Turmeric is a spice known for its yellow color. It is native to South Asia and gives a slightly spicy and sweet taste to dishes. For thousands of years, turmeric has been proven to have many health benefits. Its antioxidant powers and anti-inflammatory properties are among the best known.
What are the properties of this spice and what are the health benefits of turmeric? Under what conditions is turmeric not recommended to be used and what doses should be taken? All the details in this article!
History and origins of turmeric
Turmeric, especially the rhizome, the underground part of the plant, was first used as early as 4000 BC. Turmeric is one of the most important plants of Ayurvedic medicine. In China and Thailand, it was first used therapeutically to aid digestion.
To date, the WHO has not officially recognized the benefits of turmeric. However, researchers and scientists are still studying the active constituents and properties of this plant.
Studies have shown the benefits of curcumin (an ingredient of turmeric) for the body. Numerous studies show that curcumin is a substance that may help in the treatment and prevention of cancer. It will therefore become the herb of the future.
Botanical description of turmeric
Known scientifically as Curcuma longa, this medicinal plant belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. It is a perennial plant native to South Asia. It has a short stem and grows to an average height of 60-100 cm. The flowers vary in color but are mainly pale yellow.
Components of turmeric
The component used for its therapeutic properties is the rhizome. The rhizome contains a number of active substances, such as:
- Curcuminoids, of which curcumin is the most abundant in the plant.
- Phenolic compounds
- Turmeric oil
It is important to note that curcumin is an exceptionally active substance. Curcumin is a very powerful and potent antioxidant.
Turmeric also contains many nutrients, such as B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12), C, E, K, and minerals such as:
Properties of turmeric
Thanks to its components, turmeric has several important properties.
Turmeric is made up of antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Curcumin is an important substance that contributes to these antioxidant properties. Turmeric thus prevents cell aging.
Turmeric also purifies the blood and lymphatic system. This blood purifier has been used for thousands of years to remove toxins from the body.
The antioxidant properties of turmeric are also a serious lead in cancer research. Although there is still not enough evidence to suggest that high consumption of turmeric among Indians is responsible for the low incidence of cancer in this population.
Turmeric is recommended for cancer prevention, but also as part of chemotherapy. Studies have shown the inhibitory effects of curcumin on the development of tumors and various forms of cancer.
Protective liver properties
Turmeric is a plant with many digestive benefits:
- A liver regulator, which helps reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the body.
- Turmeric stimulates liver function and helps stimulate bile secretion.
- Helps fatty liver disease
- A product that protects the stomach.
This plant helps to fight stomach acidity and reduces the formation of ulcers. Turmeric stimulates the secretion of mucus. Turmeric is traditionally used to treat various digestive disorders.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties. When used internally, the spice helps to treat intestinal inflammation and painful cramps, especially in ulcerative colitis. Externally, turmeric is used to treat skin conditions such as eczema.
What are the benefits of turmeric?
The properties of turmeric allow this plant to offer a number of health benefits.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve joint or muscle pain. These aches and pains may be related to age or intense activity:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Compared to conventional NSAIDs, curcumin (1200 mg daily) has been shown to be as effective as phenylbutazone in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A dose of 2 g/day of turmeric for 6 weeks has been shown to be comparable to ibuprofen (800 mg/day) in patients with osteoarthritis. Good results have also been obtained with curcumin (200 mg/day for 8 months) in combination with phosphatidylcholine, which improves its absorption in the body.
But it is important to remember that turmeric only relieves pain. To treat the symptoms, you need the advice of a doctor to find the right treatment.
Keeps the brain in excellent shape
There is insufficient clinical evidence that turmeric benefits patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A preliminary study in 2008 reported that turmeric (1-4 g per day for 6 months) increased vitamin E levels but did not improve cognitive function in patients.
This spice increases the ability to eliminate beta-amyloid. Therefore, consuming turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In the case of elderly people suffering from this disease, the consumption of turmeric may help in limiting and slowing down the process.
Turmeric and cancer
Scientists believe that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may play a role in the prevention and treatment of cancer. In vitro studies already show that curcumin inhibits the spread of cancer cells by acting on various stages of their development and that it promotes the production of enzymes that help the body get rid of cancer cells.
