, turmeric has also been shown to be effective for relieving symptoms of arthritis.
One published study found that turmeric is much better at relieving symptoms of arthritis than diclofenac sodium, a drug commonly given to arthritis patients. (9)
8. Turmeric Is An Anti-Cancer Agent
Turmeric may help prevent cancer.
A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin kills cancer cells and prevents more from growing and spreading. (10)
Scientists have also found that it kills cancer cells and prevents the growth of tumors in animals.
Curcumin has been found to be most effective on breast, bowel, stomach and skin cancer cells.
9. Pain Relief
Turmeric has been used to relieve pain for thousands of years and now its well-known pain-relieving property is being tested by scientists.
Most of the research has focused on osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
One 6-week study involving 107 patients with primary knee arthritis gave some of the patients an extract of turmeric and the rest ibuprofen.
The results were similar in both groups in terms of improvement of pain when walking, improvement of pain when climbing stairs and improved function of the knees. (9)
10. Improves Heart Health
It’s now known that inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to heart disease and turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to prevent heart disease and heart attacks.
One randomized clinical study gave heart patients (who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery) either 4g of curcumin or a placebo per day a few days before surgery.
The risk of experiencing a heart attack during surgery was reduced by 65% in the group that took curcumin. (10)
Turmeric also prevents heart disease by improving the function of the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels) to prevent high blood pressure and clotting.
Scientists have also found that taking curcumin is as good as aerobic exercise at improving vascular endothelial health. (11)
11. Relieves The Digestive Tract
An in-depth analysis was done of all the studies that evaluated curcumin’s ability to manage ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
It was found that many patients who were given curcumin managed to stop taking their prescribed corticosteroids due to significant improvements in their symptoms.
Though corticosteroids reduce pain, they exacerbate the conditions by slowly damaging the intestinal lining, and this makes turmeric more attractive as a remedy.
12. Addresses Conditions Normally Treated With Corticosteroids
Various studies have found that turmeric may help relieve symptoms of lupus, scleroderma, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pain. (12)
It’s “comparable” to steroids in managing and reversing these chronic diseases, but its advantage over them is that is has no side effects.
13. Turmeric And Diabetes
Turmeric has been found by scientific studies to be the best natural treatment for lowering blood sugar and reversing insulin resistance.
It’s believed that this effect is due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A group of scientists reviewed more than 200 research papers on the connection between curcumin and diabetes.
Their findings indicate that curcumin has a positive effect on diabetes and it works in different ways including improving cholesterol levels and insulin resistance.
The review also found that curcumin may control blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity in animals and they believe it should also have similar effects on humans. (13)
Turmeric also prevents diabetes as has been found by various studies.
In one study published in Diabetes Care, prediabetic people were given curcumin for 9 months and reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who took placebo.
The scientists noticed that curcumin improved the function of insulin-making beta cells in the pancreas.
TURMERIC PRODUCTS ARE MORE EFFECTIVE
These are just a few of the many turmeric health benefits.
It should be noted that turmeric contains only 3% curcumin the main compound responsible for most of its health benefits.
That is why most of the studies are done on extracts that contain significant amounts of curcumin.