Over the years, researchers have been learning more and more about the health benefits of turmeric and its active component, curcumin. It’s been eight years since we first published the 20 Health Benefits of Turmeric and I decided that it’s time for an update with links to the latest studies.
Turmeric has been used for over 2500 years in India. The health benefits of turmeric have been slowly revealing themselves over the centuries. Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that it can be helpful in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.
One thing to take note of is that research has found that consuming black pepper with curcumin increases its bioavailability.
One of the biggest health benefits of turmeric is in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Research has found that curcumin induces cell death in medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain tumor. Other studies have found that it may induce cell death in glioblastomas, an aggressive type of brain tumor that is resistant to chemo and radiation.
One study found that turmeric, when combined with cruciferous vegetables, may prevent prostate cancer and stop or slow the growth of existing prostate cancer.
Curcumin was found to have an inhibitory effect on WT1 gene expression in childhood leukemia cells. A study on Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) at the University of Palermo in Italy found that mice treated with curcumin developed smaller tumors than the control group.
A French study published in 2014 in Cancer Biology & Therapy found that several different multiple myeloma cell lines were sensitive to curcumin. The study authors concluded that the results indicate more clinical trials are worth doing on curcumin and multiple myeloma. MD Anderson Cancer Research Center at the University of Texas has been studying the effects of curcumin on multiple myeloma for several years. For an interesting anecdotal story of a woman with multiple myeloma who has been keeping her cancer at bay for years using MD Anderson’s curcumin protocol, check out Margaret’s Corner.
Multiple studies have found that one of the most exciting health benefits of turmeric is the prevention of metastasis, the spread of cancer from the primary site to other areas of the body.
Cachexia is one of the biggest hurdles for many cancer patients with solid tumors. It causes weight loss and muscle wasting even when large amounts of food are ingested. A Chinese study found that patients with colorectal cancer who were given oral curcumin while waiting to undergo surgery experienced weight gain. The same study also found that curcumin induced cancer cell death in patients with colorectal cancer.
Researchers at UCLA found that curcumin enhances the effects of cisplatin, a chemotherapy used in the treatment of many different cancers. Cisplatin and curcumin together worked better at suppressing tumors than cisplatin alone. In addition, a study published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal found that curcumin not only makes cancer cells more susceptible to chemo but it also protects healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemo.
One of the most exciting turmeric benefits is in the realm of brain health. It has long been noted that elderly people in India have low rates of Alzheimer’s disease. One reason may be that they consume a lot of turmeric in their diets. A study found that curcumin may prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
A study at the UC San Diego found that curcumin may be able to treat some types of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative group of eye diseases that can lead to blindness. Another study found that it may be helpful in the treatment of macular degeneration.
Research has found that curcumin may be a powerful tool in the fight against obesity and its related symptoms. Curcumin reduces leptin resistance, lowers insulin resistance, reverses hyperglycemia, reduces inflammation, and activates fat burning gene signals.
NATURAL PAINKILLER & ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
Curcumin is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor. One study compared curcumin to ibuprofen for pain relief in knee osteoarthritis patients and found that the curcumin worked just as well as ibuprofen. Several studies have found that curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties. According to the Arthritis Foundation, several studies have found turmeric to be effective at reducing joint inflammation and pain, with one of the studies even finding curcumin to be better at reducing pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis than diclofenac, an NSAID that is commonly prescribed for people with RA.
Is your liver taxed to the limit? One of the health benefits of turmeric that is believed to be a natural liver detoxifier. One study found that it may protect against alcohol-induced liver damage as well as damage caused by a high fat diet.
Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier and is a known neuroprotective agent. Several studies have found that curcumin may be beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. According to Michigan State University researchers, curcumin can prevent clumping of a protein that leads to Parkinson’s.
Curcumin has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis. A study at Vanderbilt University found that curcumin prevented the onset of an autoimmune disease in mice that is similiar to MS in humans. In fact, the study authors said that MS is a rare disease in India and China, where turmeric is consumed on a regular basis.
An Indian study found that curcumin may be an effective treatment for people with major depression. The study compared people who were taking Prozac, curcumin, or Prozac and curcumin together. The group who took Prozac and curcumin together had the best results, while those taking either Prozac or curcumin had very similar results indicating that curcumin may work just as well as Prozac.
Curcumin has been found to stop the growth of H. pylori (helicobacter pylori), a bacterium that is found in the stomach and other parts of the body. If left untreated, it can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
Curcumin may protect against the effects of sleep deprivation. A study found that it prevented anxiety, oxidative damage, and other impairment in mice deprived of sleep for 72 hours.
Turmeric can be taken in powder or capsule form. Capsules are usually sold in 250-500 mg increments.
Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it’s fun to find new ways to use it in recipes. My favorite way to use it is to add a pinch of it to egg salad. It adds a nice flavor and gives the egg salad a rich yellow hue.
Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.