There are many articles and recipes about turmeric benefits but, none address or explain WHY and HOW this potent spice is good for heath.
This is the one and only guide you need to learn and experience the true power of turmeric. Start from the introduction or click ahead to your topic of interest. We have also included our tested and tried Turmeric tea recipe and link to where to buy the best turmeric tea.
- Reduces All Pain and Inflammation
- Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Reduces Ulcerative Colitis
- Lung Health
- Cancer – Body’s Regenerating Malfunction
- Curcumin – The Anti-Cancer Weapon
- Curcumin – Enhances Conventional and Natural Therapies
Protects the Brain and its Function
- Improves Memory and Cognition
- Combats Neurological Disorders
- Reduces Depression
- Reduces Risk of Strokes
- Relieves Anxiety and Stress
- Fights Fatigue
- Helps You Sleep
Heart and Cardiovascular health
- Lowers Blood Sugar
- Improves Cholesterol
- Protects Liver – Detoxifies the Body
- Fights Bad Bacteria and Fungi
- Healthier Skin: Psoriasis, Scleroderma, Vitiligo
- Balances Hormones
- Weight Loss
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If you browse the internet regarding wellness ingredients, turmeric is likely to pop up on the computer screen. This ancient spice has been used and celebrated for thousands of years as food and medicine. Its vibrant yellowish, golden colour and strong flavour made it a staple in many Asian dishes. The present rise of turmeric’s popularity is due to its powerful wellness potential. As a master healer within traditional medicines, turmeric has been credited in treating vast spectrum of ailments, from sore throats and dry skin to cancer.
Much of research showcases turmeric’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities which mainly harnessed from its active ingredient curcumin. Due to its immense wellness potential curcumin has become the “it” compound of numerous wellness products. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at turmeric as well as curcumin and the science surrounding their healing properties.
The History of Turmeric
Turmeric or curcuma longa (C. longa) is a small herbal plant belonging to the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. Many historians believe that turmeric originated from South East Asia and later transported and cultivated in other parts of the world. Turmeric was always known as a healing plant treating various conditions. It’s been used in Asia for thousands of years and is a major part of Ayurveda, Siddha and traditional Chinese medicine systems. The 4500 plus year history dates back to the discovered ancient spice pots containing turmeric residue around New Delhi, India. The analysis of those pots place them around 2500 BCE.
Around 500 BCE, turmeric became a major part of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient natural healing system of India that is still practiced today. In fact, Ayurveda has over 100 different terms for turmeric, translating into various meaning of conquering diseases or relieving pain. The Sanskrit text Compendium of Caraka (authored between 4BCE and 2CE) mentions turmeric remedy against food poisoning.
Arab traders were the first to discover valuable spices such as black pepper and turmeric; they developed secret passages via sea and land of this lucrative business. Around 700 CE, turmeric is believed to have reached China and East Africa a century later. By 13th century, turmeric made its way to Europe. In 1280, Marco Polo described turmeric in his memoirs of China. Polo’s came across turmeric during voyages through the “silk road” to India mentioning it as a vegetable possessing qualities of saffron. Perhaps, that’s how turmeric’s other name came about—Indian saffron. Europeans used turmeric primarily for cooking and food preservation.
In Indian culture, turmeric is much more than just food or medicinal ingredient. Hindu religion treats it as a sacred plant used in traditional ceremonies, festivals and as an amulet for protection against evil spirits.
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of turmeric accounting for approximately 80% of world’s production. Other world producers include China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Jamaica and Nigeria.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a perennial type plant that comes under the ginger family Zingiberaceae.[1,2,4] It is also known as “Indian saffron” or the “golden spice” originating from South Asia. More than 133 species of Curcuma (turmeric type plants) have been identified, many of which are traditionally used as spice and medicine. Curcuma longa (Latin) is the scientific name for most common type of turmeric. The name comes from several ancient language terms like Arabic “Kurkum” and Sanskrit “Haridra” referring to the “meritorious earth” and “yellow or golden root”.[2,4,6]
Being around for thousands of years turmeric is known by different names in different regions. The plant prefers warm, tropic type climates and grows up to one meter (three feet) in height producing flower and stem (rhizome) which is found underground. It is the rhizome that is gathered and used as food and medicine. [1,2]
The rhizome part of turmeric can be consumed raw, used fresh, or dried and ground to powder. Besides being a common cooking spice, turmeric’s popularity is mostly for its healing properties. Traditional natural medicines have been using turmeric since the ancient times to treat many different ailments from indigestion, skin burns and infections.[1-6]
Modern science has been progressively researching the powers of this golden spice, confirming much of the traditional healing wisdom. In the past five decades, over 15,000 turmeric research articles have been published and approximately 50 different manuscripts are added to the massive collection each week. So far, scientists have identified over 100 compounds within turmeric (C. longa) including natural oils, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds within plants which enhance function of many body systems, organs, tissues and cells. Turmeric contains many such phytonutrients in “phenol” configuration which are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
The polyphenol group that scientists and herbalists have been raving about are curcuminoids, consisting of curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. All three compounds are very similar, with slight chemical configuration. The curcuminoids are very powerful antioxidants which collectively: [2-4,6-8]
- Improve energy and boost immunity;
- Fight Inflammation (reducing pain and swelling of tissues, muscles and joints);
- De-stress the body (reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety);
- Improve brain cognition;
- Fight Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s plaque buildup);
- Enhance digestion;
- Protect against viral, bacterial and fungal infections;
- Promote healthy skin (good anti-microbial agent);
- Regulate blood sugar and cholesterol;
- Improve circulation;
- Balance hormones;
- Fight cancerous cells and tumors.
