Turmeric comes from the root of a flowering plant called curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. It is grown extensively in India, and has been used for centuries as both a spice and a medicinal herb. In raw form, turmeric looks a little like a ginger root, but thinner and with a more intense yellow colour. Usually, it’s found powdered in spice form. It has been a mainstay of Ayurvedic healing practices in India for centuries and used to treat digestive issues, skin problems, and general aches and pains.
As with all traditional medicinal practices, turmeric has seen a rise in scientific testing in recent years, with research and studies to confirm the claims that turmeric contains medicinal compounds. These compounds are called curcuminoids, with the most widely researched one being called curcumin. Curcumin is the compound which gives turmeric its distinct earthy flavour and yellow colour.
It is also the most active compound in turmeric and believed to hold powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, it also has a poor bioavailability, but it can be improved by being consumed alongside black pepper. Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which can increase the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by up to 2000%! (G et al., 1998)
This is a bonus, because there are so many health benefits to curcumin that you definitely don’t want to miss out on!
So what are the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin?
May help to reduce inflammation: Inflammation is good for the body. It helps to fight infection, and has a role in repairing damage done to our tissues, and acts as a warning system for infection. However, when inflammation becomes chronic it can begin to attack the body’s own healthy tissue, which has been linked to the onset or worsening of several conditions including metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. It is also believed that inflammation can play a key role in the development of heart disease. Turmeric and curcumin have proven effects on helping to reduce inflammation in the body, although it is worth noting that to have a medicinal effect on inflammation, rather than a supporting effect, the dose of curcumin would need to be very high (Marchio et al., 2019).
Turmeric holds antioxidant properties: You might have heard of free radicals - these are highly reactive molecules which tend to react with organic substances such as DNA and proteins. This reaction causes oxidative damage, which is believed to be one of the factors behind the ageing process and other diseases. Turmeric, particularly curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant which has the ability to protect the body from free radicals (Vp and Ar, 2007). Some studies have even suggested that curcumin can help to stimulate other antioxidants into action against the free radicals, although further research on this is needed (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2020).
May help to protect and support brain health: Let’s talk about neurons. Neurons use chemical and electrical signals to send messages between different parts of the brain, and also into our nervous system. They are capable of forming new connections even into adulthood, and it is believed that they can even begin to multiply and grow in certain parts of the brain. One of the main reasons for this is a gene called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is responsible for making the very specific protein which encourages and promotes the life of neurons. Some studies have discovered that curcumin may have a positive impact on the production of BDNF and increase its levels within the brain. This means that curcumin may well be effective in delaying or even reversing the onset of many brain-related conditions, including those brought on by age. More studies are needed to confirm both this and curcumin’s role in memory and learning (Dong et al., 2012) It is also believed that curcumin can have an impact on the areas of the brain responsible for food and drink consumption, and our overall body weight. (Miranda et al., 2019)
May help to prevent and reverse heart disease: Worldwide, heart disease is the leading cause of death. (World Health Organization, 2018). It is believed that curcumin may have properties which can help to reverse several of the steps of heart disease. It can do this by supporting and improving the function of the tissue which lines our blood vessels, the endothelium. When your endothelium is damaged or not working properly, it can’t regulate your blood pressure or manage clotting, which are both factors in the development of heart disease. The fact that curcumin may help to prevent oxidative stress and holds anti-inflammatory properties is also key when discussing heart disease. These are both risk factors which may be lowered by the active properties of curcumin, which can lower the risk of heart disease and heart attacks (Santos-Parker et al., 2017). There are also signs that turmeric holds properties which can reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, which is another factor of heart disease. (Qin et al., 2017)
