Not Just for Joint Health: 10 Turmeric Health Benefits!
The majority of people using turmeric do so to help relieve joint pain and digestive issues. There is far more to turmeric than just this though. It has been the focus of over 5000 peer-reviewed studies with a further 10,000 on its active compound curcumin. Here's a list of 10 science-backed benefits turmeric has been investigated for.
(This content is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent disease. It should not replace the advice of a qualified medical professional).
A major health benefit of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory properties. An anti-inflammatory agent helps to reduce levels of chronic, low-level inflammation in the body which can damage the tissues of the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s’ disease and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease.
The fact that turmeric can be as effective as some drugsyet cause no known side effects is perhaps one of the best things about turmeric. Anti-inflammatory drugs can cause stomach problems, allergic reactions, and liver or kidney problems so turmeric is showing exciting potential.
If you’re already noticing the benefits to your joint pain, then you’re ahead of the game!
Turmeric contains many active compounds that have benefits to health. The main active compound is curcumin which is well researched for its health benefits. Others, including turmerosaccharides, are now also the subject of much interest for scientists. In a study on turmerosaccharides, they were found to be the active agent in turmeric that explains how it can reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Other compounds called curcuminoids have demonstrated a similar ability to reduce osteoarthritis joint pain.
2. A Powerful Antioxidant
Free radicals are unstable, nasty little molecules of oxygen that have lost one of their electrons. They move rapidly around the body looking for their lost electrons. These free radicals then scavenge electrons from other oxygen molecules with their full complement of electrons, thus, in turn, making them unstable and so on. A chain reaction occurs and if left unchecked, the body can experience oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress causes damage to our cells and DNA which can, in turn, lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain cancers. Free radicals enter the body as a consequence of eating a diet high in fried, fatty or highly processed foods, smoking, stress and breathing in environmental toxins and pollution. But they’re also created as a by-product of normal biological processes such as breathing and digestion.
Antioxidants in food are our saviours. Fruits and vegetables and even red wine, dark chocolate, and fresh coffee are all rich sources of antioxidants. They move around the body, selflessly donating their spare electrons to free radicals, helping to prevent oxidative stress.
The more antioxidants we have in our diet, the better, and turmeric and all its amazing active compounds are a very rich source of antioxidants! Turmeric can effectively neutralise free radicalsmeaning that it can be effective at helping to prevent diseases linked to oxidative stress.
3. Supports Good Digestive Health
If you have a bowel complaint such as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, taking your turmeric supplements could be helping that too! Turmeric has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for millennia to help soothe stomach upsets, and now Western researchers are cottoning on and suggest that turmeric can be used as a digestive aid.
Taking turmeric regularly has benefits for heart health too, and not just due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. According to the World Health Organisation, heart disease is the leading cause of death across the globe. So taking a supplement with no known side effects that could help prevent heart disease can only be a good thing!
Researchers think that the reason turmeric and its active compounds are so beneficial to heart health is its effects on the lining of the blood vessels. This lining, called the endothelium, helps the blood vessels to ‘vasodilate’ or remain wide and not constricted, thereby helping to decrease blood pressure. The cells of the endothelium can become damaged due to factors such as smoking and low activity levels. If they do, the blood vessels can become ‘furry’ and clog up with plaques leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can cause blood clots and angina.
Some patients taking medications to lower their blood pressure or to thin their blood (anticoagulants such as Warfarin) are sometimes advised to take turmeric supplements with caution because the effect can be so strong! If you’re in any doubt, speak to your GP.
5.Maintains Healthy Cholesterol Levels
A major contributor to heart disease is high cholesterol. High cholesterol can cause damage to the endothelial lining of the blood vessels by allowing for the formation of fatty deposits that can clog major arteries.
Scientists have shown that taking turmeric supplements can help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood to healthier concentrations.
6.Reduces the Symptoms of Depression
Depression can be a serious mental illness and we’d never suggest stopping any antidepressant medications that you may be taking.
But taking turmeric supplements alongside medications have shown to help improve the symptoms of depression. Studies have demonstrated that it can be as effective as Prozac. Researchers say that this is due to the effect that turmeric can have on a chemical in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.
People with depression often have lower levels of BDNF in their brains than those who don’t suffer from depression. Studies show that turmeric’s active compounds canincrease levels of BDNFprompting a suggestion that turmeric can be used to help people with depression.
The authors of the review say this is due to its ability to reduce blood glucose levels. Also, its huge potential for lowering levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, which can both contribute towards metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of turmeric aren’t just great for the body internally. They’re also great for use on the outside and have proved to be effective for the health of the skin, too. Studies have shown that taking turmeric can help to manage the symptoms of psoriasiswhich could, in turn, mean that sufferers of this itchy, dry skin condition could potentially reduce their use of steroids.