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11 Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

People in India have used the power of turmeric for centuries as a healing plant and spice (1). It has recently become a popular spice and supplement in the West as emerging research is examining its potential health benefits (2).

A part of the ginger family, turmeric has a yellow color and contains a chemical property called curcumin (3). Curcumin is a concentrated part of the tumeric plant that has the most potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects (4).

Some like to add tumeric as a spice to smoothies, egg or tofu scrambles, lattes, curries, and more, while others take a concentrated supplemental form of curcumin.

Summary: Traditional medicine in India has used turmeric for thousands of years. Turmeric contains the potent compound curcumin. Scientists have just begun to understand curcumin’s potential effects on health.

Health Benefits of Turmeric & Curcumin

Check out the information below to see the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin, along with the potential risks and interactions. Plus, find out how much to take for specific health circumstances.

1. It May Help to Reduce Pain Associated with Arthritis

Curcumin and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which is why they often used for those with joint pain when associated with arthritis (5). Arthritis is one of the most common joint diseases, with millions in the United States suffering from arthritis annually (6).

There have been a few studies that show that curcumin and turmeric can reduce pain for those who have arthritis (7). However, scientists have concluded that there needs to be more studies examining the effects of turmeric on arthritis symptoms (8).

Summary: Turmeric and curcumin have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that turmeric may help ease arthritis symptoms.

2. It May Help Improve Brain Health

Curcumin and turmeric may even help to promote brain health. Its anti-inflammatory properties may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improve memory and concentration (9). Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly six million Americans, and that number is steadily increasing (10).

Although there is a genetic component for developing Alzheimer’s disease, there are a few early studies that show there could be potent preventive measures (11). Curcumin may be one of those (12), but there needs to be more research to confirm this. A healthy diet and exercise may also promote brain health and reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease (13).

 

Summary: There is some evidence to suggest that the anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, this still needs to be studied further.

3. It May Improve Sleep Deprivation

Are you feeling unrested each morning? Curcumin may also help to improve sleep deprivation.

That is because there are potential neuro-restorative effects in curcumin that tested positively on rats (14). More human studies are necessary, but some research suggests it may help with sleep deprivation.

Exercising and managing stress may also help with sleep (15), (16).

Summary: Some preliminary studies suggest curcumin may be helpful for reducing sleep deprivation in rats. Researchers need to do more studies in humans to confirm this.

4. It May Help Prevent Cancer

Between the antioxidant levels and anti-inflammatory properties, some research shows curcumin may have tumor reducing qualities (17).

Studies in animals and in laboratories find promising results that curcumin may help slow the progression and spread of cancer cells (18). Studies in humans are still early, but more scientific studies are currently underway.

Summary: Some evidence suggests that curcumin may help slow progression and spread of cancer cells, but the research on curcumin’s effect cancer is still early.

5. It Can Improve Blood Circulation

Proper blood flow and circulation are essential for everybody to prevent blood clots, pain, heart disease, and much more. Curcumin and turmeric may help to improve blood circulation (19).

This medicinal plant can increase nitrous oxide in the body, which helps to improve the function of the blood vessels and giving it the ability to improve blood flow (20). However, more research is needed to determine the effective dose of curcumin in improving circulation.

Improving blood circulation may help to decrease the risk of developing many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death globally (21), (22). If heart disease runs in your family, ask your healthcare professional if taking curcumin may help you.

Summary: Some evidence suggests that curcumin may help improve blood circulation, particularly endothelial function, which reduces the risk for heart disease.

6. It May Prevent Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in men and the third most common cancer in women (23). And that number is increasing annually (24).

Studies in animals and in laboratories suggest that that curcumin may have anticancer properties against colon cancer (25). However, the research on colon cancer and curcumin is still early.

There are other factors to consider for colon cancer as well. As well as family history, heavy alcohol use, a poor diet high in red meat, and other habits such as smoking are all correlated with a higher risk of colon cancer (26).

Summary: Early studies in animals and laboratories suggest curcumin may have anti-cancer properties against colon cancer, but the research is still early.

7. It May Improve Symptoms of Depression

Since this herb has effects on the brain, curcumin and turmeric may help with symptoms in those living with depression, but the research is still preliminary and the results are mixed.