May be beneficial in cancer treatment: Cancer is a disease which occurs when uncontrolled and uncharacteristic cell growth occurs in your body. It has many different forms, some of which appear to be affected by curcumin. Certain studies have shown curcumin may contribute to the death of cancerous cells within the body, reduce the growth of new blood vessels inside tumours, and reduce the spread of cancer. There is also evidence to suggest that regular supplementation with curcumin may help to prevent certain cancers from developing altogether, especially in the digestive tracts. However, more research is needed, and turmeric should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. (Giordano and Tommonaro, 2019)
May help to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and, presently, there is no cure. Treatment does exist for some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but preventing the onset of the disease is important, and this is where curcumin might be important. Some of the causes of Alzheimer’s include inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which curcumin is known for. However, research has shown that it might also be able to clear amyloid plaques. These are a tangle of proteins which build up in the brain. If further studies show that curcumin can indeed break down these plaques, then it might also be able to reverse or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease (Zhang et al., 2006)
May help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis: Arthritis is a common condition which has several different forms - most of which are characterised by inflammation of the joints. Curcumin, a compound with recognised anti-inflammatory properties, has been shown to reduce various symptoms and pain markers associated with the condition (Belcaro et al., 2010)
May help to combat depression: Research has shown that curcumin may be beneficial in treating the symptoms of depression, as well as boosting BDNF - which is heavily linked to the onset of depression. It might also have an effect on the body’s production of both dopamine and serotonin, which can further reduce the symptoms of depression in the brain (Ramaholimihaso, Bouazzaoui and Kaladjian, 2020).
May be useful in fighting obesity: Turmeric and curcumin may help to fight the inflammatory pathway linked to obesity. Research has also shown that regular supplementation with turmeric may help to regulate body fat. (Shao et al., 2012)
Turmeric may help with diabetes management: Turmeric may be able to reverse some of the effects of diabetes in the body by playing a role in the ways in which we metabolise blood sugar, and may also be a powerful antidiabetic, although more research is needed in this area. (Maithili Karpaga Selvi et al., 2014)
Turmeric holds antibacterial and antifungal properties: Turmeric has been shown to hold both antibacterial and antifungal properties, meaning that it can help to reduce the growth of bacteria which can cause disease, may support wound healing, and also disrupt fungal cell membranes to prevent fungal growth. In fact, all eight of the components which make up turmeric have been shown to have antifungal properties (Moghadamtousi et al., 2014)
It may help to reduce muscle damage: Studies have shown that turmeric supplementation can help to reduce the damage done to muscles during exercise. Whilst further studies are being conducted in this area, turmeric extracts and supplements are thought to hold beneficial properties for athletes, especially regarding lowering levels of inflammation, preventing oxidative stress and reducing muscle damage (Delecroix et al., 2017). This is why we add turmeric extract with 95% curcuminoids to our PERFORM protein powder, to help you recover faster!
Turmeric extract has been shown to be safe for consumption at higher levels, including up to 12g per day, although I wouldn’t recommend grabbing a jar from your spice rack and a spoon! However, higher supplementation with turmeric may cause initial digestive side effects such as nausea or stomach pain (Qin et al., 2017).
Aside from adding a spoon or two of turmeric to your curries, soups and stews, how can you get turmeric in your diet? Well, some people take turmeric extract in capsules, but there is a tastier option! It’s our MAGIC turmeric latte - it’s a deliciously creamy latte with coconut milk and ceylon cinnamon. Not only that, there’s added black pepper to help with the absorption of curcumin, and even Lion’s Mane mushroom for an extra boost of brain power. It’s comforting, restorative, and full of amazing benefits for your health and wellbeing.
Marchio, P., Guerra-Ojeda, S., Vila, J.M., Aldasoro, M., Victor, V.M. and Mauricio, M.D. (2019). Targeting Early Atherosclerosis: A Focus on Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2019, pp.1–32. doi:10.1155/2019/8563845.
G, S., D, J., T, J., M, M., R, R. and Ps, S. (1998). Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers. [online] Planta medica. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/.
