9 Proven Turmeric Benefits for Skin, Arthritis, Diabetes & More
9 Proven Turmeric Benefits for Skin, Arthritis, Diabetes & More
Used as a spice for thousands of years, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family. It grows throughout India and Asia and is cultivated in other warm parts of the world.
Sometimes called Indian Saffron or Golden Spice, turmeric gets its beautiful yellow pigment from its curcuminoids, and has been used as a dye for centuries.
Since ancient times, it has been favoured medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine for purifying the blood, boosting immunity, increasing energy, easing inflamed joints, relieving congestion, alleviating skin conditions such as eczema, and healing wounds.
Curcumin is the wonder compound and primary active ingredient in turmeric, and it’s this antioxidant-rich polyphenol that possesses most of the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic and immune-boosting properties.
The Therapeutic Effects of Curcumin
Over the last quarter of a century, extensive research has been carried out into the therapeutic effects of curcumin.
Promising results have been noted in patients with all manner of inflammatory diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, gastric inflammation, and psoriasis. The list is endless.
Although it is not fully understood how curcumin works, its multiple and diverse effects appear to be due to its ability to modulate several signalling molecules.
These affect inflammatory responses, programmed cell death and metabolic processes including insulin activity, amongst other things.
Common to all these studies is the safety and non-toxicity of curcumin in doses of up to 8g per day.
Sadly, poor bioavailability has been a major limitation in considering curcumin as a practical treatment for various diseases, but clinical trials continue.
When it comes to nutritional supplements, while poor absorption and less benefit is a significant stumbling block, there are some supplements clinically proven to have superior absorption. More on that later.
Without further ado, here are nine meaningful benefits of turmeric backed by scientific evidence. They should leave you in no doubt about why turmeric has been used in traditional medicine for millennia.
1) Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Properties, Arthritic Pain Reduction
It is now becoming a commonly accepted view that inflammation is at the root of most chronic illness including Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease.
Turmeric (or, more accurately, curcumin) has significant anti-inflammatory capabilities. In fact, some clinical trials have matched curcumin’s potency and effectiveness to corticosteroid and NSAID medications, with none of the side effects.
In a nutshell, curcumin inhibits inflammatory molecules, reducing inflammation. It can also suppress Nuclear Factor-kappaB, a transcription factor that switches genes on or off by binding to nearby DNA.
NF-kappaB has been reported to be active in many types of cancer and other chronic diseases.
If you have arthritis, you may find it interesting to know that there is some clinical research supporting curcumin supplementation for the significant long-term relief of joint pain and inflammation.
It has also demonstrated the capacity to reduce joint pain and swelling in those with active rheumatoid arthritis more effectively than NSAID medication.
2) Immense Antioxidant Prowess
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and can effectively fight free radical damage. Lowering oxidative stress reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system and protects against chronic disease.
Curcumin also has the power to up-regulate our innate antioxidant proficiency and can protect our mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells that create energy and enable us to function on every level.
By increasing mitochondrial antioxidant, Curcumin can also help to safeguard mitochondria from damage under hyperglycaemic conditions (raised blood sugar).
3) Stimulates Liver Function, Aids Detoxification
Xenobiotic dietary and environmental substances, as well as prescription medication, can build up in our systems causing high toxicity, making us more prone to diseases including cancer.
Consuming turmeric has been shown to boost liver function, enabling it to process and eliminate these xenobiotic substances more effectively. This lessens our exposure to harmful toxins and reduces our susceptibility to inflammation and disease.
It may also protect your liver from harm if you take strong medication for chronic diseases such as diabetes.
4) Mood-Boosting, Potential to Alleviate Depression
Although more research is needed, curcumin is being explored as a potential treatment for depression as it can boost serotonin and dopamine.
Reduced hippocampal volume has been observed in those suffering from major depression. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can reduce in the hippocampus under stress, and the lack of this protein is linked to symptoms of depression.
Curcumin has shown the ability to boost BDNF, protecting nerve tissue in the brain and improving brain signalling, particularly in the frontal cortex and hippocampal regions of the brain.
In a 2014 study with 60 participants, curcumin was found to be as effective as the common antidepressant drug Fluoxetine in alleviating the symptoms of depression at the six-week mark. It was also very well tolerated.
