10 Benefits Of Turmeric (Curcumin)

The well-known spice, turmeric, is known for its pivotal role in Indian cooking. It comes from the Indian and South Asian plant Curcuma longa, where its roots are dried and ground into the unique yellow-orange coloured turmeric powder we are all familiar with. However, what you may not know is that turmeric has a multitude of beneficial health effects that when taken daily can contribute to a healthy lifestyle (1). Turmeric’s main active substance is curcumin, where thousands of studies have explored curcumin’s beneficial effect. Regarding the mode of action, curcumin exhibits a diverse array of metabolic, cellular and molecular activities. Many studies have found curcumin to have powerful protective properties, especially anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, which compared to pharmaceutical medications, curcumin is as effective if not better in some cases! (NB. The terms turmeric and curcumin will be used interchangeably from here on.) When the studies explore the active substance curcumin in turmeric it has powerful properties which compared to pharmaceutical medications it is as effective if not in some cases better!

Turmeric Studies / Curcumin Studies

Turmeric has had a multitude of studies with lots on data online to read through, we’ve selected 10 drugs prescription medication that can be compared to turmeric.

Anticoagulants/Antiplatelets
Current antiplatelet and anticoagulant medical intervention, aimed at slowing and preventing blood clotting, includes Aspirin, Clopidogrel, Heparin, and Warfarin, among others ( 61 , 62 ). These drugs have been used to treat conditions like deep-vein thrombosis ( 63 ) and cardiovascular disease ( 61 ). However, the side effects of these medications are vast, including back pain, headaches and difficulty breathing, which has driven the search for less harmful alternatives. Preliminary research indicates curcumin could have anticoagulant properties ( 64 ) while also being non-toxic at high dozes ( 65 ). While curcumin has not undergone clinical trials, promising early research, using animal models, has found curcumin slows the blood clotting process in a similar manner to the conventional anticoagulant medication, heparin ( 64 ). In another animal model, curcumin has also been found to inhibit platelet activation ( 66 ). Researchers have suggested that adding a daily dose of turmeric to your diet might help maintain anticoagulant status.However, more research needs to be undertaken within this area. (3)

Anti-depressants
Depression is a highly prevalent and debilitating mental disorder affecting over 300 million people across the world ( 54 ). Current treatments for depression are unsatisfactory for many patients with major depressive disorder. Over half of patients do not benefit from conventional antidepressants at all ( 55 ). Those that do, must deal with unpleasant side effects, slow initial progress, only partial remission of symptoms and the social stigma surrounding the use of antidepressants ( 56 , 57 ). There is a strong need for newer and more effective treatments, with a growing interest for curcumin as a novel antidepressant, and rightly so. A 2017 review combining all data from clinical studies over the past 5 years has found curcumin to be efficacious in the treatment of people with major depression, by reducing depressive symptoms ( 58 ). Not only that, but half of the studies included in the review, also showed curcumin to have significant anti-anxiety effects too. Researchersconducted a randomised control trial exploring the supplementation of curcumin alongside traditional antidepressants and found that curcumin enhances the beneficial outcome of antidepressants in the treatment of major depression ( 59 ). Furthermore, daily consumption of turmeric over prolonged periods of time can help reduce depressive symptoms as effectively as Prozac ( 60 ). Not only that but curcumin is safe, well-tolerated and has no significant side effects. Curcumin definitely seems like it has beneficial properties in the treatment and management of major depression. For future studies, research needs to determine the long-term effects of using curcumin to confirm that the clinical improvement observed so far is stable. ”

Anti-inflammatories

The most powerful aspect of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation. The natural anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin is as effective and in some cases superior to modern anti-inflammatory medication. Research has found that curcumin is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds, outperforming Aspirin and Ibuprofen (2) . There is an expanding body of evidence to suggest that curcumin influences multiple pathways within the inflammatory response system. One of the key findings to emerge over a decade ago is the curcumin-mediated suppression of nuclear factor-kB, which is the master switch in the inflammatory cascade . Activation of this is known to regulate several key inflammatory mediators such as cytokines, chemokines and kinases, which play a critical role in the pathogenesis of most chronic illnesses ( 4 , 5 , 6 ). Curcumin treatment leads to the suppression of these inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (7) . Curcumin also acts on a lot of different pathways, mechanisms and proteins within the inflammatory system, adding to its beneficial effect (8) . Due to curcumins’ anti-inflammatory properties its efficaciousness has been researched in many disease modalities, including Arthritis, Cancer, diabetes, Ulcerative Colitis, high cholesterol and chronic pain.

