Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in many foods.
Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries.
You can find dried powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store.
Sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like ginger root, but smaller).
The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric.
Curcumin has been studied like crazy for its health benefits.
Many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.
Health benefits of curcumin
There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric).
Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level.
Some studies even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).
Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules.
Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.
These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have amazing health benefits.
Chronic inflammation plays a major role in so many conditions. Including heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, arthritis pain, etc.
Curcumin has other amazing functions too:
Boosts our levels of "Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor" (like a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is great for brain health.
Improves “endothelial” function” (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is great for heart health.
Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells.
Do you think these make turmeric deserve the “miracle spice” title?
How to get the most out of your turmeric
Curcumin is not easily absorbed by your gut. For one thing, it’s fat soluble.
So, as with fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fat-containing meal.
The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper. Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!
If you want the health benefits of curcumin, you need to get a larger dose of than just eating some turmeric; this is where supplements come in.
Before you take a curcumin supplement, take caution if you:
Have high blood pressure
Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners
Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid
If your blood pressure is well controlled, meaning it’s less than 130/80 either with or without medications, it’s OK to include turmeric in your food and use caution as a supplement.
Turmeric acts like an NSAID and can squeeze on those kidney blood vessels causing your blood pressure to spike.
What you can do if you really feel like you could benefit from the health benefits of turmeric would be to just monitor your blood pressure.
And if you see an increase after you start taking it then stop and just use turmeric in your food. If you don’t see an increase in blood pressure then you are good to go.
If your blood pressure is over 130/80 with or without medications, there’s a lot you can do naturally to help you lower it and use less medications. Click on the image below and I’ll send you my blood pressure lowering checklist and a 7-day meal plan.
For diabetics, high blood sugar over time can damage your kidneys (and a lot of other important organs like your brain, heart, and nerve endings).
If you have kidney damage then you want to use anti-inflammatories with caution including turmeric and NSAIDS like ibuprofen and naproxen. Check with your doctor to make sure you get the go ahead that your kidneys are healthy.
Always read the label & check with your doctor before taking a new supplement.
Turmeric is a delicious spice, and it’s “active ingredient” curcumin is a great health-booster.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are great to bust chronic inflammation.
It also has other amazing health benefits, like brain- and heart-boosting properties, and even cancer-fighting properties.
Curcumin supplements can be great for your health, but they're not for everyone.
Check the label or speak with your practitioner before taking it.
I want to know: What’s your favorite turmeric recipe? Try my version of “golden milk,” and let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (turmeric): Golden Milk
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 cup hot water
1 ½ tsp turmeric, ground
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
½ tsp honey
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
Warm over medium heat, whisking frequently. Heat until hot, but not boiling.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can substitute 2 cups of almond milk instead of the 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water.