Turmeric is a plant of the ginger family, native to southern Asia, and the yellow-colored spice is a staple ingredient in delicious curries and other popular dishes.
So what gives tasty turmeric its healing powers? According to health expert Dr. Weil, turmeric’s super secret healing powers come from a compound called curcumin. In fact, turmeric’s botanical name, Curcuma longa, even gives us a clue.
From brain protection to reducing high cholesterol, healing skin issues to fighting cancer, turmeric is clearly the wonder spice that can work miracles. In this article, learn about all the impressive health benefits that researchers have now linked to turmeric.
#1 Helps to prevent cancer (and fight it too)
Healthy Living Benefits is so pumped about turmeric that it has named the spice its “Spice of the Year.”
How many other spices do you know that can actually help to prevent cancerous cells from replicating and spreading? Turmeric contains no less than 10 anti-cancer agents that have been shown to protect your body from breast cancer, duodenum (small intestine) cancer, skin cancer and colon cancer.
Turmeric can also use its specialized proteins to prevent tumors from forming or, if they are already present, from growing any larger. Recent research results published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, can play a crucial role in cancer suppression.
#2 Bolsters your immune system response
Whether your particular health battle revolves around cancer or some other ailment, you are fully reliant on your body’s immune system function to beat back the invader. If your immune system is compromised, it will not have the strength to fight off disease on your behalf.
Turmeric can help your immune system return to full strength and power by replenishing it with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Nutrition and You cites the presence of vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, choline, vitamin E, riboflavin, iron, manganese, calcium, copper and zinc as well as potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant powers.
With the help of turmeric and curcumin, your immune system can rally to fight off minor and major health risks alike.
NOTE: Be Well recommends mixing turmeric with black pepper to increase your body’s ability to absorb its active ingredients.
#3 Is a natural anti-depressant.
We all get depressed sometimes. But if depression runs in your family, or even if it doesn’t, no one ever wants to feel depressed. And if you are experiencing a bout of depression, you want it to lift just as quickly as possible.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports on a study where curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, was administered to patients experiencing major depressive disorder. The study results were exciting and showed that curcumin can be used effectively to treat depression.
In fact, the results the researchers saw were comparable to if the participants had taken a leading anti-depressant medication that is available by prescription only! They also found that optimal results could be achieved if participants continued taking their prescription medications and also added turmeric.
#4 Is very effective for managing pain
Chronic pain is defined as any pain that continues for three to six months without resolving, according to WebMD.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), chronic pain is currently the leading reason why people are unable to work for long periods of time. It is so prevalent that chronic pain is now considered a disease in itself as well as a symptom of many health issues.
Turmeric has been shown to be an effective agent for pain management. It contains potent anti-inflammatory properties that help to combat pain deep down in the tissues and cells of the body. In fact, as Authority Nutrition points out, inflammation is actually designed to be a protective function of the immune system by isolating health risks until the immune system can neutralize them.
However, certain chronic health conditions ranging from heart disease to arthritis put the body into a continual low-level state of inflammation which never fully gets resolved. Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, has been researched and shown to deliver comparable relief to prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
#5 Protects your brain from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, has the ability to cross over the barrier that separates the brain from everything else in the body (this is called the “blood/brain barrier.”)Because of this ability, turmeric can take its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties into an area of the body where few other compounds are permitted access.
Even more pertinently, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, turmeric/curcumin has proven its ability to dismantle a certain type of protein that is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Also of interest: in Asian cultures where curry is a popular dish, the number of reported cases of Alzheimer’s is lower than in cultures where turmeric is less frequently used. While researchers do not yet know if turmeric can prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, what is known is that it appears to have the ability to delay progression of the degenerative brain disorder.
#6 Supports faster wound healing
According to the Global Healing Center, turmeric’s natural anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties help wounds heal faster with no complicating infections.
In one study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, wounds were observed to heal more quickly in laboratory rats. Injured tissues were shown to knit together more rapidly with fewer complicating factors with the help of turmeric/curcumin.
Interestingly, a Science Direct study stated that turmeric can demonstrate these positive effects on wound healing at all four stages of wound healing (hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation and remodeling).
NOTE: The Science Direct study recommends topical application of curcumin for optimal impact on wound healing.
#7 Eases indigestion and supports healthy digestive function
Perhaps there is a reason beyond the taste factor for why turmeric is such a popular spice in certain cultures. As more research is being done, scientists are realizing that turmeric can actually help to ease indigestion as well as to promote overall digestive health.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), turmeric has already been in use in traditional Ayurvedic and Asian medicine for centuries to treat issues of digestion.
