From Indian curries to teas to cosmetics, turmeric is one versatile ingredient used across cultures and countries. Besides adding a touch of exoticness to your dishes, turmeric is a well-known medicinal herb that’s been popular for more than 4,000 years.
In this article, we will look at the various health benefits of turmeric and how to include it in your daily routine.
What Is Turmeric?
Of a golden-yellow color, turmeric doesn’t just spice up your cooking. Derived from the roots of the ginger plant, Curcuma longa, turmeric has been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions like skin diseases, arthritis, and diabetes. The reason for its potency lies in curcuminoids — bioactive compounds of turmeric that has beneficial effects on your health.
Curcumin in Turmeric
Curcumin is the most talked-about curcuminoid and for good reason too. Possessing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, curcumin is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is these properties of curcumin that gives turmeric its efficacy in treating many health ailments.
One thing to note about curcumin is its limited bioavailability. What this means is that due to its chemical structure, curcumin is poorly absorbed by your body.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Coming back to the main star of the article, turmeric, let’s look at what science has to say about its health capabilities.
1. Reduces Inflammation
Pro-inflammatory cytokines, like nuclear factor (NF)-κB, is present in almost every chronic disease — arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, you name it. Lowering and even preventing excess inflammation is the key to stopping these illnesses from happening in the first place.
Thankfully, curcumin has been proven effective in fighting off inflammation.
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, curcumin supplementation significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in individuals with metabolic syndrome.
Since turmeric contains curcumin, including a spoonful of the golden spice in your meals, it will help reduce inflammation in your body.
2. Protects Your Liver
Besides staving off inflammation, turmeric also protects your liver from toxic compounds.
How it works: By combining turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers, it efficiently removes toxins from your body.
So the next time you’re making a detox smoothie, don’t forget to include turmeric in it.
3. Improves Blood Circulation
Another interesting insight about turmeric is that it prevents blood clotting.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, is known to act as an anticoagulant. As such, turmeric is a natural alternative to blood-thinning medications. On the other hand, it’s not advisable to consume turmeric and prescription blood thinners at the same time since this may increase the risk of bleeding.
With that said, if you’re looking to ward off clogged arteries the natural way, turmeric is a must-have in any heart-healthy diet.
4. Aids With Diabetes
Do you know that there will be a projected 700 million people living with diabetes by the year 2045? That’s how prevalent type 2 diabetes is in today’s society. While modern science has rolled out countless diabetic medications and treatments, nature may already have a solution for us. The answer lies in turmeric.
Based on a 2012 study in the Journal of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, curcuminoids (which are present in turmeric) were found to reduce blood glucose levels and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients.
And that’s not all. Curcumin, one of the potent curcuminoids in turmeric, was also discovered to display neuroprotective properties, a 2014 study featured in the European Journal of Pharmacology points out. What this means is that curcumin, and by some extension, turmeric, is effective in treating diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage induced by diabetes.
5. Treats Arthritis
Joint stiffness and swelling is a sign that old age is catching up to you. But rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is increasingly common these days — in 2017, about 20 million people were dealing with RA. Does this mean a significant portion of humanity is doomed to suffer joint pain for life?
While physical therapy and inflammation-reducing medications help manage joint pain, turmeric may also be considered as an alternative treatment.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research pit the effectiveness of curcumin against an arthritis drug called diclofenac sodium. In this study, 45 volunteers with RA were split into three groups — one group ingested curcumin (500mg), another group consumed diclofenac sodium (50 mg), while the last group took a combination of curcumin and diclofenac sodium.
Surprisingly, the group that ate only curcumin experienced the greatest reduction in joint pain and swelling. This shows that curcumin is potentially more effective compared to the standard arthritis drug. And the best part? No side effects were reported in using curcumin to treat RA.
6. Improves Skin Complexion
Besides using turmeric in your cooking, this yellow spice is often used in at-home DIY face masks too.
With a reputation for brightening skin tone, curing acne, and fading hyperpigmentation, it’s easy to understand why dermatologists constantly rave about turmeric as the skincare ingredient that does it all.
