Turmeric is one of the hottest health foods of the 21st century. Its popularity has endured for years, outliving other health food trends and consistently being ranked as one of the most potent superfoods in the world.
The turmeric obsession has gone a little too far, as these obsessions usually do. Contrary to what you might have heard, it can’t be used as a teeth whitener (if you’ve ever cooked with raw turmeric you’ll understand why) and it’s not an effective painkiller. However, there are a plethora of genuine, life-changing, and health-boosting properties to this spice.
We rarely get to say this, but believe it or not, most of what you have heard about turmeric is true. This truly is a miraculous superfood and, in this guide, we’ll list the most impressive benefits of this spice, all of which have been backed by scientific research.
Curcumin is the main active component of turmeric and the one said to be responsible for the majority of its health benefits. Most of the turmeric pills you buy are highly concentrated extracts of curcumin, and the studies discussing the benefits of this spice are often conducted on curcumin extracts.
That doesn’t mean that turmeric is ineffective. On the contrary. But if you’re using turmeric for its medicinal benefits, you’ll be better off with a curcumin/turmeric extract, such as the one found in our Daily Detox with Turmeric.
If you’re consuming turmeric in its raw or powdered form, it’s recommended that you take it with a little black pepper, as piperine greatly improves the absorption of this spice and its active compound. Some studies have suggested that the absorption increases by as much as 2,000% with a simple pinch of black pepper. (1). Tablet and supplement forms of turmeric/curcumin often contain piperine or other potentiators to negate this need and allow for maximum absorption.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are well understood and cited even by people who don’t really understand what this means. Simply put, while turmeric is not going to mimic the effects of NSAIDs in killing pain, it can reduce inflammation throughout the body.
This is key, as inflammation is the route of most chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.(2) If you keep this to a minimum, you can greatly improve your chances of living a long, healthy, and disease-free life.
There have even been studies suggesting that it can mimic some of the effects of strong anti-inflammatory drugs without the side effects, although it should never be used in place of these drugs if you have moderate to severe pain or a medical condition.(3)
All superfoods possess antioxidants, compounds that can limit oxidation and the cell damage that it causes, potentially leading to a reduced risk of cancer and other diseases. This is also true of turmeric, but there’s much more to this spice than a few antioxidants.
Research has shown that turmeric, and curcumin in particular, can also improve the antioxidant capacity of the body, essentially improving the body’s absorption of these compounds and enhancing their effects.(4)
A little turmeric added to a vegetable curry or soup, or some curcumin extract added to a detox drink, as with our own Daily Detox, can act as an antioxidant potentiator.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric can reduce the risk of most cancers, but it can also provide the same benefits with regards to heart disease, which, according to the World Health Organization is the biggest killer in the world, accounting for more than half of all deaths every year.(5)
Turmeric can play both a preventative and curative role. The preventative part is obvious: A diet rich in whole foods, herbs, and spices can provide healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nitrates, all of which can contribute to heart and blood health and limit the risk of blockages. The latter claim mainly stems from a 2012 study conducted on bypass patients.
This study split 121 patients into two groups, giving one a placebo and the other 4 grams of curcumin every day. At the end of the study they gathered their results and calculated that the curcumin group were 65% less likely to experience another cardiac episode.(6)
An 8-week placebo controlled study conducted in 2008 found turmeric to be just as effective as a prescription drug in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.(7) Of course, it would be reckless to suggest that turmeric can cure diabetes and there’s no research to back such a claim.
However, it could help to balance blood sugar and support health and wellbeing, potentially increasing the lifespan of diabetes patients when used in combination with prescription medications and as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Research has shown that curcumin can reverse the effects of chronic stress and reduce the levels of a BNDF, a hormone that has been linked with neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.(8) Although it’s still very early and more research needs to be conducted, this suggests that curcumin/turmeric could reduce the risk of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Of course, the jury is still out on what causes these conditions and there are likely several factors at play, none of which can be completely negated by consuming turmeric. However, if we look to cultures that consume a lot of this spice and compare them to ones that don’t, the results are quite positive.
Alzheimer’s is at its most common in Western Europe and North America, regions that have some of the poorest diets and are the most reliant on fast/processed food. India, on the other hand, has some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world and is also the biggest consumer of turmeric and other healthy spices.
One of the best things about turmeric is that it’s cheap, even in organic form, and it’s easy to get a daily dose. You can add the powdered spice to curries and soups; you can make teas and sauces from the root.
Just keep some turmeric on hand at all times and try to cook with it as much as you can. You’ll get all these benefits and more. You could also just pick up some of our Daily Detox with Turmeric, to get the highest quality turmeric in combination with other healthy superfoods.