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What is Turmeric (Curcuma longa)?
If you look in your kitchen cabinet now, the chances are you have a jar of bright turmeric with its distinctive yellow color. Popular for adding color and flavor to Asian cuisine, turmeric is a vibrant yellow spice that has grabbed the attention of doctors and researchers for its potent health benefits. In this article, we explore this common spice and why you should consider taking a turmeric supplement. From the Curcuma longa plant, turmeric is a yellow rhizome (root) related to ginger and native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. Many Asian countries use this yellow rhizome in many unique ways. With high bioavailability and absorption, it's easy to see why these extracts are so popular.
Known in the past as the "golden root," turmeric is dried and ground into a powder for cooking, often in curries or as a component of a good curry powder. It has also been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic Medicine to soothe inflammation, support digestion, boost immunity, and heal wounds. Though Ayurveda has long upheld turmeric as a treatment, Western medicine is starting to take greater interest. While using turmeric powder is excellent for cooking, taking a supplement is the most efficient way to experience the healing properties of this spice in a concentrated form. In addition, supplements can significantly improve overall wellness, and clinical studies show much promise for these alternative medicine treatments.Shop Now
How Turmeric Works
Turmeric root supports overall health by providing your body with minerals like manganese, potassium, iron, as well as hundreds of health-boosting active compounds. However, numerous studies have confirmed that most of turmeric's remarkable health properties—and its color—are due to the polyphenol curcumin. Curcumin is an active compound that has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties (1). Curcumin promotes well-being and creates balance in your body by protecting your cells and DNA from the damaging effects of free radicals from the environment. These unstable molecules bombard you daily from exogenous and endogenous sources—like stress, intense exercise, pollution, smoking, and eating processed food.
Not only does curcumin act as an antioxidant, but it also stimulates the activity of your body's antioxidant enzymes (2). This makes it ideal for reducing chronic inflammation and slowing the signs of aging. Curcumin treatment may also help with digestive disorders, skin health, and molecular nutrition. Curcumin is trendy among those with degenerative joint pain and depression, thanks to its antioxidant properties and curcumin's bioavailability. Whether your health care provider recommends it for major depressive disorder or you want to try to see curcumin's effect and potential health benefits for already healthy adults, there's plenty of scientific evidence to support quality of life improvements.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
From inflammatory conditions to mood improvements, a systematic review of the use of turmeric's medicinal properties shows promise in treating various diseases and health conditions. While individual responses may vary, many users report positive effects and significant improvements in their symptoms. As part of the ginger family, many individuals rely on turmeric paste, extracts, and topicals to combat oxidative stress and improve wellness. Turmeric has high bioavailability, which means it's easy to absorb into the bloodstream. This golden spice fights free radicals, too. Let's explore how regularly taking a turmeric supplement can benefit your health.
Research has shown that a dose of turmeric extract is one of the most useful anti-inflammatory herbal supplements (3). While inflammation is a necessary process for healing, it has a devastating impact on overall health when it becomes chronic. A 2012 study looked at the effect of taking curcumin in those with active rheumatoid arthritis—an inflammatory immune condition that affects the joints and other bodily systems. Compared to a pharmaceutical treatment, curcumin resulted in the most significant improvement in disease activity and swelling (4). Turmeric's anti-inflammatory compounds promote healing efficacy above the baseline. Therefore, you may see a substantial decrease in inflammation thanks to this significant ingredient. Still, it would help if you talked to your doctor about how many mg of turmeric is suitable for your body weight and whether or not there would be beneficial effects to taking a higher dose.
Relieves Arthritic Pain
We've seen how turmeric doses target and soothe chronic inflammation in the body, so it comes as no surprise that it's beneficial for painful conditions like rheumatism or arthritis. Arthritis limits physical function, can cause joint tenderness, and often leads to headaches and fatigue. The good news is that a turmeric product might be the ideal herbal medicine and alternative therapy for pain relief and integrative health improvements—all that from what seems like a culinary spice. Turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, is probably one of the most well-known natural supplements for relieving joint pain. The effect of curcumin is to suppress inflammatory cytokines that cause arthritis pain and other negative side effects. It also improves stiffness and physical mobility in people with degenerative osteoarthritis. Interestingly, studies have found that turmeric extract provides similar results as ibuprofen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee (5, 6). All without nasty side effects of NSAIDs!
Promotes a Balanced Mood
In addition to this dietary supplement's use as a pain reliever against the symptoms of arthritis, it also has promise in boosting your mood. Curcumin from turmeric extract is being studied for its positive impact on mood and feelings of well-being. It may increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in the growth of nerve cells in areas of the brain that control cognitive function and emotions. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to depression and other brain changes. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that taking curcumin—in addition to antidepressant medication—resulted in (7):
- An improvement in depression symptoms
- Greater BDNF levels
- Lower levels of inflammatory markers
- A reduction in the stress hormone cortisol
Human trials can continue to study turmeric and its impacts on our moods. It's possible that, by interacting with chemical compounds in our brains, a turmeric supplement may be an effective way to balance our moods. Plus, it's easy to add turmeric or a curcumin treatment to your daily routine. You can take curcumin treatment in capsule form, topically, or you can even buy turmeric paste. Though there aren't many research results on long-term use, early treatment group responses show great promise in treating various health conditions.
Supports Heart Health
The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric extract make it great for promoting heart health. It may reduce the risk and progression of heart disease by neutralizing its precursors—oxidative damage and chronic inflammation! In addition, research suggests curcuminoids protect the delicate membrane that lines the heart and blood vessels, known as the endothelium (8). Some of the benefits of a healthy endothelial lining include regulating blood pressure and clotting and, again, reducing the risk of heart disease. While there's still much research to be done, turmeric may be an effective treatment for high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, and high total cholesterol, and may help to prevent the risk of heart attacks.
Promotes Skin Health
For otherwise healthy adults or individuals with skin conditions, you may use turmeric's antioxidant properties to treat various skin disorders or dermatological diseases and see a significant improvement in conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. A systematic review of turmeric shows human studies that relied on powder form, serum applications, and a combination of ingested and topical applications. Early evidence from these small studies shows that this member of the ginger family has bioactive components that may benefit skin health at the cellular level with its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Practitioners should know that efficacy can vary, though little clinical data suggest adverse effects except with large doses of turmeric. If you experience side effects like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, yellow stool, stomachache, or other chronic pain symptoms, stop use in the first place. Further research will confirm whether or not turmeric powder is an effective treatment for conditions like acne, psoriasis, chronic inflammatory skin disease, and atopic dermatitis. (9)
Make Turmeric Part of Your Daily Diet
Okay, you knew it was coming ... time for a shameless plug. Whether you're looking to combat free radical damage, you want an alternative treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, or you think the health benefits of curcumin and the antioxidant effect of turmeric could play an important role in your wellness, you're in the right place. Do you think the benefits of adding turmeric to your daily diet could help? First, create a personalized daily vitamin pack that includes turmeric and other vitamins, minerals, or supplements you and your doctor think could help. From spice turmeric you could find in your spice cabinets to essential oil, you can build the correct kits for your need(s). Start by adding turmeric to your Kit here!
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