Once ingested, turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, stimulates the production of bile, a naturally-occurring product of the human gallbladder. It is thought bile helps with digestion as well as lessening any bloating or gas problems.
In Germany, health professionals already have approval to recommend turmeric to treat digestive issues.
#8 Eases chronic health issues of the digestion/elimination system
Even with so many advances in medical science to date, chronic inflammatory health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis continue to plague thousands of people.
As reported by WHFoods, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the inflammation and heal wounded cells and tissues. Early studies have shown that turmeric can accomplish this and more in laboratory mice.
From this initial research, it is thought turmeric accomplishes this by both reducing the swelling caused by mucus buildup near irritated tissues and by preventing infection at the sites of irritation.
#9 Is effective in the management of arthritis
Medicine Net reports that an estimated 40 million people in the United States currently suffer from some form of arthritis, a chronic condition characterized by inflammation around major and minor joints.
Arthritis affects people of all ages and can produce symptoms like stiffness, aching, swelling, tenderness and limited mobility.
Turmeric’s twin abilities to manage chronic pain (see #4 here) and inflammation make it a natural choice for helping people manage arthritis as well. Health expert Dr. Axe states that turmeric is considered superior to many prescription-based arthritis medications because it delivers similar results without the dangerous side effects.
SAFETY NOTE: To date, research has shown that you don’t need to take in much turmeric/curcumin to receive the spice’s powerful benefits. WebMD reports that turmeric is typically safe to take EXCEPT if you are taking it in unusually large doses. In this case, you may experience some digestive upset, nausea, dizziness or diarrhea.
#10 Helps managing and potentially reverse Type 2 diabetes
Healthline reports that an estimated 13 percent of adults (ages 20+) may be suffering from some form of diabetes.
Diabetes comes in two different forms: Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1, the body cannot make insulin at all. In Type 2, the body has some deficiency in producing and/or using insulin to keep blood sugar levels regulated properly.
One National Institutes of Health (NIH) study shows that curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, can be effective in preventing Type 2 diabetes and in managing some of the major symptoms, including decreasing blood glucose levels.
Additional research has shown that turmeric could make managing diabetes easier for patients who are already living with the disease.
#11 Helps with weight management
As Green Med Info reports, turmeric is now being hailed as an aid to weight loss and weight management. It appears that turmeric is able to do this by transforming the fat itself.
The body makes more than one type of fat. Some types of fat store calories (white fat) and other types of fat burn calories (brown fat). A Science Direct research study, researchers describe witnessing how turmeric can transform white fat cells into brown fat cells using four different mechanisms.
At the same time, turmeric/curcumin brings its powerful anti-inflammatory properties to bear to combat severe weight issues such as obesity. By reducing the overall levels of inflammation in the body, the body itself becomes better able to burn away the bad fat while promoting growth of the good fat.
Turmeric’s ability to help people achieve their weight loss and weight management goals has implications far beyond simply attaining their goal body weight. For diabetics in particular, weight management is critical for effective disease management. Turmeric can also provide other support for dieters, including through its anti-depressive properties.
#12 Brightens and whitens your teeth
Mother Nature Network (MNN) reports on a lesser-known wonderful benefit of consuming turmeric: it can help to brighten up and whiten teeth. It was even used by a former Miss USA to do just this.
You may be wondering how turmeric whitens teeth when it often seems like it turns teeth yellow? The key is to use it in a toothpaste rather than eating it in a curry or other dish. Minimal contact with tooth enamel has a type of homeopathic effect to whiten instead of yellow teeth.
You can use any of these easy homemade toothpaste recipes to get the same effect – just add in a pinch of turmeric before mixing and brushing.
#13 Helps to heal and inhibit dandruff
While dandruff is actually quite common, it is one of those skin conditions that absolutely no one ever wants to develop. As the Mayo Clinic reports, dandruff is caused by nothing more than dead scalp skin flaking off.
Since inflammation is a key factor in the development of dandruff, it just makes sense that turmeric might be helpful in controlling dandruff. For some sufferers, a common head yeast can also cause dandruff symptoms.
Since turmeric is both a natural anti-inflammatory and a natural anti-fungal, it can ease scalp irritation and inflammation for both issues.
The Cosmopolitan magazine suggests mixing olive oil and turmeric together, then massaging it into your scalp. After 20 minutes, you can rinse it out and shampoo with a very gentle shampoo.
