Used in Asia for thousands of years both as a dye and for medicinal purposes, turmeric has been and still is a cooking staple in any South Asian household. The most active element in turmeric is curcumin and is where most of this golden spice gets its long and impressive list of healing properties.
Turmeric is so powerful; it is literally loaded with health benefits that can improve your skin, your mood, your heart health and even your body composition. Most importantly, the reason turmeric got its claim to fame as the spice to digest is its inflammation-fighting properties.
Chronic inflammation has been shown to cause diseases including cancer, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many more ailments. One study done on curcumin found it had significant anti-inflammatory properties, powerful enough to match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs.
In this article we break down the 5 proven and scientific health benefits of turmeric.
1. Heart Health
Tumeric helps with LDL cholesterol in two ways. One: it works as an antioxidant to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, keeping it beneficial instead of harmful and two: it increases LDL receptors to give LDL cholesterol more places to go and do its job which prevents it from spending too long in our bloodstream.
One study shows that curcumin may improve endothelial function, or the health of the thin membrane that covers the inside of the heart and blood vessels. This membrane plays a very important function in regulating blood pressure.
Curcumin helps the endothelial work better, helping the vessels use their own safety mechanisms to keep themselves healthy.
2. Reduces inflammation
As we said, this is what made turmeric so popular especially the past 5 years.
Inflammation can rise in the body for a number of reasons. People usually identify inflammation as something that’s painful, red, hot, or swollen. Inflammation can be silent and not noticeably painful, but the inflammation is still present. Inflammatory mediators are compounds that are produced to try to deal with the injury but when these compounds don’t go away, it causes chronic inflammation or illness.
The anti-inflammatory in curcumin attacks way more of the pain-causing agents than any other pain medications and works in all kinds of inflammatory conditions from sprained ankles, arthritis and bursitis to internal inflammatory conditions like neurological conditions.
3. Brain Health
Turmeric can protect against cognitive diseases like Alzahimer disease. It increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that plays a key role in keeping nerve cells healthy.
Turmeric has curcumin - the yellow pigment in turmeric- and curcumin has so many known neuroprotective properties. It helps our brain in at least 7 different ways. Some of these ways include:
Being an anti-inflammatory
An excellent antioxidant which helps fight the oxidative damage and free radicals that our brain is subject to in conditions like Alzheimer’s
It helps with the regeneration of brain cells in a similar way that exercise does
It helps with heavy metal detoxification and heavy metals are big offenders that can damage brain mechanisms
It also helps to slow the accumulation of those abnormal protein deposits in the brain which can lead to conditions like Alzheimer’s
Turmeric has also been shown to help with depression.
One study found that injecting rats with 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg of curcumin for 10 days led to a dose-dependent increase in BDNF, with the higher dose of 200 mg/kg showing greater antidepressant effects. That said, much of the research has been done in mice and more research is needed to confirm how effective turmeric is on our brain health.
4. Liver Health
The liver's main function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines.
As such, the liver performs over 500 different tasks in the body and can, therefore, easily become overwhelmed with all the different functions it is required to take on a daily basis. Turmeric has been shown to lower liver enzymes which are the markers that are used to measure liver function and overall health.
A study conducted in 2013 included 60 adults with elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. ALT is a liver enzyme that is produced in higher amounts when the liver is inflamed. High ALT levels can be a sign of hepatitis C, but other conditions can also cause an increase in ALTs.
The adult participants were randomly assigned to take three grams daily of fermented turmeric powder or placebo for 12 weeks. Capsules of both fermented turmeric and placebo were taken three times daily after each meal.
Compared to the control group, the turmeric group had significantly lower levels of ALT and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), a marker for liver damage. This suggests that turmeric may benefit liver health.
There are so many recent studies that support some that evidence but more is needed to confirm the effectiveness of turmeric on liver health.
5. Skin Health
Turmeric may be an effective remedy for a variety of skin conditions including eczema, cystic acne, photoaging, and psoriasis.
One study also suggests that turmeric and curcumin are mostly safe, although some negative side effects (diarrhea, headache, rash) have been reported at doses ranging from 500 to 12,000 mg.
Turmeric can also help with:
reducing acne scarring
fighting eczema and psoriasis
bringing out your natural glow
Brightening under-eye dark circles
A 2013 study suggests curcumin combined with lauric acid is an effective way to combat acne-causing bacteria.
You can use turmeric powder in combination with many skin-healthy DIY face mask ingredients, such as honey, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, or aloe.
How to add turmeric to your diet?
Drink turmeric tea
Add curry powder to your dishes
Blend it into a smoothie: add organic turmeric powder, grated root, or uncoated turmeric tablets to a flavourful smoothie and you won’t even taste it.
As your local Burnaby Chiropractors, we are huge advocates of turmeric and encourage you to try turmeric and reap the benefits of its anti-inflammatory properties.