By weight turmeric root contains about 5% of curcuminoids, the main being curcumin. Every large scale disease or illness has been or continues to be the subject of a turmeric or curcumin study.[7,8] The biological properties of curcumin made it a front runner in search for treatment or prevention of many diseases.
Turmeric is a bitter tasting root with brilliant yellow colour that has been used in South Asian cuisine. It also has over 4500 year history with natural Ayurvedic and Chinese remedies as a healing herb for many conditions. Modern science is actively studying turmeric and all of its active compounds. With four decades of ongoing research and mountains of scientific literature, turmeric has become the spice of choice. Lets take a closer look into the healing powers of this exotic and ever-popular golden spice.
The body is a complex machine which creates, transforms, stores and breaks down various compounds and cellular components through vast network of biochemical pathways. It converts energy from food and oxygen to versions which all cells can use (ATP) while storing (triglycerides and glycogen). As the result of myriad metabolic reactions, the body also creates molecules containing either unstable oxygen or nitrogen particles called reactive oxygen species (ROS) or reactive nitrogen species (RNS)—free radicals.
We do need some free radicals, as they are utilized by the immune system protecting internal systems against foreign invaders. But, when ROS levels rise, they react with all types of molecules, by stealing electrons and destabilizing structural integrity of many DNA and cellular components. The body responds with inflammation in order to stop and repair the free radical damage. This imbalance of free radicals in the body is often referred to as oxidative stress. 
More and more studies point to oxidative stress and inflammation as contributing factors to the development and progression of most (if not all) human chronic diseases and conditions. [2,9,10] Currently, over 235 bioactive compounds have been discovered within 20 common turmeric (Curcuma) species including primary phenolics, terpenoids, sterols, alkaloids and other active agents. 
- The phenolics within turmeric consist of diarylheptanoids (including curcuminoids) and diarylpentanoids. 
- Curcuminoids are turmeric’s major polyphenolics recognized as mighty antioxidants capable of reducing oxidative stress and protecting body tissues in several ways.
- Curcumin is the main and most abundant compound out of turmeric’s curcuminoids. The other two curcuminoids are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. 
- Curcumin is a mighty scavenger directly reacting with any free radicals in sight.
- Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. However, consuming turmeric with black pepper (which contains active ingredient piperine) improves curcumin absorption by 2,000%. 
- Curcumin can increase levels of phase II antioxidant enzymes such as glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL) and body’s natural antioxidant glutathione (GSH) in small animals.[10,14,162]
- Curcumin prevents and/or reverts oxidative damage in small animals caused by toxins. Curcumin increases antioxidant enzymes in all major organs such as superoxide dismutase (SOD in liver, kidney and brain), catalase (CAT in the heart) and glutathione peroxide (GSH-Px in heart and brain).[15-17]
- Turmeric also contains hundreds of different terpenes. To date, over 185 terpenes have been identified in the leaves, flowers, roots and rhizomes of 20 investigated Curcuma species. These include 68 monoterpenes, 109 sesquiterpenes, 5 diterpenes and 3 triterpenoids. 
- Terpenes are small organic compounds—often found in the essential oils of plants (including turmeric)—are strong antioxidants destroying free radicals (ROS) through scavenging and enzymatic methods.
- Other active compounds in turmeric include Calebin-A, vanillic acid, vanillin, quercetin and even more phenolic compounds.
Numerous studies compare turmeric’s antioxidant abilities on par with vitamin E (a well established powerful antioxidant).[20,21] This is no coincidence, as such results have been seen for thousands of years through streams of traditional medicine. Studies show that curcumin enhances antioxidant enzymes by activating Nrf2 (nucelar factor E2-related factor 2) pathway.[10,162] Nrf2 is a critical transcription factor that activates genes responsible for phase-II antioxidant enzymes. Nrf2 reacts to oxidative stress by initiating production pathway of antioxidant-detoxifying enzymes, scavengers and tumor suppressors. [22-24,162-163]
Reduces All Pain and Inflammation
We hear the term inflammation almost everywhere as it’s often related to vast spectrum of health problems. Our world is filled with all kinds of things that can lead to health problems. Environmental toxins, microbes and processed foods are common factors that cause infection or damage to the body’s genes, cells, tissues, organs and systems—leading to injury and disease.
The immune system is the defence against such invasions and inflammation is its weapon. Inflammation is the repair and replacement process of the damage caused by any of described factors. Acute or short-term inflammation is a good thing however, it can become problematic when the issue is ongoing or chronic. Oxidative stress induces chronic inflammation which begins attack and damage body’s healthy tissues. Through extensive research, many scientists link oxidative stress and inflammation as strong contributors to the development and progression of most, if not all chronic human health conditions.
Our body cells communicate through various enzymatic pathways like mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). MAPK is a “domino effect” of series of protein factors and enzymes set up in a chain which downstream the signal (once activated by receptor) from cell surface to the nucleus, activating selected genes within DNA. Active genes trigger the production (transcription) of products they code.
