Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, turmeric is the root of a plant from the ginger family.
It’s been used in traditional medicine and cooking for millennia but its use as a dye has at times been even surpassed its popularity in the kitchen. Whether it’s a curry or a scarf, turmeric turns everything a rich shade of yellow-orange.
Turmeric is probably best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Those can be attributed mainly to the superhero compound in turmeric, called curcumin. It is a very strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Its antioxidant properties mean that it disarms those notorious troublemakers - free radicals - that can damage your cells, blood vessels, DNA, enzymes, fatty acids and lead to disease. Curcumin is not only a powerful antioxidant, it also stimulates your body’s own defences and antioxidant compounds, making them more effective (Hewlings and Kalman, 2017).
The other half of curcumin powers lie in its anti-inflammatory effects. It has a strong influence on many of our metabolic pathways – suppressing inflammation in several ways, which is why turmeric has been so helpful in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, IBDs, asthma or heart disease (He et al., 2015).
Many of these inflammatory diseases have clear symptoms but more often than not, our bodies struggle with chronic inflammation without us realising. There’s an easy way to find out – measure the levels of C-reactive protein in your blood. It’s a protein produced by the liver in response to inflammation anywhere in the body – raised levels may indicate a chronic inflammatory condition that would be worth investigating.
Curcumin is a true anti-inflammatory champion but it’s hard to get enough of it from turmeric powder or root alone. We are not very good at absorbing it. However, we can increase our uptake of curcumin by a whopping 2,000% – simply by combining it with black pepper! It’s all down to piperin, a compound in black pepper that almost magically boosts our curcumin absorption (Hewlings and Kalman, 2017; Kunnumakkara et al., 2017). Many turmeric supplements contain piperin but it’s good to follow this rule in the kitchen too.
Curcumin has proved to be a great help to arthritis sufferers. It can reduce pain, swelling and stiffness associated with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. These are conditions where inflammation plays a big role. In several trials, curcumin was as effective as painkillers at relieving pain – if not more – and it also helped to improve joint mobility (Hewlings and Kalman, 2017; Kunnumakkara et al., 2017).
These studies used doses from about 200 milligrams of curcumin upwards but for most people, the dose that offered significant relief was 1,500-2,000 milligrams. For some people, it works within hours but for others it takes a few weeks to notice substantial improvements. These high doses are impossible to reach through turmeric consumption alone so a good quality supplement is advisable – in our experience, this one works wonders, as well as these easy to swallow capsules
Inflamed bowel pacifier
Irritable bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s, IBS or ulcerative colitis are notoriously difficult to treat. A plant based diet works great for some but offers only moderate improvements to others.
Curcumin has emerged as a potentially powerful aid, offering relief and helping to soothe the most troublesome flair-ups without any side-effects (Kunnumakkara et al., 2017; Mazieiro et al., 2018). It’s all due to the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin but it has to be taken in high enough doses.
The amounts that achieved significant relief or prevented disease relapse in most studies were 1-4 grams – which is only available through a supplement but it’s worth a try if you are a sufferer.
Turmeric, and curcumin in particular, is showing promising results when it comes to cancer prevention and treatment. Research revealed that it inhibits all three stages of cancer development and progression – initiation, proliferation and metastasis (Shanmugam et al., 2015).
Curcumin protects our cells and DNA from turning into cancer-type cells. It cannot absolutely protect you from ever developing cancer but can lower the chances. If cancerous cells have already appeared and started growing, curcumin limits or even stops their growth (Ravindran et al., 2009). Cancer cells don’t have a natural expiry date, which is why they are so dangerous – they keep growing and multiplying. Enter curcumin – it can trigger a natural death in some cancer cells and it stops other from growing or multiplying (Ravindran et al., 2009; Kunnumakkara et al., 2017).
In one study, people with cancerous lesions in the gut were given 4 grams of curcumin daily. One month later, 40 percent of the lesions were gone (Carroll et al., 2011). It doesn’t mean curcumin can cure cancer but it can certainly offer powerful defence!
Turmeric may also be a heart health hero. Of course, when it comes to your heart and blood vessels, a wholesome plant-based diet is best and should protect them well - but turmeric can offer some extra help if there already are certain issues.
Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to have a number of positive effects on our cardiovascular system. One of them is that it prevents cholesterol plaques from forming and another that it can help lower blood fat levels, including harmful cholesterol (Kunnumakkara et al., 2017; Li et al., 2019).
If you’re curious about your cholesterol levels, you can do a quick test to find out. The dose of curcumin that seemed effective at lowering blood lipids and cholesterol in the above studies was about 500-1,000 milligrams daily.
Research also suggests that curcumin can improve the health of our blood vessels – making them better able to regulate blood flow. The reason is simple – our blood vessels work really hard all the time and with all the free radicals floating about and daily damage, their lining gets slightly inflamed. Curcumin helps them be more damage-resistant whilst disarming those annoying free radicals.
Mental and cognitive health
Turmeric offers still more benefits, earning its medicinal food label. It is not entirely clear how but curcumin alleviates depression. In several trials, people with depression were given curcumin supplements and after about five weeks, their depressive symptoms were significantly reduced. There’s yet more research to be done in this area but the results are promising.
Other studies revealed that regular curcumin intake helps to improve working memory and mood. When it comes to aging, turmeric seems able to lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease but the science isn’t clear yet (Hewlings and Kalman, 2017). At the same time, curcumin is showing very promising results in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases – so much so that there are many trials testing how best to approach these treatments (Maiti and Dunbar, 2018). It wouldn’t restore the person’s full health but can halt the progression of these debilitating diseases which is exciting enough!
Being a strong anti-inflammatory, turmeric is useful when it comes to angry airways, whether due to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute respiratory distress syndrome (Kunnumakkara et al., 2017; Lelli et al., 2017).
Regular curcumin intake reduces inflammation of the airways lining which helps to reduce disease symptoms or severity of the attacks. This soothing effect can even increase lung capacity in some sufferers.
It’s also why turmeric – along with ginger - is useful when you have a cold or flu. Being both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, they may offer a much needed relief from coughing and sore throat.
What form is the best?
Fresh root or powder are both excellent for cooking. Don’t forget to always combine them with black pepper to enhance curcumin absorption. If you’d like to use turmeric to achieve health results, you can start with one teaspoon of powder combined with a small pinch of pepper. However, it’s slightly challenging to practise every day and turmeric has a strong flavour that’s not to everyone’s taste. That’s where a supplement may be handy – for general health, this one is excellent because it combines essential nutrients with powerful natural extracts.
If you would like to try higher doses, we can highly recommend this one or for even higher doses, try this amazing product. In scientific studies, noticeable health improvements for many conditions were achieved from about 500 milligrams daily.
So how about turmeric and cold sores? Research isn’t clear on that but some people advocate making a paste from turmeric powder and water and dabbing it on the affected area. It may help but bear in mind it will stain your skin bright yellow-orange. You’ve been warned!
Turmeric is indeed almost magical. If you’re healthy and simply want to enjoy what it has to offer, use it liberally in savoury and sweet dishes, drinks, smoothies, baked goods, soups, and more! It won’t make you bulletproof but can seriously boost your health.
What we use?
It’s safe to say we’ve tried many different types of multivitamins from various brands. We can personally recommend this multivitamin from wearefeel™, which contains 33 ingredients in their highest quality and bio-availability, with nothing unnecessary added. It also contains 95% Curcuminoids with 47.5mg per serving.