Nutrition Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is commonly used in Asian food. Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.
Turmeric is commonly used for conditions involving pain and inflammation, such as osteoarthritis. It is also used for hay fever, depression, high cholesterol, a type of liver disease, and itching. Some people use turmeric for heartburn, thinking and memory skills, inflammatory bowel disease, stress, and many other conditions, but there no good scientific evidence to support these uses. (1)
Turmeric Is A Natural Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is a necessary process in the body, as it fights off harmful invaders and repairs damage caused by bacteria, viruses and injuries. However, long-term inflammation has been implicated in most chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, so must be controlled. The curcumin in turmeric has proven, strong anti-inflammatory properties that block the action of inflammatory molecules in the body. (2)
Scientists now believe that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions (3)
Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
Curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory. In fact, it’s so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects (4)
It blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases (5)
Turmeric Is A Powerful Antioxidant
Curcumin has been shown to be a robust scavenger of oxygen free radicals, which are chemically active molecules that cause damage to the body’s cells. Free radical damage, along with inflammation, is a key driver of cardiovascular disease, so curcumin can play a part in preventing and managing heart disease.(2)
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure (6).
In addition, curcumin boosts the activity of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes (7).
In that way, curcumin delivers a one-two punch against free radicals. It blocks them directly, then stimulates your body’s own antioxidant defenses.
Turmeric is Anti-cancer Effects
Curcumin leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer.
Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled cell growth.
There are many different forms of cancer, which still have several things in common. Some of them appear to be affected by curcumin supplements (8).
Curcumin has been studied as a beneficial herb in cancer treatment and been found to affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level (
Studies have shown that it can contribute to the death of cancerous cells and reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors) and metastasis (spread of cancer) (10).
Turmeric May Work As an Anti-Aging Supplement
Currently, there’s no evidence that turmeric or curcumin directly influence longevity, but thanks to their ability to fight inflammation, protect your body against free radicals, and potentially delay brain degeneration and other age-related diseases, turmeric and curcumin may be effective anti-aging supplements, according to past research. (36)
Turmeric May Improve Skin Health
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, turmeric may be an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including acne, eczema (atopic dermatitis), photoaging, and psoriasis. (11)
One review published in the January 2018 issue of Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences suggests oral curcumin in particular may be an effective and safe treatment option for psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease), but more studies are needed before making recommendations. (12)
Curcumin May Play a Role in Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Curcumin shows promise as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that commonly affects the joints but may spread to other areas, such as the eyes, lungs, skin, heart, and blood vessels. RA causes a painful swelling of the joints that can cause the bones to erode over time and ultimately lead to deformities and physical disabilities. (11,13)
In one study, people with RA were given 500 mg of curcumin, 50 mg of diclofenac sodium (a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), or the two in combination. (14)
After eight weeks, the curcumin-only group saw significant improvements in joint tenderness and swelling when compared with the other two groups. Researchers note the curcumin treatment was also safe, resulting in no harmful events. (15)
Turmeric May Help Delay or Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and a leading cause of dementia.
Unfortunately, no good treatment is available for Alzheimer’s yet.
Therefore, preventing it from occurring in the first place is of utmost importance.
Turmeric may even protect your brain against common degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. How? By increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that plays a key role in keeping nerve cells (neurons) healthy, as well as regulating communication between nerve cells, which is critical for learning and memory. (16)
As common brain disorders like Alzheimer’s are associated with lower levels of BDNF, turmeric (curcumin in particular) may help delay or reverse brain degeneration. (17, 18 )
Turmeric May Play a Role in Treating Depression
Like Alzheimer’s, depression is also associated with lower levels of BDNF. Thanks to turmeric’s ability to boost levels of BDNF, the spice shows promise as an effective antidepressant.
a study in humans that was published in the April 2014 issue of Phytotherapy Research, researchers randomly assigned 60 patients with major depressive disorder to one of three groups: one group received daily 20 mg of fluoxetine (Prozac is a common brand name), another received 1,000 mg of curcumin, and a third received a combination of the two. By the end of six weeks, the three groups saw comparable improvements, leading researchers to suggest that curcumin may be a safe and effective treatment for major depressive disorder. (19, 20)