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14 health benefits of turmeric

There are many health benefits of this supplement—here’s how much you should take

Turmeric benefits: Anti-inflammatory | Digestion | Anticancer properties | Blood sugar control | Heart health | Antioxidant | Antiviral | Alzheimer’s prevention | Arthritis relief | Antidepressant | Liver function | Erectile dysfunction | Skin health | Weight loss | Turmeric side effects | Turmeric efficacy

Turmeric has popped up seemingly everywhere—as a trendy healthy spice in everyday snacks such as popcorn and crackers and in Instagram-worthy golden milk lattes. But what exactly does turmeric do for health, and how effective is it really?

14 health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric isn’t just a trend: Its medicinal use dates back to approximately 1700 BC, according to Anna Cabeca, MD, triple-board certified OB-GYN and holistic lifestyle author. Although some health benefits of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) are more studied than others, the positives associated with the spice range from reducing inflammation to fighting certain cancer cells. Keep reading to find out which turmeric benefits could be helpful to you.

1. It’s an anti-inflammatory

Use of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic dates back centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and in Eastern Asian medicine. Turmeric not only reduces existing inflammation but can stop your body from producing the chemicals that initiate inflammation in the first place, similar to the way over-the-counter pain medications work, says Dr. Cabeca.

The body’s inflammatory response is designed to protect us from harm and keep us safe, but that response sometimes goes into overdrive, explains Carrie Lam, MD, the medical director at Lam Clinic. Turmeric’s key component, curcumin, interacts with many molecules responsible for inflammation to reduce excess or chronic inflammation. Early research indicates that curcumin has the potential to relieve inflammatory conditions, such as stomach ailments, arthritis, and pancreatitis, adds Dr. Lam.

2. It aids in digestion

Turmeric’s health benefits are known to be supportive of digestion, says Dr. Cabeca. The compound is especially beneficial in helping with digestive disorders such as gas, bloating and inflammatory bowel disease, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. 

RELATED: 20 home remedies for constipation

3. It has anticancer properties

Some studies show that turmeric has anti-cancerous properties, specifically for breast, bowel, stomach, and skin cancer cells, according to Dr. Cabeca. Laboratory research in this area is limited; however, it does not replace your regular cancer treatment. Routine screening tests, such as mammograms, paps, and colonoscopies are strongly suggested as ingestion of herbal supplements will most likely not make a cancer go away.

4. It helps control blood sugar levels

Curcumin, the highly active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to help lower blood sugar, potentially helping treat or prevent Type 2 diabetes. More research is needed on human subjects, but turmeric may be useful in helping prevent prediabetes from developing into diabetes. Maintaining a healthy BMI (20-25), moderate exercise 30 minutes most days of the week, and avoiding carbohydrates are proven methods to help prevent diabetes.

5. It improves heart health

Turmeric has been shown to help improve cholesterol and blood pressure, two conditions that often go hand-in-hand. By lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, turmeric has the potential to improve overall heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or even heart attacks. Those taking blood-pressure medications should consult a doctor before beginning a turmeric regimen to discuss the risk of bleeding. Continue to monitor cholesterol with blood work and blood pressure by frequent readings.

6. It has antioxidant properties

“Anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric can reduce circulating levels of free radicals in the body,” says Andrea Paul, MD, medical advisor of Illuminate Labs.

7. It aids in virus protection

At low doses, curcumin has the ability to enhance antibody responses, helping the body mount a response to viruses. “As an immune system enhancer, curcumin shows significant promise,” says Dr. Lam. Early research indicates that curcumin may even help alleviate some symptoms of COVID-19, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

8. It may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Native to southeast Asia and India, turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s or help slow its progression. India has a relatively low rate of occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease, something that may be connected to Indian citizens’ average daily intake of 125 mg curcumin per day. Further, turmeric may act as a neuroprotective in treating Alzheimer’s. Confounding this decrease in Alzheimer’s disease is their radically different diet—with less processed foods and meat intake.

9. It eases symptoms of arthritis

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties have been demonstrated to help with rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, and osteoarthritis. While more clinical trials are needed to determine the specific efficacy of curcumin supplements on arthritis, initial studies indicate turmeric may provide similar results to NSAID therapies for arthritis. 

RELATED: Arthritis treatments and medications

10. It can help with depression

Some animal studies show that curicumin may increase serotonin and dopamine—two brain chemicals that affect your mood. It may also help you respond better to unexpected stress. While more research is needed, with a stress reduction plan and guidance from a medical professional, turmeric’s antidepressant effects may provide a helpful boost as a complementary therapy to add to counseling or pharmacologic therapy.

11. It aids in liver function

“Using turmeric judiciously may improve liver function, improve detoxification, and reduce hepatic disorders,” Dr. Lam says. “Curcumin has been shown to limit damage to the liver from iron overdose, cirrhosis, ethanol and carbon tetrachloride.” Research in this area is rising, but turmeric may be able to lower levels of liver enzymes, a marker of liver damage.

12. It could help treat erectile dysfunction

Turmeric benefits for men include it’s potential to help treat erectile dysfunction. Since turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory, it could theoretically aid erectile dysfunction caused by inflammation, notes Dr. Paul. However, given the limited research on the subject and the availability of effective erectile dysfunction medications, for most people it wouldn’t make sense to use turmeric as a primary treatment.

13. It improves skin health

Used topically, turmeric benefits for skin include the improvement of several skin conditions such as eczema, ulcers, psoriasis, and wounds, says Dr. Cabeca. Its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular skincare ingredient, often associated with brightening or evening skin tone.

14. It helps with weight loss

In a 2018 study, curcumin consumption significantly decreased body mass index (BMI), weight, waist circumference, and leptin levels. The researchers concluded that curcumin could be used as an effective supplement for the management of metabolic syndrome, which was estimated to affect about 20% of people worldwide in 2017.

RELATED: Overweight and obesity statistics 2020

Turmeric side effects

“Spices like turmeric can be high in heavy metals, especially if they’re sourced from a country with high environmental pollution,” says Dr. Paul. Heavy metals are processed by both the kidneys and the liver, so supplement consumers should reach out to their product manufacturer about test results if they’re concerned about the products they’re taking.

Turmeric may cause issues for those with gallstones or bile duct issues, says Dr. Paul. Additionally, high doses of turmeric extract can result in kidney stones for those who are predisposed to the condition. Talk to your doctor if you plan on using turmeric daily.

Bottom line: Does turmeric really work?

Turmeric has the potential to improve a host of conditions, but sprinkling turmeric powder on your meals likely isn’t going to produce meaningful results. For an impact, you’ll probably need to seek out a dietary supplement. 

According to Dr. Paul, you should look for a supplement with black pepper or black pepper extract (piperine) in order to maximize turmeric benefits and improve the body’s ability to absorb the supplement from the intestines.. Turmeric and its curcuminoids aren’t easily absorbed alone, but studies show piperine can increase turmeric absorption by 2000% or more. 

The amount of turmeric or curcumin you should take daily varies based on the condition you’re attempting to improve and your genetic makeup. In general, typical turmeric or curcumin doses range from 0.5 to 3 grams per day, says Dr. Cabeca. While turmeric supplements are generally considered safe to take every day, it’s best to seek medical advice to determine the right course for you. One difficulty with taking supplements is that the factories where the supplements are made are not regulated by the FDA. Some supplements have none of the desired ingredient while others have exponentially more supplement than they are intended to have. 

To save money on your supplements, speak with your healthcare provider about getting a prescription for turmeric. With a prescription, you can use SingleCare coupons to get up 80% off your refills.