Chances are you’ve been hearing a lot of talk about turmeric lately. This once exotic spice is the one responsible for the gorgeous golden color of many Indian and Thai curries. Plus it makes an appearance in a number of yellow mustards on the market.
But the recent rumblings about turmeric aren’t about its culinary uses. They’re about the spice’s potential health benefits. Or more specifically the active compound curcumin which is found in the spice.
Science backed turmeric health benefits
A growing stack of studies has revealed curcumin may be helpful for treating, preventing, or reversing a laundry list of ailments.
Following are five of the most exciting potential health benefits of taking a turmeric supplement.
1. Reduces inflammation:
Chronic inflammation is at the heart of practically every chronic disease we face, from arthritis to diabetes. It plays a central role in heart disease, cancer, asthma and more. And figuring out how to reduce that inflammation is key. It could help us prevent and recover from countless illnesses
It turns out curcumin could help. Researchers have found that in some cases the spice extract can be more effective at reducing chronic inflammation than even prescription NSAID drugs. And curcumin gets the job done without any of the dangerous side effects of those drugs such as liver damage or internal bleeding.
2. Relieves pain:
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a potent natural pain reliever. In fact, there’s evidence it could work as well as the standard go-to, over-the-counter ibuprofen.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found volunteers who were taking curcumin experienced just as much pain relief as folks on ibuprofen.
And curcumin appears to be an equal opportunity pain reliever. It reduces pain in cases of arthritis, nerve pain, dental pain, sciatica and more
3. Cancer protection:
According to a major review conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center, curcumin may literally be a lifesaver. Studies have found the spice extract could help prevent cancers from forming. And equally, as exciting, it’s been seen attacking and slowing the growth of cancer cells that have already developed.
Researchers have seen significant results in the lab with all kinds of cancers including prostate, mouth, uterine, pancreatic, breast, and bladder cancers.
4. Fights cognitive decline:
Your brain needs a hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. But as with all hormones, your BDNF levels drop off as you age. This drop-off can lead to memory problems, cognitive decline, and even dementia.
However, a study published in the journal Brain Health found that curcumin actually helped elevate those BDNF numbers. Researchers believe this could help slow or even prevent age-related mental decline.
5. Helps control diabetes:
Experts consider AMPK a “master switch” for controlling glucose and fat metabolism. When activated it puts the brakes on the production of glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
That makes it the perfect candidate for helping to control diabetes. And in fact, two leading diabetes drugs work in part by activating the critical enzyme. But according to a study in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, the curcumin may be 400 times more effective at triggering AMPK than at least one popular prescription.
6. Fights free radicals:
Unstable free radicals cause oxidative stress. This can harm cells, proteins, and DNA in your body. And that damage can end up making you look old before your time. Even worse, it contributes to major diseases including cancer, asthma, and diabetes.
Curcumin, on the other hand, is a potent antioxidant. It naturally helps neutralize unwelcome free radicals. Which means it can help stop and even reverse the damage caused by oxidative stress. Plus the herbal extract helps boost the your body already produces.
Turmeric isn’t a magical cure-all. But it certainly offers a bunch of promising benefits.
If you decide to give a supplement a try just make sure it also contains piperine. This black pepper extract increases the effects of turmeric, making it more bioavailable or easily absorbed.