Turmeric has been the subject of numerous studies that is able of effect close to 700 genes triggering production or suppression of molecules, mechanisms and pathways (such as MAPK) that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These include:
- Increasing antioxidant enzymes (CAT, SOD, GST) and body’s own antioxidant GSH found in vital organs; [22-24]
- Curcumin within turmeric shown as a strong anti-inflammatory agent. Considered by many researchers as the most powerful natural antioxidant, curcumin’s effectiveness matches common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without any side effects.[26-28]
- Curcumin inhibits inflammation response mediator enzymes such as cyclooxygenase (COX), lipoxygenase (LOX), and inducible nitric oxide syntase (iNOS).[10,29] COX-2 is one of the main regulating enzymes of inflammation which activates production of prostaglandins (lipids) and cytokines (proteins).
- Curcumin inhibits Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) and disrupts its messaging pathways.[30-31] NF-kB is a protein complex that controls the decoding (transcription) of COX-2 and other inflammatory genes.[26,29,32-34] NF-kB is suspected to play a major role in many chronic diseases.[33-34]
- Curcumin also shown to reduce number of inflammatory causing cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, p38MAPK, interleukin (IL) class of IL-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-12 [35,36], as well as signal transducer and activator of transcription protein-3 (STAT3) [37,38]
- Curcumin’s antioxidant abilities protect cellular integrity preventing lipid peroxidation. Curcuminoids are effective in lowering low density lipoproteins “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol and overall triglycerides while improving high density lipoproteins “good” (HDL) cholesterol.[39,40]
Copious amounts of studies show turmeric and curcumin as significant inhibitors of inflammation through NF-kB pathway. Research shows that NF-kB as the main trigger for all of the inflammation markers currently identified by science. This explains how turmeric is able to alleviate or reverse symptoms of so many different health diseases by effectively engaging NF-kB and controlling inflammation on multiple levels.
Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis
From ancient times, turmeric was used as a remedy to relieve pain. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin (of turmeric) directly affect the swelling and pain within all types of tissues including muscles and joints. For pain, turmeric’s analgesic abilities shown as effective as common pain-killers like ibuprofen. It can also reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—an autoimmune disease which can affect joints, lungs, eyes and heart. The joints are common RA target due to loss of cartilage resulting in chronic inflammation.
Consuming curcumin daily (500 mg dose) shown to be more effective in reducing RA symptoms than the prescription drug Diclofenac without any adverse side effect. Study after study, concludes that curcuminoids reduce arthritis pain and inflammation, be it as supplement , essential oils , or proprietary blend. Curcumin was also shown to treat symptoms of degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, directly engaging NF-kB pathways and reducing inflammation, pain and discomfort in patients. Large RA study of 206 people revealed turmeric to be most popular product to manage symptoms among all other non-vitamin supplements. Even Arthritis Foundation has been citing studies of turmeric’s profound anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Reduces Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory disease producing painful sores and swelling of the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. As a long-term inflammatory condition, curcumin’s effect was naturally studied in UC cases. Several human studies shown curcumin along with prescribed (UC or inflammatory) medication producing a greater effect compared to medication only and placebo patients. [50,51]
Allergies, asthma and bronchitis are inflammatory diseases of the lungs and the airways. Research shows that anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds like curucmin may decrease symptoms of several lung conditions. A 2017 clinical review concludes that curcumin can help treat condition such as asthma, pulmonary and cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
Cancer – Body’s Regenerating Malfunction
The cells in our body continuously repair and regenerate from regular wear and tear (old cells in need of replacements) or growth (adaptation requiring the body to build more of particular tissues, compounds, etc). Because of this cyclical requirement, our cells—depending on the type—regenerate themselves through replication process called mitosis. Mitosis is one of the four phases of a cell cycle, consisting of five steps where one cell (mother) divides into two new identical cells (the daughters). Mitotic steps are done in sequence, ensuring that the mother cell has all necessary materials, resources, and information prior to final division.
Like with anything in life, mistakes do happen. Mitotic errors where non-identical cells have been produced are called mutations. The body has a contingency plan for this kind of thing in form of programmed cell death (apoptosis), or destruction through the immune system response. But, sometimes the mutated cells do not listen to apoptotic signals and continue their defective cell-cycle. Certain types of cancers come from such mutations.
Majority of the cancer research is done either in the test tubes, or animal models where tumor behaviour can be better analyzed and understood. Current research links the increases of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation to numerous cancerous conditions. Due to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, turmeric also shown as significant anti-tumor compound. With over 235 active ingredients identified thus far, many of which greatly reduce oxidative stress and fight cancer progression.[2,10,22-24,52,162]
Curcumin – The Anti-Cancer Weapon
We searched the biomedical literature search engine PubMed using key words “curcumin” and “cancer” within the last four decades. The results showed 4809 published articles that discuss, investigate or analyze these topics with greater publications in recent years. These studies identify curcumin as a regulator of multiple cell-signalling pathways responsible for cellular cycle, stopping the replication of mutated cells and activating apoptosis.
