Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and is known for its vibrant yellow colour. It has been a natural part of the Asian diet for years, and...
Turmeric is good for you!

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and is known for its vibrant yellow colour. It has been a natural part of the Asian diet for years, and is often thought to be one of the reasons for their youthful features and longevity. This article will cover the health benefits of turmeric, and how it behaves in the body.

 

Phenolic compounds in turmeric

As with most herbs, the health benefits of turmeric originate from the phenolic compounds found in them. Turmeric is the only source of group of phenolic compounds called curcuminoids. The most abundant curcuminoid found in turmeric is curcumin (which can make up to 75% of all curcuminoid compounds). It is curcumin which has been most researched, and is thought to be the primary source of the benefits of turmeric, although other curcuminoids are likely to be beneficial too.

 

Turmeric & Oxidative Stress

Aside from antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, your body protects itself from free radicals using enzymes, one in particular being superoxide dismutase. The role of this enzyme is to protect the cell from damage from a radical called superoxide, which is a by-product of energy production in the cell. Consumption of curcumin can increase the production of this enzyme in the body, which will offer the body greater protection from this oxidative species. This shows that turmeric can increase the activity of our natural antioxidant fighting potential and protect the body from oxidative damage.

Superoxide is an incredibly reactive species, and can damage DNA and other parts of the cell. It has been linked to the ageing process, and it is possible that prolonged damage to the cells from this molecule is thought to be a main cause for the ageing process.

Curcumin itself is also a powerful antioxidant, and so as well as increasing the radical neutralising enzymes, it will also directly react with radicals, which will reduce the oxidative stress on the body even further.

 

Turmeric as an anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is a natural process, but can lead to a number of ailments from mild discomfort to cancer development if it is prolonged. Turmeric has long been known to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, and this benefit is again due to curcumin, which inhibits the pro-inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and lipoxygenase (LOX). By reducing the activity of these enzymes consumption of turmeric can lower the risk of inflammatory disorders developing. These findings have been replicated over many studies which solidifies the evidence.

 

Turmeric & stomach health

One of the primary causes of stomach ulcers the stomach is a pathogenic bacteria called H.pylori, which inhabits the stomach wall. This bacteria is particularly hard to eradicate from the body, and is likely to populate up to 50% of the UK population. In mice it has been shown that curcumin had antimicrobial activity against H.pylori which inhabited the stomach of the mice. Turmeric was not able to eliminate the bacteria, but it did show an ability to control its population, and minimise the inflammation of the stomach.

 

Turmeric & cancer

Turmeric can reduce the risk of cancer in two ways. The first is by reducing the oxidative stress on the body (as explained above). Oxidative stress is known to increase the risk of developing cancer, as oxidative damage to DNA can destroy genes and prevent their expression. This can lead to irregular cell function, which can result in cancer cell development. The second, is that curcumin can induce apoptosis (cell death) in developed cancer cells. This induced cell death has been observed at low concentrations, and leukemia cells have had apoptosis induced with concentrations of curcumin as low as 3.5 μg/ml. This demonstrates a very powerful ability to prevent cancer development and progression.

 

Toxicity

Turmeric has been part of the Asian diet for hundreds of years and no ill effects have been recorded. In supplement form dosages of up to 8g daily for several months have also been consumed with no side effects. This shows that turmeric is not toxic, even at high dosages for prolonged periods of time. There is also nothing to suggest that more than 8g a day would have any ill effect, although to be honest I don’t see why you would want to consume more than 8g.

 

How to get turmeric into your diet?

Short of eating curry everyday the best way to get turmeric into your diet is by taking a turmeric supplement. Turmeric supplements can be found in 2 ways, either as pure turmeric capsules, or as an extract of turmeric (curcumin). There are pros and cons to each, but you need to understand the differences and how they apply to your needs. We were getting quite a few emails about the differences, so I wrote an article on them here – its worth a read! Make sure you read the bottle of whatever you are planning on buying, I’ve seen a number of companies call their products ‘curcumin’ when in fact its turmeric in the bottle.

Summary

Turmeric is the only source of a nutrient called curcumin. This compound can reduce oxidative stress on the body, reduce inflammation and prevent the development of cancer. It has no known toxic levels, and has been part of the Asian diet for many hundreds of years, showing that it is very safe to consume. The best way to get a regular supply of turmeric in your diet is to take it in a supplement form.

 


 

References

Karina Reyes-Gordilloa, José Segoviab, Mineko Shibayamac, Paula Vergarab, Mario G. Morenoa, Pablo Muriela,. (2007). Curcumin protects against acute liver damage in the rat by inhibiting NF-κB, proinflammatory cytokines production and oxidative stress. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – General Subjects. 1770 (6), 989–996.

