Turmeric: A Powerful Ingredient With Health Benefits

Updated on September 20, 2017

Turmeric has been used for cooking and health for thousands of years. It has a wide range of health benefits and can be a great item to include in your diet, either in cooking or through a supplement. Turmeric may also have some side effects that you should be aware of before using it.

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a plant belonging to the ginger plant that grows natively in southeast India. Its roots can be ground into a powder, which has a bright yellow color. It is a central ingredient in curry dishes and is what gives them their signature color. It’s also the ingredient that makes mustard yellow.

In addition to its culinary uses, turmeric has a number of health benefits. Its main active ingredient is curcumin, a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential in the body do fight free radicals and protect the health of cells.

Benefits of Turmeric for Digestion

Turmeric can be used to treat a number of mild to moderate digestive issues. A recent study has found that turmeric can reduce symptoms of gas and bloating in people who have indigestion. It may also help to relieve upset stomachs and diarrhea. In addition, the curcumin in turmeric helps the gallbladder to produce bladder, which may help to improve digestion. It can also help with more serious digestive problems.

A double-blind study for people with ulcerative colitis found that turmeric resulted in a much lower rate of relapsing. Some people have claimed that turmeric may help to treat stomach ulcers, but this does not seem to be true.

How Turmeric May Help Treat Arthritis

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it effective as a treatment for the symptoms of arthritis. In addition to curcumin (itself an anti-inflammatory agent), turmeric contains over 24 anti-inflammatory compounds. These work to inhibit COX-2, an enzyme that increases inflammation, swelling, and pain.

For this reason, a number of people with osteoarthritis have found it effective in reducing pain and stiffness in their joints. One study found that turmeric was just as effective as ibuprofen at reducing joint pain in the knee. It may also be useful to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Turmeric Health Benefits for the Heart

Turmeric may help to lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, although study results have varied. It also seems to be helpful for preventing dangerous buildup and clots. Turmeric may be an effective treatment to prevent atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries.

This can block the flow of blood through the arteries and cause heart attacks or strokes. Turmeric can also stop platelets from clumping together, which reduces the likelihood of clots building along artery walls. These effects reduce the risk of some serious heart problems and work to improve overall heart and circulatory health.

Effects on Mental Health

A number of studies have shown that turmeric may be helpful to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric may work to block the formation of beta-amyloid, which in turn slows the buildup of plaque, which unimpeded can obstruct cerebral function and lead to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. More studies are needed, however, to determine how effective turmeric truly is in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Turmeric and Cancer

Early results of studies suggest that turmeric may reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer. This is largely because it functions as a strong antioxidant, which helps to protect the body’s cells from damage. Turmeric may lower the risk of breast, skin, prostate, and colon cancer. However, these results are tentative, and further studies are necessary to show how well turmeric works.


Turmeric may also be helpful in the treatment of a number of skin conditions. People who want to use it for this reason may either take it internally as a supplement or apply it in powder form directly to the skin.

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it can reduce swelling and pain for issues such as chicken pox, shingles, leech bites, bruises, ringworm, and eczema. There is also some evidence that an ointment made from turmeric might reduce symptoms such as itching and odor that come from skin cancer.

Side Effects And Risks

Turmeric is usually safe to use when taken in moderate amounts. There are some conditions, however, that should not be combined with taking turmeric. Because turmeric reduces clotting, it is not advisable for people who have clotting issues or bleed frequently. Turmeric may also aggravate problems with the liver and gall bladder if it is taken in high amounts. In addition, although turmeric is generally helpful for digestive health, it is claimed that when it is taken regularly in high doses or by people who have a history of hyperacidity, it can have negative effects. Turmeric is slightly acidic and so may affect the digestive system’s ph.

Turmeric also stimulates the production of gastric acid. In patients with ulcers, the increased gastric acid may aggravate symptoms. If it is applied directly to damaged skin, some people have found that turmeric creates inflammatory skin blisters. Turmeric may also lead to premature uterine contractions, so it is not recommended for women who are pregnant. People who take medication should also consult their doctor before taking turmeric for health reasons.

Getting the Most Out of Turmeric

To include more turmeric in your diet, you can eat more curried dishes or try a turmeric tea. You may be able to find it in whole root form, as a powder, or in a health supplement. The standard dose of turmeric is 500 mg or less. To avoid side effects, it is advisable not to take a dose over 1500 mg. To treat issues such as upset stomach and arthritis, you will probably want to take a dose of turmeric between two and four times a day, although it is best to consult your doctor.

Origin Of Spices

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Sam Shepards


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