Curcumin is able to distinguish between cellular life cycle of healthy and cancerous cells. The mechanism by which curcumin exerts anti-cancer effects are extensively diverse, targeting many regulatory and messaging signals within the mutated cells. For example, cyclin B1 protein is one of the mitosis activators in normal cells, and its levels are highly regulated. However, in caner cells, such signals malfunction and continuously produce cyclin B1. Also another cyclin protein D1 is over expressed in breast carcinoma, and is used as a potential biomarker of early detection. By inhibiting NF-kB, cucumin also decreases gene expression and production of numerous proteins (like B1 and D1) responsible for cellular mitosis (or division).[57-59]
Curcumin has another powerful ability to stop cancer by initiating self-destruct mechanism within mutated cells. It does that through apoptotic messaging pathways and elevating self destructing proteins (caspase-3,caspase-8, caspase-9, and Cip/Kip family proteins (p21 and p27)), while reducing inflammatory proteins (NF-kB, AP-1, MMP2, MMP9, p38).[60-62]
Research shown curcumin’s ability to inhibit replication and growth of numerous cancer cells in various tissue including blood, brain, breast, gastrointestinal system, head and neck, liver, pancreas, colon, prostate, ovary and skin cancers. [52-58] Curcumin has been shown most effective in breast, bowel, stomach and skin tumors.
Any cellular growth, especially tumor requires blood supply. Curcumin can further increase cancerous cell death by reducing growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and progression (metastasis) of tumors.[56,58] Curcumin shown to decrease progression of numerous types cancer cells in both test tube and animal models. [55-59]
Some papers even discuss curcumin as a preventative cancer treatment from becoming a disease all together. This may be the case with mutated tissue like lesions which are “dormant” but can begin to grow and multiply without warning. One particular paper discussed a 30 day trial where 41 men with colon lesions used a daily 4 gram curcumin dose and reported 40% reduction in lesions themselves. Such link is done through epidemiological research which credits low colon cancer incidents in India and their turmeric-curcumin rich diets. 
Curcumin – Enhances Conventional and Natural Therapies
Curcumin also fights cancer by enhancing conventional treatments. Consuming curcumin while receiving chemotherapy shown significantly more effective in treating colon cancer than chemotherapy alone. Such hybrid therapies subject patients to less toxins and fewer side-effects often seen with extensive chemotherapy treatments. Also, curcumin makes tumors more sensitive to chemo and radiation while protecting healthy cells through elevation of antioxidant enzymes. This is why patients who often supplement chemotherapy with curcumin experience fewer side effects and report better quality of life.[67,68]
Cucumin has also been studied in patients on its own or with combination of other powerful natural compounds. Green tea possesses many powerful phytonutrients which along with potent anti-cancer abilities. Studies showed curcumin from turmeric and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) from green tea produce an even greater effect in stopping growth of leukaemia tumor cells through same messaging pathways discussed. This is the “old-new” age of potential natural treatments against aggressive forms of cancers.
Protects the Brain and its Function
From traditional medicines of China and India, turmeric has been credited with wellbeing and functionality of the most important organ—the brain. As mentioned in other parts of this article, turmeric has been a popular research topic for scientists for decades including its affect on the nervous system.
As a mighty antioxidant, curcumin protects the brain and the nervous tissue in number of ways. Studies showed that curcumin reduces oxidative stress by readily crossing the blood-brain barrier and directly engaging ROS. Human trials show similar benefits. Curcumin improved attention, memory, cognition and mood of elder participants.  Same group showed lower LDL and overall cholesterol with no side effects within blood markers. 
Improves Memory and Cognition
Neurons are specialized cells of the nervous systems that carry messages in form of electrical impulses. Neurons come in various classes (sizes) that communicate with each other and other tissues through small gaps called synapses. These synapses can be chemical or electrical based transmitting the signals (aka neurotransmission) between nerve cells, or from neurons to specific tissues (ie: organs, muscle, glands). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a transcription protein that is found in the brain and spinal chord (central nervous system). BDNF regulates production and maintenance of neurons. It also shown to form new connections in the brain by producing new nerve cells.[74,75] BDNF is located inside the synapses and modifies neural communication based on individual experiences. This is referred to neuroplasticity and is essential for skills like learning and long term memory.
Studies shown that curcumin increases BDNF levels leading to the rise of neurons and neuroplasticity (aka synaptic plasticity).[77,78] Greater BDNF concentrations via curcumin also reduce inflammation factors like COX-2 in the brain. More nerve cells and connectivity is an exciting research area which potentially can delay and/or reverse neurodegenerative diseases. 
Combats Neurological Disorders
As already mentioned, high BDNF levels are linked to healthier brain, better memory and mood, including in the elderly. The reverse is true, as low BDNF concentrations result degeneration leading to various neural conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounts for about 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Neuro-inflammation and oxidative stress further contribute to progression of Alzheimer’s and other neural disorders. Curcumin is a very promising treatment, as it may reduce Alzheimer’s disease in multiple ways with no reported side effects.
One of the Alzheimer’s hallmark signs is the buildup of protein tangles/clusters called amyloid plaques (amyloid-beta-protein and tau).[71,94] Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and use its mighty antioxidant powers to scavenge ROS reducing cellular damage and neuro-inflammation.[71,95,96] Studies shown that curcumin blocks production of the amyloid plaques by directly binding to them.[94-97] Also, besides reducing beta-amyloid proteins curcumin increases immune response within the brain tissue. Curcumin activates macrophages which clear away amyloid build up.
Another active compound in turmeric is turmerone that has strong potential in treating neurodegenerative conditions. Test tube and animal studies show turmerone’s ability to stimulate production of new neurons by influencing neural stem cells in the brain. Neural stem cells have ability to transform into any kind of brain cell, and potentially repair damaged or diseased neural tissue. Due to its ability to activate and proliferate (transform) brain stem cells turmerone is showing a lot of promise in treating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, brain cancer and stroke.