In one study of around 100 people with depression, a high-dose curcumin and saffron supplement was found to improve depression symptoms compared to a placebo (27). However, in another study, the curcumin supplements had no effect on depression symptoms in subjects with depression (28).

Summary: Some preliminary evidence suggests curcumin may have an effect on symptoms for people living with depression. The evidence is inconclusive but warrants more studies.

8. It May Help You Lose Weight

While more research is necessary to support this claim, curcumin may help with weight loss in some people.

Curcumin and turmeric are full of potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In a review of studies conducted in people with metabolic syndrome, a condition of chronic inflammation, curcumin supplements were associated with more short-term weight loss (29). However, we do not know if curcumin is effective for long-term weight loss or in those without metabolic syndrome.

Weight gain is associated with a wide range of complex and inter-related factors. This can include individual factors like genetics, hormonal fluctuations, underlying medical conditions, and water retention. And they can also include environmental factors, such as a lack of access to a nutrient-rich foods and opportunities for physical activity (30).

Summary: Some evidence suggests that curcumin may help with short-term weight loss for some people with metabolic syndrome.

9. It May Lower the Risk of Stroke

Because curcumin may effective at decreasing the risk of blood clotting and reduces inflammation, it may also have the potential to lower the risk of stroke (31).

One preliminary study in rats shows that curcumin delayed the start of the stroke, and it even increased the survival time in the rats (32). Some studies also suggest that using curcumin and turmeric may reduce the risk of high blood pressure (33). High blood pressure is a risk factor for strokes (34).

However, this research is very preliminary, and there should be more research in humans on curcumin’s role in preventing strokes.

Summary: Early evidence in animal suggests that curcumin may reduce risk from strokes, but more research in humans is needed.

10. It May Regulate Blood Sugar

Curcumin may even have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control. Type 2 diabetes, a condition that impacts the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, affects millions around the globe and is at a steady increase annually (35).

A few studies show that there may be a connection between curcumin and improved blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes, but more studies are needed to confirm these results (36).

Keep in mind that curcumin is not the sole answer to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. You can also keep a healthy weight, eat well, and exercise to ward off this common disease, too (37).

Talk to your doctor and ask if it is safe to try adding a curcumin supplement.

Summary: A few studies suggest that curcumin may help improve blood sugar control for people living with diabetes, but more studies are needed to confirm these results.

11. It May Decrease Headaches

Headaches can arise from stress, tension, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and much more (38).  Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may help to ease migraine headaches.

One study shows that rats given curcumin supplements displayed fewer symptoms of migraines (39). However, studies in human subjects are necessary to confirm these findings.

We still do not fully understand what truly causes migraines, but migraines are being studied more and more (38). Speak with a physician if you are experiencing migraines for further evaluation.

Summary: One animal study suggests that curcumin supplements may reduce symptoms of migraines, but studies in human subjects are needed to confirm these findings.

How Much Turmeric or Curcumin Should You Take?

Turmeric is the spice, and many enjoy adding some to meals for flavor and color, such as eggs or tofu to mimic eggs. However, many of the studies of the potential benefits of tumeric were conducted using high dose curcumin supplements.

Curcumin typically comes in supplement form. The recommended dosage is six grams per day, and the maximum dosage is eight grams per day (39).

Again, the research on the effectiveness of curcumin for the above health benefits is preliminary, and much more research is needed to understand the health benefits of curcumin supplements (1).

Tip: Always talk to your healthcare provider before you add any new supplement to your routine.

Side Effects and Interactions of Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric and curcumin are considered safe orally for the short-term, at around three months or so. Fewer grams can be taken up to two months without side effects (1), (40).

Most do not experience any side effects when taking curcumin supplements, although some rare ones exist when taken at exceedingly high doses.

Rare side effects include (41), (42):

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach

Small amounts of turmeric rarely provide any side effects, and if they do, they are at extremely high dosages of curcumin supplements.

Conclusion

Curcumin and turmeric come from the turmeric plant in India, and have some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Some research suggests that the spice may help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancers, depression, and much more.

However, the research on curcumin and tumeric is preliminary. Much more research is needed to fully understand the health benefits of curcumin supplements (1).

Summary: Turmeric and curcumin have beneficial anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some preliminary research suggests that these spices and compounds may help prevent disease, but the evidence is very preliminary. Speak to a health care provider before adding any new supplements to your routine to make sure they are right for you.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).