Arthritis management

Arthritis is a form of joint disorder characterised by chronic inflammation in one or more joints that can result in pain and discomfort ( 12 ). The major goal of arthritis treatment is to reduce the pain caused by inflammation in the joints. The existing medications for treating arthritis are analgesics, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( 13 ). However, the most powerful arthritis drugs cannot be used long-term due to inadequate pain relief, immune disturbances, and serious gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications ( 14 ). Therefore, herbal therapies with anti-inflammatory properties and minimum side effects are needed for the long-term management of arthritis. A recent review in 2016of clinical trials investigating the use of curcumin in the treatment of arthritis found compelling evidence for its effectiveness in relieving pain and inflammation ( 15 ). A study conducted in 2014 found that curcumin was safe and effective to use on those with arthritis and that it had similar effects to ibuprofen but with fewer side effects ( 16 ). Therefore, turmeric extracts and curcumin can be cautiously recommended for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. However, further high-quality studies are needed to confirm the therapeutic efficacy of turmeric and curcumin for arthritis long-term.

Diabetes management

Diabetes is a disease with widespread prevalence; adversely affecting human health and contributing to the development of various chronic diseases ( 27 , 28 ). Diabetes can be categorized as type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is where the pancreas does not produce any insulin, resulting in insulin deficiency ( ). Whereas type 2 is characterised by insulin resistance or abnormal insulin secretion, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not react to it ( 28 ). Traditional medications for diabetes management include insulin injections and Metformin.However, the use of natural medicines to treat diabetes is of great interest, especially as curcumin has been used for the treatment and prevention of diabetes in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years ( 29 ). In 2009, researchers discovered that curcumin is 400 times more potent than Metformin in activating an enzyme called AMPK thatstimulates glucose uptake ( 30 ). This may explain some of the glucose-lowering effects of curcumin and its ability to improve insulin sensitivity. A study assessing the efficacy of curcumin in delaying the development of type 2 diabetes found that curcumin significantly lowered the number of prediabetic individuals who developed type 2 diabetes compared to those who received nothing ( 31 ). In 2013, a review of the literature surrounding curcumin and diabetes concluded that research has provided scientific basis for the use of curcumin and confirmed its importance in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its associated disorders ( 32 ). Curcumin could favourably affect many complications associated with diabetes; hyperglycaemia, insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis. Despite the tremendous benefits, majority of research has taken place using animal models, clinical trials of curcumin are limited and the potential use of curcumin to treat diabetes and other related disorders can only be confirmed if more studies in humans are conducted.

Gastrointestinal treatments

People with digestive and stomach complaints become intolerant to medical interventions because the stomach flora is already compromised and drugs can literally tear up the mucosal lining. Digestive disorders, including dyspepsia, peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), affect millions of people worldwide and place a highly significant economic burden on the healthcare systems ( 33 ). Due to this burden, research exploring the efficacy of alternative therapies have become increasingly popular for those with digestive disorders, especially when conventional therapies fail to improve their symptoms( 34 ). In early pre-clinical trials, turmeric was shown to have potential to protect the gastrointestinal tract through its anti-inflammatory effect( 35 , 36 ). In human studies, a randomised control trial was conducted to assess the effect of curcumin in 89 patients with Ulcerative colitis( 37 ). These patients were randomly allocated to receive curcumin twice daily in addition to anti-inflammatory drugs (sulfasalazine or mesalamine) or placebo as well as sulfasalazine or mesalamine for 6 months. At the end of the study, fewer patients in the curcumin group experienced relapse compared to the control group. These findings lead the researchers to postulate that curcumin may be efficacious in conjunction with other medications in the prevention of relapse. In contrast, in a randomised control trial of 106 patients with IBS, having turmeric daily was found to have no significant therapeutic benefit over placebo in decreasing IBS-related pain, other IBS symptoms, and psychological stress due to IBS ( 38 ).A more recent study in 2016 explored whether combining curcumin with fennel essential oil would have an impact on IBS symptoms ( 39 ). They found that it improved symptoms and quality of live in IBS patients. Additional research is needed but for now, researchers believe curcumin has a place in supporting the traditional treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cholesterol regulators

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the second most common cause of mortalityin the UK behind cancer and was responsible for almost 1 in every 4 deaths last year ( 40 ). One of the leading causes of CVD is elevated levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vital fatty acid but too much cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream results in a thickening of the arterial wall. These build-ups (known as ‘plaques’) eventually reduce the elasticity of the arterial wall, increase blood pressure and increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, a process known as atherosclerosis ( 41 ). Current treatment for high cholesterol is a group of medications known as statins, which block enzymes in the liver needed to make cholesterol. These medications have serious side effects such as headaches, muscle pain and digestive problems. Alternative treatments, Aspirin and Ezetimibe, are not considered as effective and also have similar side-effects ( 42 ). Due to these concerns, there hasbeen an increasing focus on the use of functional natural products as alternatives to conventional lipid-modulating medications. This is where curcumin comes in. While results of curcumins effectiveness are mixed in the general population, studies have shown that curcumin can help tackle atherosclerosis. Dietary supplementation of curcumin was shown to relax blood vessels and reduce the thickening of arterial walls due to cholesterol build up in rats ( 43 ). Intestinal cells treated with curcumin show reduced absorption of cholesterol at an effectiveness similar to that of Ezetimibe( 44 ). Large scale human trials to explore the effects of turmeric on the general population have not yet been conducted, but there is promising scope for curcumin as a moderator of cholesterol in the blood.