Depression has constant or re-occurring periods (episodes) of feeling sad and having lack of interest. Depression often accompanies other diseases and shown to have lower levels of monoamine neurotransmitters (norepindephrine, serotonin and dopamine) in the brain. Curcumin shown as a potent antidepressant agent.[79-81] Besides increasing BDNF levels, curcumin can also boost other monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine (norepinephrine levels unchanged).[82,83] Randomized study of 60 patients with depression showed that curcumin was able to improve the mood on par with prescription antidepressants (Prozac), while combined treatment (curcumin + Prozac) produced even greater results after 6 weeks.
Reduces Risk of Strokes
Ischemic stroke is a condition when brain arteries become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow (ischemia). The stroke treatment and the unblocking of the cerebral artery produces sudden rush of blood, causing the injury inflammation to the area called ischemia reperfusion injury (IRI). Studies shown that curcumin can help reduce the damage caused by the stroke, restoring tissue and improving healing afterwards. Curcumin reduced oxidative damage during reperfusion phase. [86,87]
Taking curcumin before the stroke also reduced overall inflammation afterwards, and minimized the infarcted zone. Microglia cells are the type of macrophages and are the main form of immune defense in the central nervous system (CNS). Once activated, microglia can perform diverse tasks by becoming different versions of itself (phenotype) initiating immune responses. The M1 type microglia is the initial respondent that is able to produce pro-inflammatory proteins (cytokines) and fats (chemokines). The M2 type microglia does the opposite, releasing anti-inflammatory factors and decreasing overall inflammation. Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties shown to decrease M1 microglia and overall inflammation markers while increasing M2 microglia levels. Ability to shift microglial population from M1 to M2 makes curcumin a strong potential treatment for post stroke related injuries. Overall research shows that taking curcumin can reduce the damage caused by the stoke.
Relieves Anxiety and Stress
In the modern day we seem to be always on the go, connected through work, socialization and tech devises to the grid of stressors. Our bodies engage these challenges (regardless of size, magnitude or importance) through a stress-response, shifting from calm—parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest) to, ready—sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight). Continuous activation of the stress-response wears and tears our systems eventually leading to physiological, psychological and emotional symptoms like fatigue, lethargy and anxiety to name a few.
Spices like turmeric can help relieve stress and anxiety, as many of such conditions share similar biochemical markers. Scientists have big hopes for curcumin when it comes of reliving stress and anxiety. Taking curcumin by itself or with other antidepressant herbs (saffron) minimizes anxiety and depression symptoms in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients. Another human study of curcumin with fenugreek dietary fiber showed significantly reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue. The curcumin/fenugreek mixture produced a potent antioxidant blend which reduced cellular damage, lipid peroxidation while increasing protective enzymes (GPx, SOD) and compounds (GSH). Curcumin was also found to improve the mood and physical symptoms in women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), by elevating their BDNF (the brain factor).
Further, curcumin shown to increase the bioavailability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—an omega-3 fatty acid essential to brain’s development and protection. Low DHA levels have been linked with neurological disorders as well as depression and anxiety. Curcumin reduces anxiety symptoms in stressed animals by increasing DHA and BDNF production while stabilizing adrenal gland (gland that mediates body’s stress response) and its hormones (like cortisol and other glucocorticoids).[77,104]
Being stressed often comes with being tired and fatigued. It is a common problem for many, as we often looking to boost energy through consuming more coffee, energy drinks or chocolate bars. However, research shows that adding cucumin to your diet can dramatically decrease fatigue and lethargy, especially in older population. Being a potent antioxidant, curcumin reduced several inflammation markers which contribute to symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome including immobility and hyperalgesia (greater sensitivity to pain). [138,139]
Helps You Sleep
Being constantly stressed or worried elevates oxidative stress and can lead to numerous physical and psychological conditions like anxiety, restlessness and/or insomnia. The mind worries raise stress-response hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol creating excitation and inhibiting sleep. Turmeric has been studied for every possible human condition, including sleep deprivation. It has shown to restore antioxidant enzymes and locomotor ability in 72 hour sleep-deprived animals. Curcumin treatment reduced oxidativce stress, anxiety symptoms and believed to be involved in nitrogen oxide (NO) regulation in studied animals. NO is a gas and neurotransmitter naturally produced in the body. Higher NO levels produce numerous health benefits including better blood circulation, immunity, cognition, sex drive and sleep.[148,149]
Chronic stress makes it difficult to “wind down” and is one of the causes for insomnia. As discussed before, stress invokes immune response by raising various cytokines (inflammatory proteins). Specific cytokines have also shown to disrupt sleep. Turmeric’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties decrease number of cytokines (NF-kB, TNF, IL-1, IL-2, IL-8) and inflammation enzymes (COX-2, iNOS). As the result, turmeric and/or curcumin improve overall mood, reduce depression like symptoms, balance hormones leading to a calm and relaxed state.[150,151]
Heart and Cardiovascular health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world. Extensive research links inflammation and oxidative stress as major contributors of numerous metabolic conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD). Free radicals damage endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) and substances within blood plasma like low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). These damaged compounds begin to clump up along the blood vessel walls creating atherosclerosis plaques. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body leading to diseases of tissue organs and systems like cardiovascular.
