Updated: Jan 28
This versatile spice should be a staple in a healthy persons diet due to its proven health benefits. There are over 11,000 peer-reviewed articles discussing the benefits of turmeric and, more specifically, its main health promoting compound, curcumin. (1)
A member of the ginger family, (ginger is also renowned for its potent healing properties (2)) turmeric powder - the most commonly available form of turmeric - begins life as the root, or rhizome, of the Curcuma Longa plant. After it is cultivated, it is boiled, dried and then ground into the distinctive bright yellow powder we all know and love (we should, anyway). It is commonly used in curries and as a dye. We can certainly vouch for its abilities to stain lightly coloured fabrics!
Nature has been providing humans and other animals with natural remedies for millennia, and traditional eastern medicines have been perfecting their therapeutic use from before modern medicine was even around. Here are 5 of the top health benefits of using turmeric:
1. Potent Anti-Inflammatory
Chronic inflammation in the body is known to be the root cause of many modern ailments from heart disease to certain types of cancer. (3) While it is important to address the root cause of these issues we can also help the body naturally reduce and normalise levels of inflammation. (4) Turmeric, specifically curcumin, is a powerful inflammatory regulator. In fact, a study in the journal Oncogene concluded that curcumin is amongst the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds, while aspirin and ibuprofen ranked amongst the least effective. (5) Think of that the next time you reach for your box of pills!
2. Antioxidant Booster
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules which cause havoc in the body. The unstable nature of these molecules means they travel around the body creating oxidative stress which, over time, can damage the body’s cells and lead to a range of diseases and maladies. Antioxidants obtained from our body and produced naturally by the body combat this damage by binding to free radicals rendering them harmless. Curcumin is one of the most powerful antioxidants and support our body's natural antioxidative capabilities. (6)
3. Improved Brain Function
Curcumin can increase levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. (7) BDNF is a protein belonging to a family of growth hormones involved in the process of neurogenesis - the creation of neurons in the brain from neural stem cells - and the support of existing neurons. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and depression have been linked to lowered levels of BDNF so it is important to do everything we can to prevent the onset of these debilitating diseases. (8) (9)
One study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology in 2014 (10), curcumin was discovered to naturally activate the opioid system in diabetic rats. This natural process serves as the body’s in-built pain relieving system. Outside the realm of diabetic rats other studies have also shown a link between curcumin and pain relief. (11)
5. Potential Cancer Fighter
The ability to combat cancer is one of the most thoroughly researched topics in the study of curcuminoid benefits. Cancer Research UK has this to say on the matter:
“A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin does have anticancer effects. It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells.” (12)
Studies have also demonstrated curcumins ability to reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumours (13), reduce the spread of cancer and re-sensitise patients cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs (14). A vast amount of anecdotal evidence exists of people claiming that a high intake of turmeric helped cure their cancer, however not enough research has been done to substantiate these claims. Read here about other alternative cancer therapies.
How To Use Turmeric
Turmeric alone in powder form is not very bioavailable. If you were to swallow a spoonful of turmeric powder (please don’t) whatever is left after you cough and splutter it out would mostly pass through the digestive system and be excreted out. Supplementing with a high quality curcumin supplement is recommended. You can also increase the bioavailability of curcumin by ingesting it with black pepper, as piperine (a natural substance found in black pepper) has been shown to enhance the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000% (15). You should also consume these them with a dose of healthy fats such as coconut oil or olive oil to further increase their bioavailability.
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The health benefits of turmeric are well-known and scientifically proven. It is recommended to supplement with a high quality curcumin supplement and include turmeric in your cooking, along with black pepper and healthy fats to increase absorption.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.