Turmeric is a saffron-yellow color spice known for both its flavor-enhancing properties and potential health benefits. In India, it has been used as a culinary seasoning for over 4,000 years and also holds an important place in both Hindu and Ayurvedic traditions.
Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric is a rhizome plant that is a close relative of the ginger family. Its underground root-like stems have a pungent orange flesh that can be used fresh or turned into a deep gold powder that is used as a spice. The powder is made by boiling and drying the root then grinding it into a powder. It was given the nickname “Indian saffron” because of its color and its use as an alternative to saffron, a very expensive spice.
Turmeric has long been used as a medicinal herb in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Curcumin, a potent antioxidant found in turmeric, is promoted for its potential health benefits though its limited bioavailability makes it difficult for the body to absorb and metabolize the antioxidant consistently.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and it is purported to have a number of benefits to support improved cognitive function. The powerful antioxidant is believed to boost the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an important protein in memory and learning. There has also been improvement in mood and cognitive function in aging adults.
This study on curcumin’s impact on cognition contends that more bioavailable and tolerable curcumins may establish the therapeutic potential of curcumin on promoting cognitive health. The researchers also called for larger, long-term controlled trials of curcumin.
There is some belief that turmeric (curcumin) can boost testosterone levels and nitric oxide which can contribute to a healthier libido. This animal study shows potential for turmeric and ginger to support reproductive health in hypertensive rate. More research is necessary to confirm turmeric’s impact on the libido of humans.
With powerful antioxidant properties that can combat oxidative stress, there is potential that curcumin may be helpful when promoting cardiovascular health. More scientific data and research are needed.
The antioxidant properties of turmeric are believed to be extremely beneficial in muscle recovery. While the lack of human trials makes the evidence somewhat anecdotal, this study of the effects of curcumin on eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage in mice confirms that curcumin may be able to offset some of the performance deficits associated with eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Another study found that curcumin may reduce the amount of oxidative stress following downhill running-induced muscle damage in mice. More long term research in humans is required.
There is evidence that curcumin may be able to combat lactic acid buildup. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed the effect of curcumin, when consumed as a drink, on exercise recovery in healthy, physically fit males ages 18-35 years. The study suggests that curcumin may facilitate a quicker return to exercise training and allow higher training intensity than a placebo by reducing post-exercise pain and reducing lactate accumulation.
At least 50% of infertile couple’s issues are related to male factor infertility. This study of 60 infertile males, half of whom took 80 mg of curcumin nanomicelle supplementation daily for 10 weeks, found that there were statistically significant differences in the total sperm count, concentration, and motility in the intervention group when compared to the control group. Researchers contend that curcumin supplementation could improve the quality of semen parameters, though suggest that further research is needed.
There are some claims that turmeric supports weight management, but little evidence to substantiate such claims. As always, the best way to support weight management is a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction, proper hydration, and a healthy, well-balanced diet. And if you add turmeric to your food, do so for the flavor, as the bioavailability of the curcumin in the actual spice turmeric is often poor.
Turmeric has been used for centuries by Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for digestive and liver support. It is believed to have prebiotic-like properties as well. In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended it for flatulence and indigestion.
Turmeric is promoted as an immune booster because of its antioxidant properties. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine have been using it to boost immune function for centuries, as they believe it can also boost the production of B and T cells within the digestive system.
Skincare products formulated with turmeric (curcumin) are purported to improve the appearance of skin tone irregularities such as blotchiness, redness, and uneven patches. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that it can improve the appearance of dark spots and discolorations of the skin. Its antioxidant properties may promote quicker healing to areas that are irritated. This abstract on the skin regenerative potentials of curcumin claims that circumin is beneficial in protecting the skin.
Turmeric may help to protect liver health because of its powerful antioxidant properties. Proponents believe it protects the liver against damage from free radicals, toxins, alcohol, and waste products, while supporting healthy liver detoxification. It has been used by Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine since ancient times for its ability to provide support for the liver.
Turmeric has been used since ancient times to support blood vessels and improve overall blood circulation. Curcumin helps to increase nitric oxide production and reduce oxidative stress, both of which help to increase the blood flow.
Turmeric is best taken with meals to help with absorption. It is often used as a spice when cooking, though the bioavailability of its curcumin in spice form is especially low and not intended to provide the healing benefits of a supplement. Turmeric can also be consumed in tea form, in a smoothie, latte, juice, or other drink.
The recommended dietary doses for turmeric is generally 500-2,000 mg per day but it depends on external specifics like height, weight, overall health, and reason for supplementation. Daily dosage as high as 10,000 mg is generally considered safe, though existing studies only apply to the short term.
The potential side effects of turmeric are generally minimal and usually only occur with larger doses, especially over extended periods of time. Digestive distress, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, or yellow stools are all possible side effects that can quickly be remediated.
While turmeric is considered to be safe, pregnant and lactating people should not take a turmeric supplement without the advice of a physician. It also may not be advisable for certain people to take a turmeric supplement unless recommended by their healthcare provider.
When looking for a turmeric supplement, try to find a high quality product that has been sustainably sourced, is third-party tested, and is C.L.E.A.N. certified.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. It is also a wildly popular spice that is a main ingredient in curry.
Curcumin is part of turmeric and its healing properties have been used for centuries to support respiratory, skin, and digestive health. It is now available in supplement form as a capsule, tincture, or liquid, and is used for immune support and cognitive support. Preliminary research shows potential for turmeric to support libido, muscle recovery, soothe digestion, and overall health.
While it is generally considered to be safe and effective, it is always important to check with your physician or healthcare provider whenever you add a new supplement to your protocol. If you are pregnant or lactating, taking medications on a daily basis, or experiencing any health challenges, it is important that you discuss it with your physician before you take turmeric. While safe, it may impact the way your medications work.
When looking for a turmeric supplement it is always best to find a top quality product like Care/of’s turmeric supplement "The Golden Spice."