Turmeric is full of potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients that can help reduce and even prevent arterial plaques, heart disease and heart attacks.[108,109] Active compound curcumin shown to reduce post-bypass heart attack risk by 56 percent. It’s also able to improve endothelial function normalizing blood pressure, circulation and reducing overall risk of heart disease. When it comes to effectiveness to reversing cardiac damage, curcumin was shown to be on par with exercise for improving endothelia function  and cholesterol medication Atorvastatin . Curcumin inhibits NF-kB factor initiating widespread decreases inflammation markers (like cytokines) within arterial and cardiac tissues  often seen in chemotherapy  and post heart surgery patients , postmenopausal women , diabetics , or in healthy middle aged and elder populations , reducing oxidative stress and improving elasticity of blood vessels.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Diabetes is a chronic high blood-sugar condition where the body is unable to fully utilize carbohydrate metabolism. It effects millions of people across the globe, costing billions of dollars in terms in research, treatments and prevention. Turmeric has been a common treatment for diabetes in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine.
Curcumin is able to decrease diabetic symptoms through number of mechanisms. Inflammation and high levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and NF-kB protein factors have been linked to insulin resistance. Curcumin studies show its ability to decrease inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity by interacting in several ways:
- As a powerful antioxidant, curcumin is a strong scavenger, directly responsible to neutralizing damaging ROS and decreasing oxidative stress;
- Inhibits TFN-alpha and NF-kB resulting in significant decrease of inflammatory response; 
- Induces activity of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma). PPAR-gamma is a key regulator of glucose and lipid metabolism. It oversees fat cells development (differentiation), changes insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation (cytokines and macrophages) and partakes in cell cycle (proliferation). PPAR-gamma also inhibits NF-kB further driving down inflammatory response; [117,118]
- Improves liver metabolic enzymes in diabetic animals resulting in greater shuttling of sugars and fats from the blood to cells for storage or energy production. Other benefits include lower hyperglycaemia (high blood-sugar levels), cholesterol and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). HbA1c is formed when glucose attaches to hemoglobin of the red blood cell (RBC) and serves as a marker for glycemic conditions like diabetes and CVD;
- Increases liver’s antioxidant enzymes protecting cells and tissues from oxidative damage; 
- Shows similar results in humans. Curcumin decreases blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin resistance index and total triglycerides in type-2 diabetic patients; 
- May reduce the risk of developing diabetes all together. High-risk pre-diabetic patients who took curcumin for 9 months did not develop diabetes, while 16 percent of the placebo group did.
High cholesterol is one of the health risk factors associated with oxidative stress and often present along with chronic inflammation and high blood sugars. Reducing oxidative stress also lowers “bad” cholesterol, forms less arterial plaque and decreases chances of metabolic type diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes and CVD.
Taking turmeric shown to be effective in reducing overall cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and inflammation. Animals consuming turmeric extract over 7 weeks reduced overall triglycerides (including LDL cholesterol and phospholipids) and reduced oxidative tissue damage. Human trials confirm animal results. 67 type-2 diabetic patients reviled that curcumin was as effective as Atorvastatin (cholesterol medication), while reducing numerous inflammation markers. In another study, curcumin decreased total cholesterol in 10 people by 12 percent while improving high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol by 29 percent in only 7 days.
Gut Health and Digestive Aid
Turmeric not only adds flavour and vibrant colour to dishes but it can also play an important role in digestion and gut health. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicines have used turmeric for centuries treating wide range of digestion ailments like stomach pain, gut inflammation and indigestion.
Turmeric improves digestion by stimulating various digestive enzymes. Mixing turmeric with other spices (like red chillies, black pepper, coriander and cumin) amplifies digestive benefits by producing and secreting more bile acid. Curcumin increases gallbladder activity which improves digestion of food in the intestine and faster emptying of food from stomach to small intestine.
As with many spices turmeric contains significant amount of fiber (over 2 grams per table spoon). Fiber bulks up with water stimulating the digestive track and decreasing constipation. The fiber also binds to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) reducing their re-absorption in the colon and lowering LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol levels.
Being a major antioxidant curcumin directly seeks out ROS protecting digestive tissues from oxidative damage. A meta-analysis of curcumin showed it’s able to decrease mild symptoms like abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).[43,129] Curcumin also improves IBS symptoms by raising the low numbers of brain neurotransmitters often seen in gastrointestinal (GI) disorders including IBS, inflammatory bowl disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).[130-132]
Turmeric has been the focal research target of numerous chronic conditions. Its main bioactive compound curcumin shown immense potential in decreasing inflammation, improving organ functionality, enhancing body systems and protecting function of numerous organs and systems while protecting against infections, cancers and age-related diseases.[2,31,39,43]
Inflammation and oxidative stress place greater burden on the body wearing out our systems faster and increasing the risk for age-related diseases. But, curcumin being such a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient, it has become the focus of many anti-aging studies. In small insects like a fruit fly, curcumin increased overall lifespan by decreasing oxidative stress. Its ability to significantly reduce inflammation regulators like TNF-alpha and NF-kB makes curcumin a popular supplement among the elderly, as some hope to slow down the aging process altogether.
Protects Liver – Detoxifies the Body
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a standard treatment for liver disorders. Liver is the main detoxification organ that uses many enzymes to process, filter and remove body’s byproducts and toxins. The body’s immune system responds to the influx of these byproducts through inflammation and increase of signalling proteins—cytokines. However, chronic cytokine overflow pushes immune response onto healthy tissues leading to damage and disease.