Skin Health

Most common skin diseases are linked to dysregulation of inflammatory responses within the body, known as dermatitis, which affects 250 million people world-wide. Current treatment options are currently limited to short-term corticosteroid creams and topical moisturizers to treat symptoms. Prolonged topical steroid usage can result in stretch marks, excessive hair growth, contact dermatitis, Cushing's syndrome and worsening of pre-existing skin conditions ( 48 ). For this reason, long term management of skin conditions is a prime target for a natural anti-inflammatory such as curcumin. One systematic review of the effects of curcumin on a range of skin disorders found that at least 10 of the 18 scientific trials analysed found a significant improvement in outcomes. Of the disorders, acne, eczema, sun damage, pruritus, radiodermatitis psoriasis and vitiligo all showed improvement with either topical or oral administrations of curcumin supplements ( 49 ). The effectiveness of curcumin in treating dermatitis is down to its ability to quench free-radicals and modulation of enzymes which help control oxidation. Curcumins anti-inflammatory effects also extend to improving the healing time of wounds, allowing for swifter deposition of collagen, the main structural protein in skin and ligaments ( 50 ).

Painkillers

One of the more widely accepted properties of curcumin in scientific communities is its ability to manage pain.Approximately 1-in-4 adults in the UK live with chronic pain, with 40% currently describing their pain management as “inadequate” ( 45 ). Causes of chronic pain range from cancer and arthritis to nerve damageafter traumatic injury or diseases like diabetes. Pain medications frequently have damaging side-effects on the liver with prolonged use. Also, addiction can be an issue with opioid based drugs, because of this, less harmful alternatives could prove extremely useful in managing chronic pain. A review of the effect of curcumin and extracts of other plants in the same family found a consistent and dose dependent effect on the subjective pain score of people living with chronic pain without any of the risks of current anti-inflammatory medication ( 46 ). A further analysis of studies investigating curcumin in the management of arthritis found that 1g per day of curcumin produced pain measurements similar to that of conventional pain killers and consistently better than a placebo ( 47 )another very promising finding in support of using curcumin daily.

Steroids

Finally, we’ll take a look at how turmeric benefits the many conditions normally treated by corticosteroids such as:

  • * Psoriasis
  • * Lupus
  • * Rheumatoid arthritis
  • * Scleroderma
  • * Chronic pain

In a 1999 breakthrough clinical study, it was found that curcumin has the ability to cure chronic inflammation of the eye. Typically this condition was only treated with steroids but today it is common for medical doctors who practice functional medicine to prescribe curcumin instead.What cannot be overstated, however, is that although statistically “comparable” to steroids in managing and reversing chronic disease, “The lack of side effects with curcumin is its greatest advantage compared with corticosteroids,” as stated by the authors in the above study out of K.G. Medical College.To give you a sense of the amount of suffering alleviated by curcumin, the following is a sample of steroid side effects listed by the UK’s National Health Services (NHS):

  • * Acne
  • * Asthma
  • * Cancer
  • * Cataracts
  • * Delayed wound healing
  • * Diabetes onset
  • * Glaucoma
  • * Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • * Increased appetite (oftentimes leading to increased weight)
  • * Indigestion
  • * Insomnia
  • * Kidney and thyroid issues
  • * Mood disturbances (including aggression, irritability, and rapid mood swings mimicking bipolar disorder)
  • * Muscle weakness
  • * Nausea
  • * Risk of infection
  • * Stunted growth in children
  • * Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • * Thinning skin (leading to easy bruising)

Ultimately, when taking into account the large amount of complications these 10 drugs could potentially put your body at risk of, it is easy to see how curcumin is superior to most medicines.

Turmeric Recipes

One of my favorite recipes for including turmeric benefits into your diet is turmeric tea “liquid gold”. Also, consuming turmeric eggs for breakfast and curried carrot soup is an excellent way to get more turmeric in your diet. Amazingly, anti-arthritic activity and a marked reduction in steroid toxicity was seen when supplementing with curcumin.Whether you use it as a supplement or a spice to flavour your food, you will certainly be satisfied with what Turmeric has to offer.

Turmeric Capsules

Along with adding turmeric into your diet you may also consider taking curcumin supplements or more common known as turmeric supplements.Naturesupplies turmeric tablets are the best quality turmeric rich in antioxidants a huge 500mg of dried turmeric root. According to a study, published in Planta Medica, taking turmeric in combination with black pepper, which contains piperine, improves turmeric absorbability throughout the entire body. They added 20mg of piperine to 2000mg Turmeric, and it increased the bioavailability of Turmeric by 154%

turmeric tablets
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