Turmeric (scientifically known as Curcuma longa) is one of the most well-known and widely used plants of the ginger family. Native to the subtropical and tropical regions of India, Pakistan, Thailand, Peru, and Jamaica, turmeric is one of the symbolic spices of the East – the unmistakable golden powder sometimes referred in Sanskrit as “Gauri,” meaning “The One Whose Face if Light and Shining.”
Since ancient times, turmeric has been a staple component of Ayurvedic healing doctrines and used to treat countless health conditions ranging from scorpion stings to multiple sclerosis and dozens of other life-threatening conditions (1). Today, large-scale scientific studies indicate that all of these could be absolutely valid even from the most skeptical of viewpoints.
For instance, the World Health Organization (2) and thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies highlight a whole bunch of stupendous properties of turmeric and curcumin, its main active component:
- Fights inflammation (often on a par with conventional NSAIDs or even better than them)
- Helps to heal gastrointestinal ulcers and fight dyspepsia
- Has anticoagulant and antiplatelet action
- Improves glucose metabolism and helps to control diabetes
- Kills cancer cells and prevents their recurrent growth
In other words, it’s pretty much the closest thing to a universal cure for all ills in the world of alternative and traditional healing. If this sounds like a bold statement, just keep reading to learn the tasty details!
Top 10 Scientifically confirmed turmeric health benefits
The blood-thinning action of turmeric is a scientifically confirmed fact since the mid-eighties when a study (3) revealed that this plant could even be more effective than such conventional drugs as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). Today, curcumin-loaded nanoparticles (4) are used to prevent thrombosis and accelerate recovery after cardiac stent implantation. Since conventional anticoagulants (warfarin, aspirin, clopidogrel) come along with a huge list of side effects, sticking whenever possible to the natural power of turmeric could be a wise approach.
Recent studies (5) indicate that curcumin-loaded nanoparticles significantly reduce oxidative stress (meaning curcumin has powerful antioxidant properties) and down-regulate apoptotic enzymes, thus inhibiting cellular death in cases of acute kidney injury. In other words, spicing up your food with curcumin could be extremely beneficial in cases of chronic and acute kidney injury, pyelonephritis, glomerulonephritis, and any other kind of kidney condition with impaired function and morphological damage to the kidney tissues (6).
One of the most well-researched aspects of turmeric and its main polyphenol, curcumin, is their anti-inflammatory effect. Back in 2004, a study (7) revealed that curcumin is far more effective than aspirin and ibuprofen in inhibiting inflammation, and the possible mechanisms behind this power have been studied ever since. Today, we know that curcumin can inhibit the production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) (8), one of the major inflammation factors in ALL diseases. Having virtually no side effects, this makes turmeric a great treatment for all kinds of inflammations and injuries imaginable.
Arthritis is a complex chronic condition based on inflammation, autoimmune damage, and degenerative processes: curcumin takes care of all these components. Studies indicate that it could be even far more effective (9) treatment that diclofenac sodium, one of the most common conventional drugs for arthritis. Moreover, curcumin is also able to slow down the development of osteoarthritis (10) as well, making it a perfect therapy for two of the most common joint conditions worldwide.
Autoimmune diseases often sound like a life sentence in terms of conventional treatment, forcing the patients to take heavy medications on a daily basis to survive – and leading to nasty side effects without mercy. Curcumin is able to inhibit antibody-antigen interaction (11) – the basis of all autoimmune disorders. Further studies are needed, but there is already some solid evidence on the potential effectiveness of curcumin for autoimmune (type 1) diabetes (12), lupus (13), scleroderma (14), some of the most common autoimmune processes worldwide.
Recent studies (15) indicate that curcumin effectively protects the axons (nerve fibers) from nitric oxide-mediated damage, making it an extremely promising compound for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
At the time being, curcumin is one of the most powerful natural cancer-killers known to science. Most authorities (including the Cancer Research UK organization (16)) recommend it as a complementary therapy and highlight that conventional treatment is still needed, though. There is a lot of evidence pointing to curcumin’s effectiveness in breast cancer (17), prostate cancer (18), and colorectal cancer (19).
Current studies indicate that curcumin could be a huge help in the treatment of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes thanks to its double action:
- It improves insulin sensitivity (20)
- Fights local inflammation (obesity is marked by low-grade metabolic inflammation (21))
So just by spicing up your meals with turmeric, you’re seriously increasing your chances to slim down effectively and keep excess weight at bay.
Depression has long become a worldwide epidemic, and all global health authorities recommend sticking to non-pharmacological treatment for as long as possible due to the serious side effects of conventional antidepressant drugs. The good news is that emerging evidence shows curcumin is basically just as effective as conventional medications (fluoxetine, for example (22)) for the treatment of major depressive disorder, but coming with zero side effects, risk of addiction, or development of tolerance.
Curcumin has huge potential in the field of dermatology as well, both in terms of topical application and oral intake. For example, a few years ago a study (23) confirmed the ability of curcumin to significantly slow down the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, one of the major causes of acne. Other studies reported similar beneficial effects in cases of psoriasis (24), radiation dermatitis (25), and for skin regeneration in general (26).
If you were to choose just one natural ingredient to take on a daily basis for maximum effect, going with turmeric would be your wisest choice. This delicious spice is one of Mother Nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant masterpieces, bringing you an immense set of benefits ranging from nerve fiber protection to skin regeneration: if that’s NOT something fabulous, I really don’t know what is.
Spice your meals up and stay healthy: with turmeric as your ally, this is much easier than you think!