Turmeric’s strong antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammation compounds fight oxidative stress and protect hepatic cells. Animal trials with turmeric show greater tissue integrity by 23 percent in liver, 24 percent in kidney, 18 percent in spleen and 31 percent in brain (decreasing lipid peroxidation). Turmeric appears to be so powerful that it may stop liver damage in various ways, and as effective as some medication. Compounds like curcumin reduce many inflammatory markers (cytokines) while elevate antioxidant enzymes (super-oxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione-S-tranferase (GST)), as well as antioxidant glutathione (GSH).
Fights Bad Bacteria and Fungi
From the ancient times, turmeric was used to fight many types of infections. Turmeric paste is still applied in some areas of India and Bangladesh during marriage ceremonies, or after childbirth when umbilical cord is cut. These traditions derived from medical uses of turmeric’s protection against infection. Such properties have been maximized as tea tonics and pastes to stop the growth of dangerous fungi and bacteria.
Turmeric extracts can suppress the growth of several histamine-producing bacteria. Also, several papers show that curcumin can inhibit the growth of several Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) strains.[2,43,141] H. pylori is one of the most widespread bacteria responsible for number of diseases including peptic ulcers. Turmeric was found to be the most effective in stopping reproduction of H. pylori compared to other spices and herbs (like cumin, ginger, chili, borage, black caraway, oregano, and licorice). 
Turmeric also contains antifungal benefits. This includes fighting harmful strains such as Trichophyton longifusus. Further tests showed turmeric extract effectively killing 29 different strains of fungi.
On another hand, turmeric can positively affect the hydrogen-producing bacterial flora in colon, improving overall bowel movement.
Since ancient times of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, turmeric was used to cleanse wounds, stimulate recovery and fight infections of numerous skin conditions. Science identified turmeric as a mighty anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and an antiseptic agent capable of reducing ROS damage within skin cells and slowing down the early signs of aging. Recent review found turmeric to improve numerous skin conditions  making it a popular ingredient in many skin type products.[2-4,10]
Test tube and animal studies show curcumin within turmeric as a potent anticancer agent, including skin cancers.[2,31,53] Curcumin protects against ROS damage, reducing oxidative stress while elevating GSH and nuclear factor-like2 (Nrf2) levels.[2,10,39,43,152] Nrf2 is a transcription factor protein in humans that regulates antioxidant proteins. GSH is body’s own natural antioxidant considered one of the most important ROS scavengers. This is again due to curcumin’s impressive ability to inhibit inflammation (decreasing cytokines), improve antioxidant enzymes and promote cell-death sequence (apoptosis) within tumors.
Psoriasis is an inflammation of the skin condition with common inflammation markers including NF-kB, STAT3 and TNF. [31,153] It often shows as thick, red lesions which appear on body parts. Research shown curcumin’s effectiveness in lowering inflammation by decreasing these common markers and making it a viable therapeutic remedy for this skin condition.[152,154]
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease where the body’s connective tissue begins to harden. Connective tissue strengthens organs and other body parts and is made out of many types of proteins, collagen being one of them. The fibroblasts are the most common cells of the connective tissues which produce extracellular matrix and collagen for stability. In scleroderma, the fibroblasts produce too much collagen leading to tissue hardening (like skin, organs, etc). Curcumin studies showed that it can decrease activity of these sclerodermic fibroblasts in several organs including lung and skin.
This skin disorder affects pigment (colour) in some skin cells, resulting in white patches over some body parts. Here, the skin melanocytes are destroyed for unknown reasons. UVB phototherapy has been a long standing option in reducing white patches in vitiligo patients. Because of its antioxidant ability, curcumin has also been used as a therapeutic option in vitiligo. Combining curcumin cream with UVB phototherapy produces a greater effect in patients than in UVB alone.
When feeling stressed, the body transitions from rest-and-digest to fight-or-flight response by releasing numerous stress hormones (glucocorticoids) like cortisol in order to deal with the physical or psychological challenges. Compounds called adaptogens have been identified to counteract the adverse effect of everyday body stress. Adaptogens often used in herbal medicine and have the ability to regulate stress hormone release from the adrenal gland. Turmeric has been identified as one of such adaptogens with its ability to decrease inflammation. The antioxidant actions of curcumin within turmeric shown to decrease oxidative stress and levels of stress related hormones. Turmeric had several other adaptogenic abilities by reducing body weight, improving memory, and regulating blood sugar levels.
We often say that stress contributes to weight gain and science agrees. Stress hormones (cortisol) are associated with accumulation of fat around the organs and stomach, often referred to visceral fat or apple shape. Other factors like poor diet, smoking and drinking increase our waistlines even more. But, spices like turmeric can help battle those extra pounds.
Turmeric is known to balance hormones and decrease oxidative stress, two factors often associated with weight gain. Curcumin suppresses several key inflammatory markers as well as development (differentiation) of fat cells.[135,136] Human studies show similar benefits, as 30 day curcumin trial helped 44 overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome lose about 8 percent of body fat, which totalled 5 percent loss in body weight.
