What can tumeric help with? As it turns out, the question should be what does it NOT help with?
Tumeric has been hailed a ‘super-spice’ for many centuries and is now seen in a local health food store near you. So should you be taking it? I went in search of more information to give you a good overview of what tumeric is and whether it could help.
With a lovely yellow colour (which definitely stains your hands and your tupperware if you’re not careful), turmeric is a plant that has a very long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4000 years. Tumeric has been used in Southeast Asia not only as a principal spice but also as a component in religious ceremonies. Because of the vibrant yellow colour of turmeric, it is also known as “Indian saffron.” Modern medicine is now starting to catch on to its many healing properties. There are now over 3000 publications dealing with turmeric that have been published in the last 25 years.
In folk medicine, turmeric has been used in therapeutic preparations over the centuries in different parts of the world. In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties including strengthening the overall energy of the body, relieving gas, dispelling worms, improving digestion, regulating menstruation, dissolving gallstones, and relieving arthritis. Many South Asian countries use it as an antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises, and as an antibacterial agent. In Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, turmeric is used to cleanse wounds and stimulate their recovery by applying it on a piece of burnt cloth that is placed over a wound. In Indian turmeric is also used to purify blood and remedy skin conditions. Turmeric paste is used by women in some parts of India to remove superfluous hair and is often applied to the skin of the bride and groom before marriage in some parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where it is believed to make the skin glow and keep harmful bacteria away from the body. Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of several sunscreens. Several multinational companies are involved in making face creams based on turmeric (not sure about this one!).
The benefits of turmeric are traditionally achieved through including it in the diet, even at low levels, over a long period of time. A precise understanding of effective dose, safety, and mechanism of action is difficult in human studies to gain accurate data. That being said, the activities of turmeric include antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective and helps with digestion. Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties.
Below is a list of the types of complains tumeric has been shown to help with. Ask your doctor if there’s any reason that you shouldn’t take tumeric and if not perhaps give it a try. Often those on blood thinners such as Warfarin, Rivaroxaban, Clopidigrel etc will be warned away from tumeric as it does have anticoagulant properties. Always check with your pharmacist or doctor if you are unsure.
In a double-blind study of patients suffering from depression, the combination of antidepressant medication and curcuminoids (substances present in turmeric) given for 6 weeks improved depression to a significantly greater extent than antidepressant medication alone. The product used in the study provided daily 1,000 mg of curcuminoids plus 10 mg of piperine (a substance in black pepper that is thought to increase the absorption of curcuminoids.) In another study, supplementation with 1,000 mg per day of curcumin (one of the substances present in turmeric) for 8 weeks significantly improved depression, compared with a placebo, in patients suffering from depression. In that study, about one-third of the participants were taking an antidepressant medication. In another double-blind study, supplementation with 1,000 mg per day of curcumin enhanced the beneficial effect of antidepressant medication.
Dose: up to 1000mg/day
(Panahi Y, Badeli R, Karami GR, Sahebkar A. Investigation of the efficacy of adjunctive therapy with bioavailability-boosted curcuminoids in major depressive disorder. Phytother Res 2015;29:17–21.)
Osteoarthritis and back pain:
Many of my current clients use tumeric to help improve their pain from arthritis and swear that it has helped. One of my fabulous ladies, Mary, is 84 and was in awful pain when we started her sessions. After starting tumeric and with a gradual increase in the exercise we were doing she can now walk for 30 minutes without stopping and even do a round of walking lunges (who doesn’t love a walking lunge!).
Tumeric is known traditionally for its anti-inflammatory effects, a possible advantage for people suffering from low back pain. A few preliminary studies confirm that curcumin, one active ingredient in turmeric, may decrease inflammation in both humans1 and animals and thus help to reduce pain. In one double-blind trial, a formula containing turmeric, other herbs, and zinc significantly diminished pain for people with osteoarthritis. Standardised extracts containing 400 to 600 mg of curcumin per tablet or capsule are the typical dose for using it for joint pain (Sontakke S, Thawani V, Pimpalkhute S, et al. Open, randomized, controlled clinical trial of Boswellia serrata extract as compared to valdecoxib in osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Pharmacol 2007;39:27-9).
Pre and post surgery:
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory effects. One trial found curcumin (from turmeric) was more effective than anti-inflammatory medication for relieving postsurgical inflammation, with the side effects of stomach discomfort that NSAIDs can bring (Satoskar RR, Shah SJ, Shenoy SG. Evaluation of antiinflammatory property of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) in patients with postoperative inflammation. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol 1986;24:651-4.).
In case reports, three patients with Alzheimer’s disease showed improvements in symptoms such as irritability, agitation, anxiety, and apathy after supplementing with turmeric. The amount used was 764 mg per day, providing 100 mg per day of curcumin. (Hishikawa N, Takahashi Y, Amakusa Y, et al. Effects of turmeric on Alzheimer’s disease with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Ayu 2012;33:499-504.).
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used tumeric and whether you’ve noticed any benefits!
Have a great week!
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