Preventing cancer. Epidemiological evidence suggests that the incidence of several cancer types (colon, breast, prostate, and lung) is lower in Asian countries with high consumption of turmeric. Moreover, numerous studies on carcinogen-exposed animals show that curcumin can prevent several cancers (lung cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, lymph node cancer, and leukemia).
From a clinical point of view, data are still limited. They have been obtained with groups of at most 25 people. Nevertheless, the results are promising. They suggest that turmeric consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer in smokers. In high-risk patients, doses of 1 to 8 g curcumin per day for 3 months have been shown to reduce some pre-cancerous lesions. Finally, in people with familial polyposis, the number and size of colon polyps were reduced by curcumin (480 mg, 3 times daily) in combination with quercetin (20 mg).
Scientists take the cancer-fighting properties of curcumin very seriously, and several clinical trials are underway.27 So far, the results are few, but they are encouraging. Curcumin (8 g per day), used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, has been shown in a few cases to stabilize the progression of pancreatic cancer. This effect has also been observed in patients with colorectal cancer.
However, these preliminary studies confirmed what had been shown in animal studies: the bioavailability of curcumin is very low. It is poorly absorbed by the intestines, and the absorbed fraction is rapidly converted by the liver and eliminated. Therefore, the amounts shown to be effective in in vitro studies are difficult to achieve in the body. This is one reason why such high doses are used in clinical trials and the focus is on cancer of the digestive tract, where the amount of curcumin remains high.
Turmeric and the digestif system
Turmeric relieves digestive problems such as abdominal pain, nausea, ulcers, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome. By strengthening the intestinal lining, turmeric promotes digestive health.
In vitro and animal studies show that turmeric has a protective effect on the stomach lining and can kill or inhibit Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for most stomach and duodenal ulcers. From a clinical point of view, few studies are available and the results remain unclear. However, in one study without a placebo, the cure rate was 75% when turmeric was given at 3 g per day for 12 weeks.
Turmeric has long been used in India and China for its anti-inflammatory properties. In vitro and animal studies have shown positive results in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and pancreatitis. Data in humans are still patchy and the results of several ongoing clinical trials must be awaited for a more accurate picture of its efficacy.
Standardized turmeric extract has been used successfully in people with irritable bowel syndrome30. 30 Two tested doses of 72 mg and 144 mg of curcumin per day reduced symptoms and improved patient well-being. It should be noted that a larger study is ongoing in the US31.
In another study in patients with ulcerative colitis, 1 g of curcumin twice daily in addition to the usual treatment (sulfasalazine or mesalamine) reduced the number of acute attacks during six months of treatment. Clinical symptoms were also reduced. These results confirm the findings of the original study, which also showed that curcumin has an effect on Crohn’s disease.
A 2011 study analyzed the efficacy of curcumin (360 mg 2-3 times daily for 3 days) in inflammatory bowel disease in combination with conventional treatment. This combination of curcumin and conventional treatment appears to significantly reduce symptoms and markers of inflammation. However, the effect of curcumin alone is not known and, due to the small number of participants, no definitive conclusions can be drawn.
To date, only one study has investigated whether or not exercise combined with turmeric consumption (150 mg daily, Theracurumin™; Theravalues, Japan) in postmenopausal women with left ventricular dysfunction. The results showed that the combination with turmeric significantly reduced participants’ body mass, body mass index, and aortic blood pressure. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.
A randomized trial showed that turmeric-based oral treatment is as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing bacterial infection in subjects with gingivitis.
Two studies have reported a possible preventive effect of turmeric on the development of diabetes. In the first study, participants were divided into two groups: the first group received a placebo, the second group took three turmeric capsules (750 mg) twice daily for 9 months. The turmeric extract contained 75-85% turmeric oil. After nine months of treatment, 16% of the participants in the placebo group developed diabetes, while none of the turmeric-treated participants developed the condition. In addition, weight, waist circumference, and fasting plasma glucose levels were reduced in those treated with turmeric.