For thousands of years, Asia has been using turmeric to heal and improve wide range of conditions. Studied species of this herb comprise over 235 bioactive compounds including primary phenolics, terpenoids, sterols, alkaloids and other active ingredients. These phytonutrients boost cognition, digestion, cognition, while protecting cells and DNA against free radical damage. Curcumin in particular has been the focus of numerous research topics showing strong potential against many inflammation based cancers and metabolic-type diseases. Just one tablespoon (7 grams) contains: 
- about 24 Calories
- 0.5 grams of Protein
- 4.4 grams of Carbohydrates, about 2 grams of which is Fiber
- 0.2 grams of Sugar
- 0.7 grams of Fats
Here’s additional list of micro and phytonutrients:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- vitamin B3 (niacin)
- vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- vitamin B9 (folate)
- vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
- vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
- vitamin E
- vitamin K
- calcium (Ca)
- potassium (K)
- phosphorus (P)
- manganese (Mn)
- magnesium (Mg)
- sodium (Na)
- selenium (Se)
- zinc (Zn)
- iron (Fe)
Turmeric’s nutrient numbers provide:
- 26 percent of daily manganese,
- 16 percent of daily iron, and
- 5 percent of daily potassium and vitamin B6.
Nutrients within turmeric shown to fight oxidative stress, improve immunity and organ function while protecting cells against mutation and pathogen causing conditions. [2,46-11,31,39,43]
Cautions and Drawbacks
Turmeric has been readily used in food and supplements and deemed safe by number of world health and governing agencies. But, it’s important to be aware of some of the of side-effects or “effects” of this potent spice when taken in large amounts. No serious adverse effects have ever been reported in people taking high doses of turmeric and/or curcumin. However, ingesting high doses of turmeric may cause some issues including upset stomach, headache, dizziness and diarrhea.[2,39]
Turmeric has anticoagulant properties and is one of the methods of improving blood circulation. But, it may also increase the risk of bleeding in patients already taking blood-clotting (antiplatelet) or anticoagulant medications like aspirin, plavix, fragmin, lovenox, ticlid and coumadin.[10,160] As we mentioned before, turmeric (curcumin) should be consumed with black pepper (piperine) in order to increase bioavailability up to 20 times. Piperine interacts with liver enzymes which generally break down drugs and medication thereby increasing overall concentration of such drugs in the system. This may be the case for several beta-blockers (blocking epinephrine effect and slowing down heart rate) or other high blood pressure drugs like dilantin, inderal and egretol. Therefore, people on such medications should consult their doctor regarding turmeric/curcumin use.[10,161]
There is no evidence or reported cases that eating turmeric has any negative impact on pregnant or lactating women, but whenever in doubt, consult your physician.
Turmeric is a vibrant yellowish spice that has been enticing the taste buds for many generations. Its 4000 plus year history spreads beyond culinary recipes into the traditional Asian medicinal remedies. This golden spice supports immunity, relieves pain and improves digestion.
Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is believed to be the most powerful natural antioxidant discovered to date. Curcumin’s ability to greatly inhibit inflammation made it the focus of much research in every disease and condition linked to oxidative stress including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes and many types of cancers.[2,5-10]
Besides curcumin, over 235 phytonutrients have been identified in varieties of turmeric plant, shown to boost immune system, balance hormones, improve organ health, enhance cognition, fight pathogens and may even slow down the aging process.[2,11,31,43]
You can experience the unique taste, colour and smell of this golden spice along with the multitude of above listed benefits in our breakthrough restorative blend — Fortify.
Turmeric Tea Recipe
This traditional, generations old recipe is passed on within my family. Let’s face it, when it comes to homeopathy, naturopathy and Ayurveda, no one does it better than the Asians—as the roots of such treatments stem from there.
Recipe makes 2 large serving.
- 3 cups of water
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger with the juice and flesh
- 1 tsp of turmeric powder
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds (ground or crushed)
- 1/2 tsp of black peppercorns (ground or crushed)
- few fresh mint leaves (optional) or,
- 1 tbsp of Tulsi (holy basil) (optional)
- 1 tsp natural, local honey (optional)
Using a small metal pot, avoid non-stick, add cold tap water.
Grate the fresh ginger root right into the pot that will be used to make the tea. This way you can catch all the fresh ginger juice as well.
Add in turmeric powder, fennel seeds and black pepper.
Cover pot and bring to a boil.
Turn off the heat and let it steep for 5-7 minutes.
Option (choose one): add in the fresh mint leaves or, tulsi leaves and steep another 2-3 minutes.
You can add in sweetener if desired, just before serving.
Strain and enjoy warm.
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- Tastes amazing so, it will help us unwind and relax the mind.
We tried every major brand on the market to no avail. So, we created our own!
Let us introduce the one and only Turmeric Tea you need in your pantry.
We lovingly call it a spice tonic named—Fortify Chai. Loved by tea bloggers for taste and nutritionists for the health benefits.
* * *
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Taste: balanced | earthy | levelling
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Ingredients: Green Tea (premium leaf Indian tea), Holy Basil (tulsi), Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric, Fennel, Black Pepper.
Performance enhancing tulsi (holy basil) + 5-Spice Blend: 1,500 mg / teabag
Scientific research shows selected spices:
- restorative benefits of balance hormones
- improve immunity
- combat stress
- anti-depressant and,
- neuro-protective properties
Learn more about the recipe above and our passion for DUPIsCHAI.
- K.P. Prabhakaran Nair (2013). The Agronomy and Economy of Turmeric and Ginger. Chapter 1. Elsevier Insights.
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Wonderful, informative article. I make sure I get tumerick every day by putting in all types of food…everything from oatmeal to spaghetti sauce.
You did lose me a bit on your spelling/grammar error…”It’s” is the contraction of “it is.” The author consistently used “it’s” mistakenly for the possessive “its.”
Thank you for the comment! We too love our Turmeric and add it to daily foods.
We’ll double check the grammatical error, possible autocorrect issue. 🙂