5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric is a potent spice that has received a lot of attention from health researchers for its natural health benefits. Turmeric is rich in bioactive compounds, including curcumin, the compound that provides its golden color as well as many of its benefits. Here are the top 7 benefits of turmeric.

1. Turmeric Supports a Healthy Inflammation Response

Acute inflammation is a normal part of your immune response. It can be beneficial for repairing damaged tissues and fighting off infection. For example, the tissue surrounding a small injury will become swollen, showing that inflammation is doing its work to help with healing.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is damaging to cells and tissues and has been linked with a range of degenerative health conditions affecting the joints, heart, brain, and much more. Many things can contribute to chronic low-level inflammation in the body, including processed foods, toxins, smoking, and stress.

Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to help the body manage inflammation, and there is now a substantial body of research that supports its effectiveness.1 One way it works is by interrupting a proinflammatory protein called NF-kB.2

2. Turmeric Is a Potent Antioxidant

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that accumulate in the body over time and can damage our DNA and our cells, contributing to cellular aging. Many environmental factors can increase free radicals, including air pollution, fried foods, tobacco smoke, and pesticides. 

Antioxidants provide the antidote for free radicals. You can find them in fruits and vegetables. This is one of the primary reasons why people who include more fruits and vegetables in their diet live longer, healthier lives.

Curcumin is said to be one of the most potent antioxidants you can find.3 It does more than act as an antioxidant: studies have shown that it can also help boost your body's own antioxidant enzymes.4

3. Turmeric Helps with Achy Joints

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that some 63 million people in the United States suffer from daily joint stiffness and achiness. Chronic inflammation is often involved in this type of joint issue.

Turmeric's influence on the inflammation response has been shown to provide relief. A recent review of studies found that turmeric or curcumin has therapeutic benefits for knee joint comfort and mobility.5

4. Turmeric Supports Heart Health

Living an active lifestyle, eating a proper diet, and reducing your stress levels can help keep your heart healthy. Curcumin can also support your heart health by helping to keep blood vessels healthy.

Oxidative stress and inflammation can damage the blood vessel lining and impair endotheliel function, or the ability of blood vessels to dilate properly for healthy blood flow. A dysfunction with the endothelium can affect your blood clotting, blood pressure, and more.

Curcumin helps support endotheliel function by protecting against oxidative stress and helping manage inflammation.One study found that curcumin helped improve blood flow similarly to the benefits of exercise.6

5. Turmeric Supports Brain Health

Oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain are associated with brain aging and mood imbalances. Curcuminoids from turmeric are one of the few antioxidant compounds that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to provide protective benefits for the brain.

In animal studies, curcumin has been shown to help boost levels of DHA in the brain, an important omega-3 fatty acid for healthy brain function,7 as well as levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a factor associated with neuroplasticity.8 Both of these increases were associated with improvements in mood and stress response.

A recent review of clinical studies found that curcumin may be beneficial for supporting a healthy, balanced mood.9 

References:

1. Peng Y, Ao M, Dong B, Jiang Y, Yu L, Chen Z, Hu C, Xu R. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases: Status, Limitations and Countermeasures. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2021 Nov 2;15:4503-4525. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S327378. PMID: 34754179; PMCID: PMC8572027.

2. https://www.nature.com/articles/1208169, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-κB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation, October 18, 2014

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650394, Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity, 2005 Jan-Feb;7(1-2):32-41

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569207, Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, 2007;595:105-25

5. Paultre K, Cade W, Hernandez D, Reynolds J, Greif D, Best TM. Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2021 Jan 13;7(1):e000935. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935. PMID: 33500785; PMCID: PMC7812094.

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23146777, Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women, 2012 Oct;32(10):795-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Oct 15

7. Wu A, Noble EE, Tyagi E, Ying Z, Zhuang Y, Gomez-Pinilla F. Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 May;1852(5):951-61. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2014.12.005. Epub 2014 Dec 27. PMID: 25550171; PMCID: PMC4754352.

8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306027144, Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB, November 29, 2006

9. Fusar-Poli L, Vozza L, Gabbiadini A, Vanella A, Concas I, Tinacci S, Petralia A, Signorelli MS, Aguglia E. Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(15):2643-2653. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1653260. Epub 2019 Aug 19. PMID: 31423805.