What is Turmeric, and How does it work?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family and is commonly used as a spice in cooking. It generally grows in a tropical climate as a plant 3 feet tall, having green leaves and occasional pink flowers.
It is rich in bioactive compounds called curcuminoids, the key one being curcumin.
It is widely used in herbal medicines.
What is Curcumin?
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and is also rich in antioxidants that fight oxidative stress by killing free radicals in your system.
Studies have shown that curcumin can penetrate the cell membrane, improving the cells resistance to inflammation.
Uses & Effectiveness – Does Turmeric have Health Benefits?
Turmeric has numerous medicinal benefits and has been used as a medicine since ancient times.
There’s only 3% curcumin in turmeric, so you’d have to consume a lot of turmeric-based foods to get a noticeable benefit. However, there are some excellent supplements available that could allow you to get a higher amount.
Curcumin enhances brain health and could lower the chance of developing brain disease. This is because it increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone in the brain.
There’s a small amount of research to indicate that curcumin improves memory and that it can both prevent and treat the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the evidence is not enough to draw any conclusions.
Taking turmeric also may lessen the chances that you’ll be diagnosed with heart disease. It may slow the growth of cancer or prevent it from developing, to begin with. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, effectively kills certain cancer cells.
It may be useful in arthritis by lessening pain and inflammation.
It may even slow down the aging process and the development of those diseases that result from aging.
Research has also demonstrated a positive effect of turmeric on mental health, potentially alleviating symptoms of depression in people already taking an antidepressant.
What’s the difference between Curcumin and Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that is derived from the Curcuma Longa plant, and curcumin is one of its bioactive compounds. These compounds are called curcuminoids and have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
What should you look for in a Turmeric Supplement?
A decent turmeric supplement should contain black pepper or piperine because curcumin in turmeric is poorly absorbed without it.
Why shouldn’t you Consume too much Turmeric?
There is a report of an individual who took too much turmeric and ended up requiring treatment for abnormal heart rhythm. It’s not 100% clear whether the turmeric was the cause in this case, but anyone with a heart condition should be wary.
People who have an iron deficiency should also avoid turmeric, as it can interfere with iron absorption.
It’s also been associated with some unpleasant side effects like heartburn, low blood sugar, increased bleeding, and can make gallbladder problems worse.
Can I include Turmeric in my Diet?
Unless you have a health issue that precludes it, consider including some turmeric in your diet. It is very healthy and has numerous health benefits. However, it is possible to take too much, so pay attention to the recommended dosages to avoid uncomfortable side effects.
Curcumin is fat-soluble so needs a little fat for it to be absorbed; make sure you take the supplement with a meal that contains fat or oil.
How much Turmeric should you take in a day?
The amount taken depends on the condition you’re taking it for and whether you’re a child or an adult.
- For a child with high cholesterol, an appropriate dose is 1.4 grams twice daily for 3 months.
- For adults with osteoarthritis, depression, or hay fever, the recommended dose is 500 mg daily for approximately 2 months.
- For adults with high cholesterol, 1.4 grams twice daily for 3 months is appropriate. For itching, take 1500 mg three times a day for 8 weeks.
- For people who have fatty liver but don’t drink alcohol, 500 mg of a product containing 70 mg of curcumin daily for 8 weeks is reasonable.
Is it safe to take Turmeric every day?
Yes, but not over the long term. There may be adverse health effects after 8 months of daily intake.
Which medications should NOT be taken with turmeric?
Turmeric interacts with a number of medications.
Here are the most common ones:
- Turmeric can slow your body’s ability to form blood clots. This could result in increased bruising and slow down the healing process. Any medication which performs a similar function should not be combined with turmeric. These include: aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (e.g. Voltaren, Cataflam), ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Motrin), naproxen (e.g. Anaprox, Naprosyn), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, or warfarin (Coumadin).
- Medications that are metabolized by the liver shouldn’t be combined with turmeric, as it may increase the effect of the drug, thereby increasing the potential for side effects. Examples include: calcium channel blockers (diltiazem, nicardipine, verapamil), chemotherapeutic agents (etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine), antifungals (ketoconazole, itraconazole), glucocorticoids, alfentanil (Alfenta), cisapride (Propulsid), fentanyl (Sublimaze), lidocaine (Xylocaine), losartan (Cozaar), fexofenadine (Allegra), and midazolam (Versed).
- Medication for diabetes, if combined with turmeric, may result in low blood sugar. This includes glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), and tolbutamide (Orinase).
Is Turmeric bad for your Kidneys?
No, it isn’t! As a matter of fact, there’s research that shows that curcumin has a very beneficial effect on the progress of chronic kidney disease. Those who have issues with their kidneys may find a benefit from incorporating some turmeric into their diet.
Can Turmeric help with High Blood Pressure and Diabetes?
Turmeric may be a treatment for diabetes because it has the ability to lower blood sugar.
This has been known for centuries and is still used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
A 2013 review found that curcumin stabilizes blood sugar levels, but also reduces the risk of diabetes.
Research shows that the risk of developing diabetes may be reduced in individuals who are at high risk.
Does Turmeric help you Lose Weight?
Turmeric may help with weight loss, but only if the weight gain is due to inflammation. However, there’s also evidence to indicate that it can slow down the body’s production of fat cells.
Does Turmeric affect your Sex Drive?
There’s a possibility that taking turmeric regularly could have a negative effect on your sex drive because it can lower testosterone levels. For this reason, it may also lower fertility in men.
Does too much Turmeric have Side Effects?
Maybe. Turmeric has side effects that include heartburn, low blood sugar, increased bleeding, reduced iron absorption, and can make gallbladder problems worse.
How do you get the most out of Turmeric?
Turmeric has many health benefits but is absorbed very poorly by the body. Black pepper (piperine) accelerates the absorption of turmeric. Therefore, either take a supplement that includes back pepper or adding it to your food that contains turmeric.
Since turmeric is fat-soluble, it also needs some fat to be absorbed into your system. Combine turmeric with fat or oil during your meal.
Turmeric is healthy but only in the proper amounts. If you take too much it can lead to side effects. Refer to the dosage section to ensure proper dosing.
However, it’s very important to follow the recommendations for the correct dosage because if you take too much, there might be side effects.
Turmeric could be risky for people on certain medications or who have certain health conditions. For this reason, it’s crucial that you see your doctor before you start taking turmeric on a regular basis.
CAUTION: Health Insiders has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Health Insiders.
To get more nutrition and diet tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Health Insiders newsletter today.
[*] Funk JL. Turmeric. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010.
[*] Turmeric. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on April 13, 2015. [Database subscription].
[*] Di Lorenzo C, Dell’Agli M, Badea M, et al. Plant food supplements with anti-inflammatory properties: a systematic review (II). Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2013;53(5):507-516.