The color and aroma of turmeric evokes scenes of lively open-air markets and memories of flavorful dishes that delight the palate. As important as it may be to exotic cuisines, turmeric health benefits may be even more important. The interest in turmeric as a medicinal supplement is relatively new in the western world, but it has been prized in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4,500 years. In fact, one term found in Ayurvedic literature defines turmeric as jayanti, or “one who is victorious over diseases.” What is this victorious one supposed to cure? Everything from chest congestion to chicken pox and many things in between.
The bottle of spice commonly sold in the supermarket is the dried and ground root of a tropical plant that belongs to the ginger family. Fresh turmeric root can also be found at specialty and ethnic markets. The tastiest way to incorporate turmeric health benefits into your diet is by cooking with it. Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisines frequently utilize the earthy spice. However, you can purchase turmeric or curcumin supplements at the health food store if you prefer taking a controlled amount on a regular basis. Curcumin is the active ingredient found in turmeric and other ginger-related plants.
Turmeric Health Benefits and Safety
Like many herbal remedies, turmeric health benefits have not yet been widely studied. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, early research does support some promising turmeric health benefits:
- Indigestion—reduces symptoms of gas and bloating
- Ulcerative colitis—helps people with UC stay in remission
- Osteoarthritis—especially when combined with other natural anti-inflammatory herbs, turmeric shows promise in decreasing osteoarthritis pain
- Heart disease—may help prevent atherosclerosis and lower bad cholesterol
- Cancer—the strong antioxidants present in turmeric may help prevent and treat certain types of cancer
- Neurodegenerative conditions—due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and circulatory effects, turmeric may be helpful in the treatment and prevention of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease
It doesn’t take much turmeric to enjoy its health benefits. About 1/3 teaspoon per day of the dried ground root or 400-600 mg of standardized curcumin taken three times per day is sufficient for most adults. Turmeric benefits have not been tested on children and recommended dosages are only for adults.
Turmeric is considered generally safe but can cause nausea, diarrhea, and ulcers if ingested in high doses. Topical use may cause skin irritation. People with existing medical conditions such as gallbladder or kidney disease, immunity problems, or bleeding disorders and those taking prescription statins, blood pressure, blood thinners, or diabetes medication should consult with a health care professional before starting on a turmeric regimen.