10 Benefi ts of Turmeric and Curcumin
The popular curry spice and its active ingredient ( curcumin) off er a wide array of uses for health and wellness
From improved memory to healthier skin, this versatile herb does it all.
The spice that gives curry and mustard their bright yellow colors, turmeric has become a leading herbal ingredient in supplements, drinks, and foods because it promises a mindboggling array of health benefi ts. And the evidence from studies, with turmeric or its bioactive extract, curcumin, continues to grow. Although the way the herb works is not fully understood, it’s known to be an anti- infl ammatory and antioxidant, reducing risk for some cancers and enhancing many aspects of health. Here are a few of its documented uses:
Improved Memory. For years, it’s been suggested that eating lots of turmeric is a reason why seniors in India have much lower rates of Alzheimer’s than Americans. Now, a study at the University of California Los Angeles may help to explain the link. Among 40 people ages 50– 90, those who took a curcumin supplement daily improved their memory, according to standard tests, by 28 percent after 18 months.
➋ A Stronger Heart. A review of studies with a total of 649 patients, published in Nutrition Journal, found that both turmeric and curcumin supplements could enhance heart health by reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and
lowering triglycerides among people at risk for heart disease. Levels of “good” HDL cholesterol did not change. In earlier animal research, curcumin somewhat reversed enlarged hearts, reduced scar tissue, and improved heart function.
➌ Healthier Skin. Treating burns and scalds with a topical curcumin gel enhanced healing, reduced pain and infl ammation, and resulted in less or no scarring, in a study at the David Geff en School of Medicine in Los Angeles. In animal research, both topical and oral curcumin shows a protective eff ect against the most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. Many skincare products contain turmeric or curcumin to treat blemishes and soothe irritation. The herb is also taken as a therapy for eczema and psoriasis by natural practitioners.
➍ Better Digestion. Turmeric is a traditional remedy for indigestion, and studies have found it can help heal or prevent digestive disorders. British researchers found that a turmeric extract, taken daily for eight weeks, reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. In Japan, adding curcumin to prescription medications for ulcerative colitis improved results. Adding turmeric to food can also reduce risk for bacterial stomach infections.
➎ Less Dry Eye. A review of animal, lab, and human research, published in the journal Planta Medica, found that taking curcumin supplements for a few weeks can help relieve discomfort from dry eye and other eye conditions, such as allergic conjunctivitis, anterior uveitis, glaucoma, maculopathy, and ischemic and diabetic retinopathy. Researchers found that extracts designed to improve absorption, such as BCM95 and Meriva, were some eff ective forms of curcumin supplements.
➏ Seasonal Allergy Relief. A study of 241 people with seasonal allergies, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, found that curcumin signifi cantly reduced symptoms, when compared to a placebo. Taken daily for two months, the supplement reduced sneezing, mucus, and nasal congestion, and improved breathing.
7 Healthier Arteries. With age, the ability of arteries to dilate deteriorates, increasing the odds of high blood pressure. A Japanese study of postmenopausal women, published in Nutrition Research, found that taking a daily curcumin supplement for eight weeks was as eff ective as doing aerobic exercise, in terms of improving dilation of arteries.
8 Less Diabetes. A study published in Diabetes Care found that curcumin supplements, taken daily for nine months, eff ectively prevented diabetes from developing among people who were already at high risk for the disease. In a group of 240 people diagnosed with prediabetes, none of those taking curcumin developed diabetes, compared to 16 percent of those taking a placebo. Curcumin reduced infl ammation and improved the body’s ability to use insulin, which improves levels of blood sugar and keeps diabetes at bay.
9 Better Liver Function. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is linked to excess body fat and develops among 50– 90 percent of those who are obese. A study of 87 people with the disease, published in Drug Research, found that liver health improved for 75 percent of those who took daily curcumin supplements for eight weeks. Among those taking a placebo, improvement was seen in fi ve percent.
10 Arthritis Pain Relief. Studies with nearly 800 people have found that curcumin relieves pain from osteoarthritis, sometimes just as well as ibupro- fen. And those with rheumatoid arthritis can also benefi t. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that taking a curcumin supplement for three months reduced pain, infl ammation, and medical markers of rheumatoid arthritis.