 

A.Ch. Pulla Reddy, Belur R. Lokesh. (1994). Alterations in lipid peroxides in rat liver by dietary n-3 fatty acids: modulation of antioxidant enzymes by curcumin, eugenol, and vitamin E. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 5 (4), 181–188

 

Min-Liang Kuo, a, Tze-Sing Huangb, Jen-Kun Linc. (1996). Curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-tumor promoter, induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular Basis of Disease. 1317 (2), 95–100.

 

Mohammad Iqbal1, Som Datta Sharma2, Yasumasa Okazaki1, Masayoshi Fujisawa1, Shigeru Okada1. (2003).Dietary Supplementation of Curcumin Enhances Antioxidant and Phase II Metabolizing Enzymes in ddY Male Mice: Possible Role in Protection against Chemical Carcinogenesis and Toxicity. Pharmacology & Toxicology. 92 (1), 33–38.
 
Menon VP, Sudheer AR. (2007). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol.595 (1), 105-25.
 
Chainani-Wu N. (2003). Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). J Altern Complement Med. 9 (1), 161-8.

 

Sally K. Nelsona, b, Swapan K. Bosea, Gary K. Grunwaldc, Paul Myhilld, Joe M. McCord. (2006). The induction of human superoxidedismutase and catalase in vivo: A fundamentally new approach to antioxidant therapy. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 40 (2), 341–347.

 

Ronita De, Parag Kundu, Snehasikta Swarnakar, T. Ramamurthy1, Abhijit Chowdhury, G. Balakrish Nair and Asish K. Mukhopadhyay. (2009). Antimicrobial Activity of Curcumin against Helicobacter pylori Isolates from India and during Infections in Mice. Antimicrobal agents and chemotherapy. 53 (4), 1592-1597.

I hope you enjoy the site, and like what we have worked hard to create, any feedback is very much welcome, after all this site is for you! Graduate of Nutrition & Food Science (Bsc) at Reading Uni.
  • Bubbles

    Another interesting article. Is it OK to cook with turmeric instead of taking it in capsule form? Does it damage the turmeric in anyway?

    • Morg

      Sure is! Not sure about high heat, as in frying it. But if you mix it into currys and soups etc it will be fine 🙂

    • Craig

      Turmeric is pretty resilient so cooking with it is no problem.

      The benefit of capsules is you know how much you are getting and can take them everyday without eating curries all the time 😛

      • Bubbles

        Yeh I might get some of that Geco Supplements stuff, I don’t eat much curry/foods that require turmeric!

        • Craig

          Nice idea,

          I’ve put a sprinkle of turmeric in home-made burgers and things in the past (especially when I damaged my knee and it was inflamed). It wasn’t a lot, but it didn’t change the taste at all. I randomly put it in a lot of meals, but in no large quantity to avoid tainting the taste of the food. It will however, make a lot of food yellow with a very small amount!

          • Bubbles

            I like yellow food! 😀

  • Theteacher

    I use a nutri bulett to make healthy fruitand veg smoothies and just put all the spices in ginger turmeric cinnamon with some sprouted seeds etc then drink it..all your vits and herbs in one hit yummy and healthy !

    • Craig

      I bet that has a very strong taste! Haha, it certainly will be full of nutrients, but with all those herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and sprouted seeds I’m not sure I could drink it! 😀

  • Penelope Cramphorn

    Hi, Is it all right to use turmeric powder, or should it be the fresh turmeric? I have severe osteoathritis, and have been told turmeric helps. Thanks.

    • By fresh turmeric, I assume you mean whole root – this will contains water, and so less active ingredient (curcumin). Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it won’t be as effective. Personally, I’ve not heard of whole turmeric root root being effective against osteoathritis.

      Turmeric powder is the same thing, but dehydrated, and turned into a powder. The removal of water concentrates the active ingredient to some extent. I have heard reports of this being useful for osteoathritis.

      The 3rd option is to go with a turmeric extract, which will contains much more of the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin, which will help your osteoathritis.

      Depending on the severity of your osteoathritis, you might want to start with turmeric powder (which is cheaper than an extract, and more natural) and see if that helps. You can get this is a supplement form, or in a powder. I’ve heard of some people sprinkling turmeric powder in a glass of milk, which will be the cheapest way of getting turmeric in you.

      If you find this doesn’t work, move onto a turmeric extract and see how you get on. If your osteoathritis is really bad, you might want to go straight to an extract though. You can read more about the differences between an extract and root powder here: http://www.thehealthcloud.co.uk/understanding-turmeric-supplements/

      Hope this helps.

The Health Cloud was created in December 2011 by Craig and Morg who have been friends since high school. Our focus is to educate our readers with unbiased health articles and on the side we run our own online health shop. This website is for you, so drop us a comment or send us a tweet, we always take the time to reply!