What are the health benefits of turmeric?
Turmeric has been a stalwart of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine for generations. It’s always been traditionally used to help treat disorders of the joints, gut, upper respiratory tract and the skin.
Now, here in the West, we’re cottoning on to its health benefits, most of which stem from the fact it contains powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Inflammation is essentially a good thing. It’s part of the natural immune response and helps us heal. But stress, an unhealthy lifestyle and a poor diet can cause inflammation to build up, which can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Since turmeric has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, numerous studies have linked it with the potential to:
• Relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis – A study conducted in 2012 found that curcumin supplements were more effective at controlling pain than anti-inflammatory painkillers. This has led curcumin to be posited as a clinical drug that could be commonly used for arthritis pain management.
• Reduce the risk of heart disease – Researchers in 2017 found evidence that curcumin can help to improve the function of the endothelium – the lining of the blood vessels that can become damaged that can then lead to problems with blood pressure and blood clotting that can lead to heart disease.
• Protect against Alzheimer’s disease – Studies have shown that curcumin is able to help clear the amyloid plaques that build-up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It’s unknown if this can reverse the disease, but early evidence looks promising and studies continue.
• Help in the management of type 2 diabetes – A 2015 study found that type 2 diabetics taking regular diabetes medication were able to significantly reduce their fasting blood glucose (sugar) and inflammation levels if they also took turmeric supplements.
Turmeric is also rich in antioxidant compounds that help to protect the cells of the body, including that of the immune system, from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules of oxygen that cause damage and disease. An antioxidant such as turmeric helps to neutralise free radicals, helping to protect the body against disease and support good immune health.