12-31-2018 Douglas Won, MD, Regenerative & Longevity Medicine Specialist
Called the Golden Spice or Indian Saffron, turmeric belongs to the ginger family. It’s a staple spice in Indian cuisine and a staple ingredient in Ayurvedic Medicine.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with essential vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthy. It also contains curcumin, a compound that, on its own, also possesses many medicinal properties. These two have long been used since the ancient times for their powerful therapeutic effects.
Below are the top 10 proven health benefits of turmeric and curcumin.
Both turmeric and curcumin have analgesic properties that help relieve pain. One study showed that turmeric and curcumin significantly improved postoperative pain and fatigue caused by surgery[i].
In another study, researchers found that turmeric and curcumin are effective in controlling pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis[ii].
Turmeric and curcumin have a powerful anti-inflammatory property. It can reduce inflammation associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and hyperlipidemia. It can also help reduce low-grade brain inflammation associated with anxiety disorders.
The accumulation of free radicals in the body significantly contributes to the development as well as progression of many diseases and illnesses. In fact, high free radical levels play a role in cancer, brain diseases, heart diseases, and even premature aging.
Turmeric is a natural source of powerful natural antioxidants like curcumin[iii]. They “deactivate” these free radicals by giving them one of their electrons. This neutralizes their negative effects and reduces health risks.
The anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric and curcumin protects the heart from diseases like atherosclerosis.
Inflammation plays an integral part in the development of plaques along the inner wall of the arteries. These plaques harden, narrowing the blood vessel and preventing blood from flowing freely. These then causes hypertension and other heart diseases like atherosclerosis, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac hypertrophy.
Turmeric and curcumin help prevent plaque buildup[iv]. They help normalize blood pressure and heart rhythm.
Numerous studies revealed that turmeric and curcumin have anticancer effects. According to one study, they affect several mechanisms that make cancers deadly.
They promote cancer cell death, decrease their survival rate, and reduce cancer growth[v]. They also reduce inflammation that contributes to cancer cell growth and development. Curcumin also prevents angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that supply the cancer growth.
Turmeric and curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect promotes a healthy brain and protects it from diseases.
One study in particular showed that curcumin can even delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease[vi]. Curcumin, researchers found, reduces the formation of beta-amyloid plaques which damages the neurons. It also decreases low-grade neuroinflammation which contributes to the worsening of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
Studies done on turmeric and curcumin show that they can help relieve a number of gastrointestinal problems. These include inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and Crohn’s Disease[vii].
They’re also known to improve digestion and help in the metabolism of fat. Turmeric and curcumin also reduce bloating.
Turmeric and curcumin have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties[viii]. One study showed that these compounds are effective against 24 types of pathogenic bacteria, 38 different strains of Candida (fungus), and a variety of viruses, including influenza viruses.
Curcumin is not just an anti-inflammatory compound but also an immunomodulator[ix]. This means that it can modulate or modify how the immune system defends the body.
According to one study, curcumin can increase our antibodies’ response against pathogenic microorganisms and, at the same time, control pro-inflammatory cells that worsen inflammation.
These effects benefit patients with autoimmune disorders like diabetes and asthma. It also benefits patients with heart problems like atherosclerosis. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease and cancer also benefit from these effects.
Turmeric and curcumin also benefit obese patients[x]. They help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Turmeric’s fiber content helps promote better digestive health. Their anti-inflammatory effects control low-grade inflammation which has been implicated in obesity and its complications.
Of note though; curcumin has poor bioavailability. This means that it is poorly absorbed by the cells. Because our cells absorb only a fraction of its original dose, our body is not receiving curcumin’s maximum health effects.
Curcumin is also rapidly metabolized and eliminated by the body. This further decreases its potency.
However, curcumin, when combined with black pepper extract, increases in bioavailability by about 2000%[xi]. This combination of makes them a powerful agent that produces potent medicinal and therapeutic effects.
Turmeric and curcumin may have a lot of therapeutic and medicinal benefits. However, they also have some side effects. These make them a contraindication in patients with the following medical conditions:
 Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 New perspectives of curcumin in cancer prevention. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases.Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 Targeting Inflammation-Induced Obesity and Metabolic Diseases by Curcumin and Other Nutraceuticals. Accessed: December 28, 2018.
 Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Accessed: December 28, 2018.