Sharifi-Rad, J., Rayess, Y.E., Rizk, A.A., Sadaka, C., Zgheib, R., Zam, W., Sestito, S., Rapposelli, S., Neffe-Skocińska, K., Zielińska, D., Salehi, B., Setzer, W.N., Dosoky, N.S., Taheri, Y., El Beyrouthy, M., Martorell, M., Ostrander, E.A., Suleria, H.A.R., Cho, W.C. and Maroyi, A. (2020). Turmeric and Its Major Compound Curcumin on Health: Bioactive Effects and Safety Profiles for Food, Pharmaceutical, Biotechnological and Medicinal Applications. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.01021.
Miranda, M., Morici, J.F., Zanoni, M.B. and Bekinschtein, P. (2019). Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13. doi:10.3389/fncel.2019.00363.
Ng, T., Ho, C., Tam, W., Kua, E. and Ho, R. (2019). Decreased Serum Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Levels in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(2), p.257. doi:10.3390/ijms20020257.
Dong, S., Zeng, Q., Mitchell, E.S., Xiu, J., Duan, Y., Li, C., Tiwari, J.K., Hu, Y., Cao, X. and Zhao, Z. (2012). Curcumin Enhances Neurogenesis and Cognition in Aged Rats: Implications for Transcriptional Interactions Related to Growth and Synaptic Plasticity. PLoS ONE, 7(2), p.e31211. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031211.
Santos-Parker, J.R., Strahler, T.R., Bassett, C.J., Bispham, N.Z., Chonchol, M.B. and Seals, D.R. (2017). Curcumin supplementation improves vascular endothelial function in healthy middle-aged and older adults by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and reducing oxidative stress. Aging, 9(1), pp.187–208. doi:10.18632/aging.101149.
Wongcharoen, W., Jai-aue, S., Phrommintikul, A., Nawarawong, W., Woragidpoonpol, S., Tepsuwan, T., Sukonthasarn, A., Apaijai, N. and Chattipakorn, N. (2012). Effects of Curcuminoids on Frequency of Acute Myocardial Infarction After Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting. The American Journal of Cardiology, [online] 110(1), pp.40–44. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.02.043.
Zhang, L., Fiala, M., Cashman, J., Sayre, J., Espinosa, A., Mahanian, M., Zaghi, J., Badmaev, V., Graves, M.C., Bernard, G. and Rosenthal, M. (2006). Curcuminoids enhance amyloid-β uptake by macrophages of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 10(1), pp.1–7. doi:10.3233/jad-2006-10101.
Belcaro, G., Cesarone, M.R., Dugall, M., Pellegrini, L., Ledda, A., Grossi, M.G., Togni, S. and Appendino, G. (2010). Product-evaluation registry of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, for the complementary management of osteoarthritis. Panminerva Medica, [online] 52(2 Suppl 1), pp.55–62. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20657536/.
Ramaholimihaso, T., Bouazzaoui, F. and Kaladjian, A. (2020). Curcumin in Depression: Potential Mechanisms of Action and Current Evidence—A Narrative Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.572533.
Shao, W., Yu, Z., Chiang, Y., Yang, Y., Chai, T., Foltz, W., Lu, H., Fantus, I.G. and Jin, T. (2012). Curcumin Prevents High Fat Diet Induced Insulin Resistance and Obesity via Attenuating Lipogenesis in Liver and Inflammatory Pathway in Adipocytes. PLoS ONE, 7(1), p.e28784. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028784.
Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H. and Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Journal, [online] 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0293-y.
Maithili Karpaga Selvi, N., Sridhar, M.G., Swaminathan, R.P. and Sripradha, R. (2014). Efficacy of Turmeric as Adjuvant Therapy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 30(2), pp.180–186. doi:10.1007/s12291-014-0436-2.
Moghadamtousi, S.Z., Kadir, H.A., Hassandarvish, P., Tajik, H., Abubakar, S. and Zandi, K. (2014). A review on antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity of curcumin. BioMed research international, [online] 2014, p.186864. doi:10.1155/2014/186864.