Another study evaluated the effects of turmeric (22 mg three times daily for 2 months) in diabetic patients with nephropathy, some of whom had very advanced renal failure. Compared to the placebo group, the treated patients showed a decrease in urinary protein excretion, as well as a decrease in IL-8 (a molecule reflecting infection) and TGF-β (a growth factor abnormally expressed in nephropathy in diabetes) levels.
Animal studies showed that turmeric lowers cholesterol levels, especially bad cholesterol (so-called LDL cholesterol). However, two randomized trials reported that turmeric does not affect LDL cholesterol or good cholesterol (so-called HDL cholesterol). In two other trials, turmeric was found to reduce triglyceride levels in obese patients at risk of coronary heart disease and to reduce total cholesterol levels in healthy subjects. The latter study used a dose of 500 mg per day for one week. Further studies in patients with hyperlipidemia are needed to provide a clearer picture.
Turmeric has many benefits for athletes:
- Increased energy levels due to better digestion
- Prevention of pain during high exertion, such as intense sports (e.g. o Overtraining).
- A natural anti-inflammatory during recovery after intense exercise.
- Prevention of pain caused by injuries.
This is why turmeric-based treatments are recommended for athletes.
How much turmeric should I take?
The recommended intake of turmeric is 200-300 mg of curcuminoids per day, which is about 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
This is the minimum recommended amount for athletes, especially during training and recovery days. During training days, you can increase the amount up to 600 mg per day.
How to use turmeric?
Turmeric can be used in a number of ways. Both in cooking and as a dietary supplement, turmeric can be most beneficial when used in combination with other products.
In India, turmeric is used in everyday dishes. It is used in many recipes to prepare mild-flavored and colorful dishes. Feel free to add a spoonful of turmeric powder and pepper to your dishes.
Pepper and turmeric
It is recommended to use turmeric along with pepper (except for medicinal purposes) to get the most out of its benefits. Piperine, the active ingredient in pepper, increases the bioavailability of curcumin more than 20 times.
The recommended dose is 9 doses of turmeric per 1 serving of pepper.
Although this combination is effective, piperine promotes the absorption of heavy metals! If you are on treatment, consult your doctor before using pepper and turmeric together.
The infusion is used to relieve inflammation such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, or tendonitis.
Soak 3 grams of turmeric in 150 ml of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Add 3 or 4 black peppercorns to your infusion. Take 3 cups of this infusion a day.
This drink is currently recognized by the WHO. It is a drink made from coconut milk and spices such as turmeric and pepper. This traditional Ayurvedic remedy has been used by Indians for thousands of years for its therapeutic benefits.
The preparation of the drink is quite simple. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of turmeric in a small amount of coconut milk. When the mixture is smooth, pour in 2 glasses of coconut milk and put it on low heat. When the mixture is hot, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. The preparation is complete just before the mixture boils. Add 1 pinch of pepper to your golden milk and a little honey to make it more effective.
If you suffer from a cough, turmeric can help relieve the pain. Simply sweeten your drink with turmeric syrup and add lemon and ginger.
For long-term treatment, capsules are the most suitable form, especially if you don’t like the taste of turmeric. Capsules also have the advantage of being designed to be better absorbed by the body.
The standardized curcuminoid extracts in the capsules consist of about 95% curcumin, which is very effective in fighting inflammation.
To achieve anti-inflammatory effects, take 200-400 mg of curcuminoids 3 times a day. For better absorption, it is recommended to take the capsules with a meal.
Some manufacturers combine bromelain with curcumin to improve absorption. Piperine, the pungent active ingredient in pepper, also improves the absorption of curcuminoids in both animals and humans.
Curcumin’s anti-cancer effects are of great interest, but large doses are needed. The long-term effects of such doses are not known and in some cases, they may have significant adverse effects.
Although no adverse effects of curcumin or curcuminoids have been reported during pregnancy, some authors believe that pregnant women should avoid taking high doses of curcumin or curcuminoids as they are traditionally used to treat amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation).
Obstructions and gallstones. If a lesion or stone blocks the bile duct, it is important to consult a doctor before taking turmeric.
None known at normal doses.
The effects of turmeric and curcumin may be complemented by the effects of other herbs or natural products with anti-inflammatory activity.
Theoretically, the effects of turmeric and curcumin may add to the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Theoretically, curcumin may interact with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.