I don’t use the word, “cure all” often when it comes to natural medicine. After all, at its core an integrative approach is all about treating the individual.
However, with thousands of published biomedical studies referencing curcumin (the active component in turmeric) 1, and thousands of years of traditional use, turmeric is exceptional in its healing properties.
It all started in 250 B.C.
According to Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium (Ayurvedic medicine is the traditional medicine of India), turmeric’s first recorded medicinal use dates back to 250 B.C., where it was used in an ointment for food poisoning.
Most of turmeric’s traditional use has been recorded over the past 4000 years as a primary staple in Ayurvedic medicine and religious ceremonies.
There have been over 130 species of turmeric discovered throughout Asia.
A member of the ginger family, the very best turmeric (and 80% of the world’s supply) is grown in India, where various factors, including climate and soil, produce a plant rich in the medicinal compound, curcumin—the focus of nearly all modern research on turmeric.
We will discover a lot more about the research and healing power curcumin coming up.
A Laundry-List of Traditional Uses
Before we dive into the top 11 scientifically proven reasons to embrace turmeric (and yes, with 6000 studies to choose from it was REALLY hard to pick just 11 health benefits), I’d like to share a small sampling of its fascinating traditional uses (most of which have been scientifically validated within the last 50 years).
This is a partial list of turmeric’s historical uses:
- Blood purifier
- Hair remover
- Overall energy and strength enhancer
- For relieving gas
- Dispelling worms
- Improving digestion
- Regulating menstruation
- Dissolving gallstones
- Improving skin conditions
- As a sunscreen
- For arthritis
- An antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises
- An antibacterial
- An anti-inflammatory
- For tummy trouble
- Colds and flu
- For irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders
- Anti-cancer benefits
Top 11 Scientifically-proven Reasons to Embrace Turmeric
Note: Curcumin, the primary medicinal compound in turmeric that give it its distinctive yellow color, is the subject of the majority of these studies.
Did you know, per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, that Americans spend over 33 billion dollars a year on supplements2? Many of which are used for diseases stemming from chronic inflammation.
We’ve become an inflammation nation, with heart disease, IBS, digestive disorders, chronic pain, allergies, asthma, thyroid issues, eczema, psoriasis, even certain cancers are all a result of inflammation run amuck.
The Journal of Affective Disorders, recently published a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study proving curcumin’s effectiveness, after 4-8 weeks of use, in improving mood in test subjects with major depressive disorder5.
Curcumin’s efficacy proved out because of its positive influence on many organs, glands, and biological processes (such as the gut, inflammatory pathways, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) that directly relate to depression.
#3: For pre-cancer activity, cancers, and as a potential anti-cancer drug alternative
Curcumin has been proven effective for cancer prevention by increasing the body’s supply of antioxidants vitamin E, C, and preventing lipid oxidation and DNA damage6.
Thanks to all these successful studies, Curcumin is being considered a potential candidate for anticancer drug development11.
#4: For healthy insulin levels
The subjects of a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism, reduced their blood glucose levels using curcumin, suggesting it has antihyperglycemic and insulin sensitizing effects12.
Though studies on the effects of turmeric and blood sugar issues are in their infancy, the initial research is promising—and worth a second look for those with a family history of diabetes.
#5: For the your heart
Because of its proven, powerful, antioxidant compounds and anti-inflammatory action, turmeric can benefit your body in numerous ways which can ultimately help your heart.
According to a ground-breaking study from the Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Nizam’s Institute of Medical Science in India, curcumin proved as effective as the drug, Atorvastatin, on endothelial dysfunction (dysfunction of the blood vessel lining which can result in numerous ailments including hypertension and high cholesterol)15.
As a proven anti-inflammatory, turmeric also keeps the cells, heart, and entire body healthy.
#6: Turmeric oil to strengthen anti-viral activity
Studies on a preparation of turmeric oil sprayed in the respiratory tract, showed significant anti-viral activity including for certain types of influenza virus16.
#7: For food poisoning
It looks like our ancestors knew what they were doing back in 250 B.C.
A study from the Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, Royal Free and University College London Medical School published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, showed turmeric’s efficacy killing strains of H. pylori, which the study notes may offer a viable alternative to antibiotics17.
#8: For burn and wound healing
Another traditional use, wound and burn healing was scientifically validated by researchers at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research18.
Moreover, in 1995 two scientists from the University of Mississippi were awarded a patent on turmeric for wound healing. Unfortunately for the University, this patent was revoked in 1997, when India proved its people had been using turmeric to treat burns for thousands of years.
Hard to argue with tradition, science, and a court order.
#9: For cognition and brain health
There have been some pretty exciting studies on the positive effects of curcumin for neurodegenerative conditions in animals. Now, results of human trials testing the neuroprotective potential of curcumin look promising.
One study by the National University of Singapore reports improved cognitive performance in healthy, elderly adults who regularly consumed curry (of which turmeric is a primary spice)19.
While other research suggests curcumin may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease by preventing amyloid-beta build-up20, one of its primary causes.
#10: For arthritis
A 2012 Indonesian study proved curcumonoid’s effectiveness in treating arthritis of the knee21, while another blockbuster study conducted in India proved both its effectiveness and safety over a common anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac sodium) in treating rheumatoid arthritis22.
These studies offer an excellent examples of turmeric’s nearly unbeatable action as a potent, natural, and incredibly safe anti-inflammatory.
#11: For gastrointestinal issues
Inflammatory disease often begins in the gut. Hence turmeric’s traditional and scientifically-proven benefit to the GI tract.
It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat diseases associated with abdominal pain. As a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, I recommend it extensively in my practice.
A study from University of Düsseldorf in Germany showed it efficacy in relation to upper abdominal pain and the biliary tract23—two systems closely connected in TCM.
Animal and human studies have been conducted on turmeric’s potential benefits for IBS, and other inflammatory digestive issues24.
How to get your hands on quality turmeric
You can find fresh organic turmeric in the produce section of your natural foods store as well as at many farmers markets. You can also find powdered organic turmeric in the spice section. You can experiment by incorporating turmeric into various dishes such as soups, stews, curries, and rice dishes, as well as incorporating it into your juices and teas. Best to follow recipes until you become familiar with its properties and how to prepare and incorporate it into your favorite dishes.
Supplementation may be an option, depending on your constitution and health history. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare practitioner so they can recommend the best turmeric or turmeric/combination supplement for your unique needs.