On the back of this, researchers are suggesting that curcumin could be an effective and safe therapy for those with mild depression.
5) May Protect Against Alzheimer’s, Improve Cognitive Function
Because curcumin is lipophilic, meaning it combines with and dissolves in lipids or fats, it can cross the blood-brain barrier.
With its fantastic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, once inside the brain, it can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and impair cognitive function.
While human trials have been inconclusive, curcumin has shown some promise in animal trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, so more research is needed.
6) Promotes Gut Health, Aids Digestion
Aside from its aromatic flavour, turmeric has been used in curries for centuries because it aids digestion.
In part because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can undoubtedly calm the digestive system, and some studies have supported its use in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.
Curcumin is also being studied to determine if it has the potential to alleviate the symptoms of IBS.
7) Could Lower Heart Disease Risk
Although research is preliminary, it has been proposed that curcumin may be able to help prevent ventricular arrhythmias and heart attack, as well as abnormal enlargement or thickening of the heart, and heart failure.
Blood clotting or thrombus can lead to heart attack and stroke. Clots are formed by platelet aggregation or the clumping together of platelets in the blood, and curcumin from turmeric has anti-platelet action.
Curcumin’s ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation can also help to prevent poor heart health. In a small trial with 36 postmenopausal women over eight weeks, it was indicated that curcumin supplementation is as effective as aerobic exercise for potentially improving age-related decline in endothelial function.
8) May Protect Against Cancer
Curcumin extracted from turmeric shows promise in the realms of natural cancer treatment, particularly with breast, bowel, stomach, skin, pancreatic and prostate cancer and multiple myeloma.
Apparently, due to its multiple effects, it has the potential to inhibit cancer progression and development by targeting numerous steps in the formation of tumours.
It has both a blocking and suppressive agent and can repress malignant cell proliferation.
9) Protects the Skin, Promotes a Healthy Glow
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to bring lustre and glow back to the skin, and relieve conditions such as eczema.
Both orally and topically, curcumin has been shown to relieve acute psoriasis symptoms. What’s more, it can heal wounds by encouraging tissue granulation and enhancing collagen production.
Turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties directly protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by environmental stress and toxins, encouraging a healthy, more youthful glow.
Why is Turmeric So Difficult to Absorb?
Turmeric and its most active component curcumin are notoriously hard to absorb. Some estimates suggest that just 1-2% of ingested polyphenols in 95% curcuminoid extract are ever absorbed.
This is mainly because curcumin dissolves in fat and our digestive systems have a more watery environment. It is barely soluble in the acidic stomach environment and is poorly absorbed through the gut.
The small part that is absorbed is rapidly metabolised and broken down, resulting in low bioavailability.
When using turmeric in cooking, eating fat with your meal, and cooking it in coconut oil or ghee, for example, will enhance its absorbability. Adding black pepper also helps bioavailability, as this has been shown to increase the uptake of curcumin by slowing down its metabolism in the liver.
However, if you wish to get the most out of turmeric, taking it in supplement form is best.
Unfortunately, due to its low bioavailability, not all turmeric supplements are created equal when it comes to absorption and getting maximum healing benefits.
A Superior Turmeric Supplement
American company Vibrant Health have created a turmeric supplement that is clinically proven to be highly absorbable.
Maximized Turmeric 46x contains CurcuWIN®, a novel water-soluble curcumin formulation. It contains turmeric extract 20-28%, and a hydrophilic carrier 63-75% to enhance bioavailability.
In a double-blind study comparison, CurcuWIN® proved to be 46x more absorbable than a 95% curcuminoid extract.
CurcuWIN™’s UltraSOL™ technology works by increasing the solubility of standard curcumin by dispersing a highly purified powder in a water-soluble carrier, along with other encapsulating agents.
So, with all its amazing technology and high strength bioavailability, here at Water for Health, we wholeheartedly believe that Maximized Turmeric 46x is the number one choice of turmeric supplement.
It is a clean product, free from dairy, soy, gluten and GMOs and 100% plant-based. It also contains BioPerine (made from piperine) for improved absorption.
As 95% curcuminoid extract is well known for low absorption rates, and most turmeric supplements use a standardised 95% extract, the benefits of switching to Maximized Turmeric 46x are obvious.
After all, why buy an expensive natural supplement if your body fails to properly absorb it?
This article was written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, a Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.