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Turmeric has many scientifically validated health benefits, including the potential to improve heart health and balance blood sugar.
Turmeric is also a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It may also help reduce symptoms of arthritis as well as allergies.
In this article, we’ll review the uses of turmeric and how it can help support your health.
The Uses of Turmeric:
Turmeric is a perennial herb that grows throughout Southeast Asia.
The scientific name for turmeric is Curcuma longa, it’s in the Zingiberaceae family of plants. The medicinal part of turmeric is the rhizome (essentially an underground stem).
Over 100+ different varietals of turmeric have been identified so far.
Turmeric has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. It was traditionally used as a culinary spice and to support digestive health.
These days, turmeric is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s thought that the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric are due to a group of phytochemicals called curcuminoids.
Curcuminoids are a group of polyphenolic compounds, with the most famous one being curcumin. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is also the compound that gives turmeric its bright yellow color.
We’ll dig more into the uses of turmeric and its benefits below.
1. May Have Antiinflammatory Properties
Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response. Inflammation helps your body fight foreign invaders and helps to repair damage throughout your body.
It should be noted that acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial for the body, however, chronic long-term inflammation is tied to a host of health concerns.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Body pain, arthralgia, myalgia
- Chronic fatigue and insomnia
- Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Frequent infections
When it comes to fighting chronic inflammation, turmeric is one of our best herbal allies.
A clinical study showed that the administration of 375mg of curcumin, 3x/day helped to treat inflammatory eye disease.
In a trial involving participants with ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease), turmeric was shown to reduce inflammation and reduced the risk of relapse.
Another study observing individuals with ulcerative proctitis and Crohn’s disease discovered that turmeric reduced the severity of both diseases. The study participants also showed improvement in various health markers, including stool formation, frequency of bowel movements, as well as a reduction in abdominal pain and cramping.
2. May Reduce Symptoms of Arthritis
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric has been shown to be beneficial for individuals who have arthritis.
Arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Arthritis is prevalent throughout the US, it’s estimated that between 19-30% of adults over the age of 45 years have knee osteoarthritis.
In a clinical trial involving study participants with knee osteoarthritis, researchers discovered that turmeric was able to reduce pain. The researchers noted that turmeric was as effective as ibuprofen in reducing pain.
Another human clinical trial involving participants with knee osteoarthritis showed that curcumin intake significantly improved physical function and reduced pain. Throughout the study the patients were permitted to use an anti-inflammatory drug as backup, however, 84% of subjects taking the turmeric extract stopped using the backup drug by the time the study was completed.
3. May Help to Balance Blood Sugar
Research indicates that turmeric may help to balance blood sugar levels.
A human clinical trial found that turmeric had a beneficial effect on post-prandial insulin levels. Insulin works to move sugar from your blood into your cells. The researchers reported that insulin levels rose after the administration of turmeric capsules, which led to a decrease in blood sugar.
A long-term trial found that pre-diabetic patients that took turmeric had a significant reduction in various diabetes markers. These markers included fasting blood glucose levels and average blood glucose levels over a 3 month period (known as A1C). At the end of the study, it was reported that no participants in the turmeric group were diagnosed with type II diabetes, whereas over 16% of subjects in the placebo group were diagnosed.
4. May Support Heart Health
In various studies, turmeric has been connected with better heart health.
A human clinical trial looked at the impact of taking turmeric in individuals with heart problems. The researchers discovered that turmeric was effective in lowering LDL cholesterol (i.e. “bad cholesterol”) as well as total cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol levels are thought to be a risk factor for heart disease.
Another clinical trial discovered that turmeric intake may have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). It was noted by the researchers that taking a turmeric supplement may be effective as a preventative measure for heart disease.
5. May Reduce Allergies
Initial research indicates that turmeric may be helpful for individuals that struggle with allergies.
Allergies, known medically as allergic rhinitis, are the result of a hypersensitivity to allergens (pollen, dander, etc…) that leads to various symptoms, including sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and watery eyes.
During an allergic reaction, your body’s mast cells release histamine which triggers allergy symptoms. Typical OTC medications include antihistamines, which work to block histamine.
A study found that individuals who took turmeric experienced anti-allergic effects that inhibited the release of histamine. This means that turmeric may be one of the best antihistamine herbs.
Further, a pilot study found that curcumin reduced various allergy symptoms (sneezing and rhinorrhea) and nasal congestion. It’s thought that curcumin had these effects through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for nearly 4,000 years. Records of turmeric usage appear in the Compendium (250 BC), one of the foundational Ayurvedic texts, which was written by the great Indian physician, Susruta.
Turmeric usage spread throughout China and Africa from 700AD to 1200AD and became a high-demand plant. In 1280AD the explorer Marco Polo raved about turmeric’s benefits and mentioned that he was surprised a “vegetable” could have similar qualities to saffron.
Historical evidence indicates that turmeric has long been used as a natural dye. The beautiful yellow powder was used to color paper, wood, food, fabrics, cosmetics, and famously, the golden robes worn by Thai Buddhist monks.
Turmeric is a highly versatile herb that has been used for food and as medicine.
Turmeric supports against a number of inflammatory diseases and appears to be especially helpful for individuals with arthritis.
Additionally, turmeric has a strong potential for supporting blood sugar levels, heart health, and protecting against allergy symptoms.
If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, it’s worth considering turmeric.
Make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new dietary supplement.
Daniel has a master’s degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He’s the founder of The Botanical Institute, an online resource that educates readers about the benefits of herbs.