But are all these claims true? Science seems to think so. According to a 2014 review in the Journal of Life Sciences, curcumin’s use as a skin-healing agent can be traced back to centuries ago. By reducing inflammation and encouraging collagen production, curcumin not only speeds up wound healing but also help your wounds heal better. This minimizes the chances of scarring, especially when it comes to acne.
As curcumin is present in turmeric, albeit in small amounts, adding turmeric powder to your DIY mask will do wonders for that fresh, radiant glow once you wash it off. Don’t knock it until you try it!
7. Protects Against Photoaging
Photoaging, i.e. prolonged sun exposure, manifests as dry and wrinkled skin. Ultraviolet rays, more specifically ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, destroys collagen in your skin. Since collagen is one of the key components that keep your skin smooth and supple, a fall in collagen content will result in more wrinkles and drier skin.
Luckily, curcumin extracted from turmeric has photoprotective effects against harmful UVA rays.
Research has shown that curcumin stops UVA-induced inflammation and collagen degradation while promoting collagen production. All good things for the skin as far as you’re concerned. So the next time you’re at Ulta or Sephora, why not go for a skincare product that contains turmeric to enhance your skin’s photoprotection?
8. Treats Chronic Skin Conditions
Psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, rosacea — these chronic skin conditions have one thing in common and that’s inflammation-based skin disorders. While over-the-counter creams and dermatologist-endorsed prescriptions can help alleviate the symptoms of these skin ailments, why not go the natural route?
Turmeric is well-known for reducing inflammation so it makes sense to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties to resolve these chronic skin conditions.
In fact, there’s scientific evidence to back up turmeric’s effectiveness — a 2016 study published in the Journal of Biochimie showed that oral curcumin positively managed psoriasis symptoms in mice.
How to Use Turmeric in Your Daily Routine?
Now that you’re completely sold on the health benefits of turmeric (I hope), let’s discuss how to include turmeric in your everyday life. Is there any difference between fresh turmeric powder and turmeric supplements? What about applying turmeric on your skin directly?
There are two ways to consume turmeric orally — in the form of fresh turmeric or a dietary supplement. Which should you choose?
It depends on what you’re using turmeric for.
If you’re primarily looking at turmeric as a cooking spice, ground turmeric powder is a popular choice. On the other hand, if you intend to use turmeric to boost your overall health or treat certain health ailments, a supplement might be better.
The rationale behind this is because pure turmeric powder only contains roughly 3% of curcumin, i.e. the bioactive compound that’s largely responsible for turmeric’s health potency.
On the other hand, most turmeric supplements have 95% of the good stuff (curcumin), which is an insane thirtyfold increase. As a rule of thumb, aim for 500–2,000 mg of turmeric daily.
Help Your Body Absorb Turmeric Better
Remember when I said your body does not do a good job of absorbing curcumin? To overcome this obstacle, a 1998 study featured in the Journal of Planta Medica discovered that piperine helped to enhance curcumin’s bioavailability by a whopping 2,000 percent!
Since piperine is found in black pepper, mixing turmeric and black pepper together will help you reap the full benefits of this powerful antioxidant.
While a DIY turmeric face mask does convey a sense of personal touch, you don’t have to risk yellow-stained fingers by making your own. In fact, many beauty brands, both big and small, have rolled out their own turmeric-based skincare products.
But if you’re still big on the au naturel route, this DIY recipe by u/Strong18Love on Reddit has garnered quite a lot of love (Note: This particular mask recipe is best for oily skin types):
- Mix turmeric powder, Fuller’s Earth, and chickpea flour together. Turmeric powder should only make up 10% of the weight in ingredients, the other 90% should be a mixture of Fuller’s and chickpea flour.
- Add honey or aloe vera gel for a moisturizing boost.
- Add enough water to get a liquid consistency so that you can apply the mixture on your face easily.
As with all other new skincare ingredients and products, it’s best to do a patch test first to determine whether turmeric is right for your skin. After all, you want to make friends, not enemies 😉
Turmeric: The Gold Standard in Health and Skincare
With 4,000 years of being a powerful medicinal herb, turmeric has proven itself time and again. Countering inflammation, treating various chronic illnesses, and beautifying skin, it’s easy to see why this spice comes highly recommended by doctors and dermatologists alike. In fact, you could say that turmeric is indeed the gold standard in health and skincare — both literally and aesthetically.