#14 Heals and protects the liver
The liver is a very important organ inside the human body. The tissues and cells of the liver can sustain damage from a number of factors, including introduced toxins like alcohol or a chronically poor diet.
But turmeric can help to heal and restore damaged liver tissues, according to Natural Society. For individuals whose liver has been damaged by disease, research with laboratory rats has also shown that curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, displays some level of regenerative ability.
The liver’s main job is to filter out toxins, and turmeric gives it a healthy boost in doing this job. In a diseased liver, turmeric can fight back against liver disease, cancer progressing and fibroids/tumors. In a healthy liver, turmeric can help make sure that inflammation and disease do not affect liver function.
#15 Reduces the risks of eating cooked meat
If you are a meat lover, you likely went into mourning when it was announced that cooking meat over high-temperatures causes the cooked meat to potentially become cancer-promoting.
Cancer.gov reports that it is the high temperature cooking methods that cause cooked meats to contain significant quantities of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These two compounds are known mutagenic agents, which means they can cause cells to mutate into cancer cells.
Mind Body Green reports that simply marinating your meats (fish, poultry, beef, etc) in turmeric and garlic can reduce the level of PAHs and HCAs by an estimated 50 percent. To get this effect, you need to use a marinade that is vinegar-based and has no added sugar.
#16 Helps you live longer and healthier
Reading through the many ways turmeric can improve your health has no doubt convinced you of turmeric’s healing abilities. But as luck would have it, that is not all that turmeric can accomplish.
Health expert Dr. Weil notes that cultures where turmeric is consumed daily, such as India and Asia, not only have fewer health issues overall but also tend to live longer. Dr. Weil cites that island of Okinawa, where the local people live 81.2 years on average. They also brew their own turmeric tea each day to drink.
To try making your own turmeric tea brew at home, you may want to watch Dr. Weil’s helpful “how to” video.
#17 Helps to prevent or reverse cataract damage
In the tradition of Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric long been recognized for its ability to prevent or treat cataracts. The development of cataracts is often associated with the natural process of aging, but it can happen to people of all ages for other reasons as well.
As Ayurvedic Cure explains, turmeric’s anti-oxidant properties can help to help detoxify the eyes and clear up vision. A good way to use turmeric to treat cataracts is to make a solution of warm water with turmeric powder and use a soft cloth to apply this mixture to the eyes.
For preventing cataracts, the best approach is to consume turmeric daily.
#18 Treats and prevents acne and skin blemishes.
If you breathed a sigh of relief when your teen acne years were finally behind you, you probably weren’t thrilled when the first adult blemishes began to appear. This is quite common. Often acne is worst in the teen years when the skin composition is changing drastically (along with just about everything else), but pores can get clogged at any age and develop into pimples.
As Home Remedies for Life explains, turmeric has lots of properties that make it the perfect choice for combatting acne. It is anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal, which means it will naturally prevent trapped bacterial, fungi or germs from causing infection on the skin.
Turmeric is also a natural anti-oxidant, which can extract toxins and free radicals from the skin and clear up damaged skin cells. And turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it can ease skin inflammation on contact and help smooth and strengthen the skin tissues.
For urgent treatment needs, you can mix turmeric with coconut oil or water and apply as a paste directly to the affected areas. For ongoing use, you can simply add a pinch of turmeric to your regular skin cleanser and continue using it as before.
#19 Is as heart-healthy as it gets
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reports turmeric can reduce the likelihood that a heart bypass patient may have a recurrence of their heart disease.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra states that turmeric can help to stabilize blood pressure and lower high blood pressure, reduce heart inflammation and keep blood from clotting and causing a stroke.
#20 Eases chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a chronic skin condition, health expert Dr. Mercola recommends that you give turmeric a try.
The spice’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties can ease the irritation and inflammation, while the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties can go to work on the underlying cause of the skin irritation.
For skin-related issues, it is recommended to use turmeric daily for at least six weeks in a topical cream, ointment or lotion form.
Today, modern medicine has developed many more prescription medications than have ever been available to treat disease in the past. However, in many cases, far too little is known about these medications’ long-term effects. As well, some of these medications can have difficult side effects that can require their own treatments to manage.
Contrast this with turmeric, which is a naturally-occurring spice that has already enjoyed many centuries of therapeutic use (as well as delicious cooking). As Western medicine begins to become more open to integrating natural remedies in with other treatments, patients now have more options to heal and stay well with fewer side effects.
Have you used turmeric or curcumin in any form and experienced positive health benefits from it? If so, we would love to hear and share your experiences! Please feel free to post in the comments section here so everyone can learn and enjoy.