Health & Habits
8 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
Posted November 8, 2021
Throughout history, our ancestors have relied on herbs and spices, not only for cooking, but for their healing properties. Few have survived the test of time quite like turmeric, arguably the most well-studied dietary supplement in modern natural medicine. While turmeric has drawn more attention from natural health enthusiasts in recent years, it’s been used as a health supplement for approximately 4,500 years. It’s become an international export, but hasn’t strayed far from its roots.
Turmeric root originates from the Curcuma longa plant, a species of ginger native to Southeast Asia, and has long been used in Ayurveda and other traditional medical systems. Considered an underground stem, turmeric is known for adding vibrant color and flavor to culinary dishes and was historically utilized for treatment of skin, joint and digestive disorders. Although originally used in its whole food or spice form, turmeric supplements are now abundant in health foods stores as the plant is increasingly becoming promoted in dietary supplement form.
Curcumin is the most active agent of the polyphenolic curcuminoids derived from the root of turmeric. Polyphenols have incredible benefits for our biology through their ability to modulate our gene expression and gut microbiome to produce anti-inflammatory metabolites that lower inflammation, promote health, and prevent disease. As it turns out, curcumin is not readily absorbed into the bloodstream, which is why we often see it paired with black pepper. One of the main compounds in black pepper, piperine, has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%.
So is turmeric really worth the health hype? Here are eight proven health benefits:
The most powerful property of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation. The polyphenolic compounds within curcumin have been linked to reduced risk of chronic inflammation, and can even rival the effectiveness of medications like ibuprofen and aspirin. It helps moderate the production of cytokines, or cellular proteins that regulate inflammatory responses, and may ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Taking curcumin supplements seems to relieve arthritis pain - which is largely inflammatory - and the Arthritis Foundation lists curcumin among its resources for pain management.
2. Fights Degeneration of the Brain
Curcumin increases production of the brain hormone Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a growth hormone that enhances the growth of new neurons and prevents a number of degenerative processes in the brain. Neurons are able to develop new connections and, in certain areas of the brain, even multiply and increase in number. A decrease of the levels of this hormone in the brain is linked to many common brain disorders, like depression and Alzheimer’s disease. By increasing levels of BDNF, curcumin may help to delay or even reverse many brain disorders as well as age-related decline in brain function.
3. Rich in Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is considered to be one of the factors behind heart disease, and can even lead to damaged cells, proteins, and DNA, which contributes to aging. It occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in our body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons, and the body constantly strives to achieve balance between these two to maintain optimal health.
Curcumin can act as a powerful antioxidant that plays a big role in protecting against and neutralizing free radical damage. It can stimulate the body’s own antioxidant enzymes, and may even rival the antioxidant activity of vitamins C and E.
4. Balances Blood Sugar
Curcumin may mitigate the insulin resistance and hyperglycemia that characterizes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Curcumin helps improve our cells’ response to insulin, which helps lower blood sugar. A notable study published in Diabetes Care shows that prediabetic patients who took curcumin capsules for nine months were less likely than patients taking a placebo to develop type 2 diabetes. A small randomized controlled study found that healthy people who took a 180 mg tablet of curcumin with meals had lower glycemic and insulin responses after eating.
5. Supports Gut Health
People on the Indian subcontinent have a much lower incidence of colon cancer than we do in the West, and researchers theorize that it might have to do with the generous quantities of turmeric they consume.
A 2015 clinical trial of ulcerative-colitis patients found that curcumin reduced the symptoms of their condition. Curcumin can decrease inflammation in the intestines and strengthen our gut-barrier function, preventing imbalances in the microbiome and avoiding conditions like leaky gut syndrome. The tight junctions of the gut can get damaged, and bacteria and other immune-triggering compounds then “leak” out into the body. This can be very triggering to the immune system and be a huge cause of inflammatory arthritis.
6. Improves Skin Health
Some research has linked turmeric - both in ingestible and topical forms - with aiding in some skin disorders, including psoriasis, alopecia and even acne. However, scientists haven't determined the specific mechanisms (how it works), the right dosage (how much we need) and who it works best for just yet, but growing evidence shows that curcumin may be used medically to treat a variety of dermatologic diseases. Studies have noted statistically significant improvement in skin disease severity in turmeric/curcumin treatment groups compared with control groups.
7. Improves Heart Health
As many of us already know, inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to heart disease, and the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin can help to prevent heart disease and heart attacks. One randomized clinical study gave heart patients (who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery) either 4g of curcumin or a placebo per day a few days before surgery. The risk of experiencing a heart attack during surgery was reduced by 65% in the group that took curcumin.
Turmeric also prevents heart disease by improving the function of the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels) to prevent high blood pressure and clotting. Scientists also believe that taking curcumin is as good as aerobic exercise at improving vascular endothelial health.
8. Reduces Muscle Soreness
Any athlete knows that reducing the recovery time between exercise sessions is crucial to progressing quicker, and one study found that muscle soreness and damage was reduced post- workout when subjects took curcumin. This results in faster recovery and more consistent training at higher intensity levels, which can ultimately lead to increased athletic performance.
Making sure turmeric is a staple in any athlete’s diet can improve the recovery process. If we choose not to cook with it, taking it in supplement form can be just as effective. Turmeric+ from Vedge not only includes the health benefits of turmeric, but also offers ashwagandha root and rhodiola rosea, creating a 3-in-1 adaptogenic formula to not only aid muscle recovery, but also reduce stress and promote joint health.
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF!
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