- Chef Kate
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Turmeric – it’s a bit of a mystery to those of us in the global west, but it has been in use in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries. Now, more and more clinical research is supporting claims of turmeric as a miracle food. Read on to find out more about the health benefits of turmeric!
What’s the Deal with Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that originates from South Asia - most commonly, a powdered form of the root of the Curcuma longa plant. Turmeric comes from the same plant family as ginger (link), and they share a lot of characteristics - namely, excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
What makes turmeric so distinctive, with its bright colour and easily identifiable flavour, is the compound curcumin. Curcumin is the star of the show here, as it’s the chemical compound responsible for most of the health benefits of turmeric.
While turmeric is most well-known as the flavourful ingredient in curry, it’s starting to make a name for itself in teas, added to other dishes, or available in supplement form. Our favourite way to eat turmeric is by adding it to a variety of our DIY gummy flavours, but however you choose to ingest it, this little spice is well worth adding to your diet.
Health Benefits of Turmeric:
Turmeric May Support Brain Health - In Some Pretty Amazing Ways
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that’s partially responsible for growth in your brain. BDNF supports neutron growth, and is crucial for the areas of the brain responsible for memory, mood, learning, and higher thinking.
Many neurological conditions, like Alzheimer’s and depression, are linked to lower levels of BDNF.
However, studies done in mice show that curcumin supplements can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and actually increase BDNF levels in the brain.
Another study - done on humans - showed that curcumin supplements could treat depression with comparable results to the antidepressant medication Prozac - while a combination of Prozac and curcumin showed higher results than either treatment alone.
Additionally, curcumin treatments are being used in modern medicine to treat traumatic brain injuries and dementia - including Alzheimer’s. While more research is needed, especially in humans, it’s clear that curcumin has some very promising potential to support many forms of brain health.
Curcumin and Cardiac Health
The endothelium - the thin membrane that covers the heart and blood vessels - plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and protecting the cardiac and circulatory systems. Research suggests that curcumin can help to improve endothelial function, making this among one of the most important health benefits of turmeric.
One study compared the effects of curcumin supplements and regular exercise in a group of post-menopausal women, for eight weeks. Results showed that the two were equally effective in improving endothelial function and supporting heart health.
Traditional Eastern medicines have long since used turmeric to improve circulation - and now Western medicine haas started to catch on. One study performed in adults showed a 37% increase in forearm blood flow after taking curcumin supplements for 12 weeks.
Another study tested the effects of curcumin on patients undergoing bypass surgery, and found that it decreased risk of post-operative heart attack by 65%.
Turmeric’s Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties Support Long Term Health
While acute inflammation can be a good thing for your body (think of the swelling you get when you cut your finger, for example), long-term or chronic inflammation is anything but. Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to many complications, such as heart disease or even some types of cancers.
Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help you body reduce and control inflammation. Just like ginger, curcumin has been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to help treat inflammation - and the pain and fatigue that accompanies it.
Additionally, curcumin’s antioxidant content helps your body fight off excess free radicals and prevent oxidative stress to your cells. This can slow down the cell aging process, and help prevent many types of illnesses that are linked to high levels of free radicals in the body.
Together, these two effects combine to make curcumin an excellent choice for long-term health, boosted energy, and preventative nutrition.
Curcumin’s Effects on Cancer Cells
While curcumin’s combined antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers make it a good choice for cancer prevention, evidence suggests that curcumin may slow the growth of cancer cells, and even actually prevent tumours from forming altogether!
Research on the matter is ongoing, but already the use of curcumin to treat (not just prevent) certain types of cancers is being documented. Evidence shows that curcumin works to inhibit the spread of cancer cells and limit their growth, without inhibiting the growth of healthy cells. Curcumin is also being studied as a chemopreventative, meaning a medication that can prevent patients with cancer from needing chemotherapy treatment.
While more research is needed in humans before we can definitely say that curcumin can treat cancer, the evidence we have now is very promising - and very exciting for cancer research.
How to Get More Curcumin In Your Diet
Unfortunately, the standard Western diet doesn’t leave a lot of room for spices like turmeric, and simply eating curry once in a while won’t necessarily give you all the benefits you’re looking for.
Curcumin isn’t well absorbed into the bloodstream through occasionally consuming turmeric alone - although combining it with black pepper can increase its absorption by up to 2,000%!
If you’re looking to consume more curcumin, there are some creative ways to get more turmeric into your diet:
As turmeric becomes more widely known, many teas have popped up on the market containing it. While it used to be that you could only find these in specialized health food stores, now even grocery stores may have teas that contain turmeric.
Turmeric blended with dairy-free milk (Oat milk is yummy), black pepper and some coconut oil for better absorption, heated in a saucepan makes a delicious gold-coloured beverage that is a very soothing drink if you are experiencing acute inflammation in the gut.
Add Turmeric to Your Gummies
Of course, our favourite way to get more turmeric is to add it to our Frckn’ Delicious DIY Gummies. Turmeric is available in the shop as an add-in, and you can just mix it in to your melted gummy before pouring! We find it pairs nicely with the Orange flavoured gummies for best taste results.
Although potentially harder to find, curcumin supplements usually have isolated just the curcumin compound from turmeric and are usually available as capsules. If you’re looking for a big punch of curcumin, it may be worth looking into supplementation.
As always, check with your doctor before adding supplementation to your regimen, even natural, plant-based medicines.