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The Truth about Turmeric: Miracle Spice or Myth?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you're a fan of Asian or Indian food, you've likely consumed turmeric. Derived from its namesake perennial plant grown throughout India and in parts of Asia and Africa, the bright orange spice has been used medicinally in various parts of the world for thousands of years. On the culinary side, it’s most commonly used to lend its warm, bitter taste to curry powders, cheeses, butters and mustards.
 
Turmeric’s secret weapon is the phytochemical curcumin, which has been linked to a myriad of health benefits. To increase their intake, many people are seeking out the supplement form of the spice.
 
When a new supplement starts hitting headlines along with words like “must try” and “miracle,” it’s easy to buy into the hype, but does turmeric live up to its promises? We talked to a couple of nutrition experts to get their take.
 
What Can Turmeric Do for You?
 
Although there hasn't been a large amount of scientific research on humans, the evidence so far looks promising, says Sarah Bright of Bright Fitness. Most of the buzz is around curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties, which may slow or decrease swelling and inflammation. This could be great news for people suffering from a range of diseases, including cancer, heart conditions, arthritis and diabetes.
 
"Preliminary studies suggest that turmeric's potential antioxidant effects could fight against free radicals to protect cells from damage, thus reducing the risk of cancer," says Laura Dilz, a registered dietitian with Lime and Greens.
 
Curcumin's anti-inflammatory benefits could also help prevent the risk of heart disease by lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, elevating heart protective (HDL) cholesterol and preventing plaque build-up in the arteries, according to Dilz. The compound has also been used to promote healthy digestion and liver function.
 
Those suffering from or at risk of Alzheimer's may also benefit from turmeric. Numerous studies have found that curcumin reduces the brain plaque and nerve cell inflammation that contribute to the neurodegenerative disease.
 
Who Shouldn't Take Turmeric?
 
Those with suppressed immune systems could experience a worsening of symptoms when taking turmeric, and people with gallstones or bile duct dysfunction should avoid the supplement, says Dilz.
 
She points out that turmeric can impact how the blood clots, which means it could increase bleeding risks in those taking blood thinners. Turmeric may also interfere with medications that either decrease the production of stomach acid or affect blood glucose levels. Pregnant or breastfeeding women can consume the spice in foods, but should steer clear of the supplement.
 
"If you're unsure of whether you should take turmeric, or if you're taking other medications, it's important to talk to your doctor first," says Bright.
 
How to Take Turmeric
 
For general use, you can get the benefits by cooking with ground turmeric, or with the fresh root of turmeric. If you're using it to treat a specific problem or condition, though, you may need a supplement—in a juice, tea or pill format—to get a larger quantity of curcumin.
 
"The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that one to three grams of powdered turmeric is needed per day to reap potential health benefits," says Dilz. "However, there’s no clear recommendation for curcumin dosage, and additional research is needed to determine specific recommendations for turmeric intake."
 
Beyond turmeric and curcumin, experts point out that many other factors influence inflammation levels, including the nutritional value of foods, the frequency and intensity of exercise and the amount of abdominal fat.
 
The Verdict on Turmeric
 
Although there’s growing evidence that turmeric can help combat inflammation, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness against major diseases. Most people can add the spice to their diets without much risk, but it may not achieve the dramatic results that recent headlines imply.
 
Have you ever supplemented with turmeric? Did you notice any benefits and/or side effects?

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Comments

CECTARR 8/31/2019
Thanks Report
KOALA_BEAR 8/25/2019
Don't use as a supplement only when making curry. Hubby recently started using cardamom at my urging & it is helping his pain diminish but not go away. His back still hurts but he needs fewer pain meds. Report
PICKIE98 8/14/2019
More clinical studies needed. Report
GRAYGRANNY 7/24/2019
Initially when I read all that turmeric could do for you some time ago was excited to maybe be rid of pain of arthritis....and then the kicker about thinning blood too much if on blood thinners...BUMMER!! Report
GRALAN 6/27/2019
I use peppers, curry, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon in most of the foods I cook for us at home, and I've tried turmeric in hot tea. I think I'll keep it on food not beverages, as sometimes my lip gets a hole in it and turmeric stains my shirts something fierce. (8`pK hahaha (but really the staining is significant). Report
KHALIA2 6/22/2019
Important info that each of us should know! Report
LESSOFMOORE 6/16/2019
Good information. Report
TERMITEMOM 6/12/2019
Good article, but an update would be important. In the world of supplements, more is known every year. I would not take turmeric based on this article because it is too old. I would do some research. Report
JANTHEBLONDE 6/12/2019
Great article! Report
HOLLYM48 6/12/2019
Great article! Report
LIDDY09 6/12/2019
Thank You Report
HUNTER0077 6/12/2019
I used to use turmeric for arthritis pain. Then, the doctors couldn't stop my bleeding after a breast cancer biopsy. They asked me if I was on blood thinners. It was the turmeric that had caused this. I haven't used it since and have had no problems even with several surgeries. Beware. Report
MAMADEE016 6/12/2019
For those wondering about gram to teaspoon ratio: 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric is just slightly over 2 grams (2.18gm).
I also think SP needs to update articles like this... studies on supplements have increased greatly in just the last 5 years. There's so much more science now proving how effective many supplements can be - although I believe we all must pay attention to the source of any supplement so we KNOW it contains what we expect it to and does not contain anything we don't want. There are too many companies that market their products with inaccurate implications. So we have to do some research of our own too. Report
RENEEWL1 6/12/2019
Great info Report
MAREE1953 6/11/2019
Interested in updated research, too. Report
-POOKIE- 6/11/2019
Interesting. I use it in all my Indian cookery. It's not a flavour that lends to general everyday use. Report
LADYBUG2917 2/13/2019
Thanks for the info Report
BOOKNUT52 2/5/2019
Advice is to ask your doctor if you aren't sure if it is OK to take tumeric. But most doctors are clueless when it comes to these kinds of supplements... Report
SHOAPIE 1/28/2019
How much is 1-3 grams? Report
MSROZZIE 1/27/2019
Good read. Turmeric should be used with black pepper to be effective. Report
CHRIS3874 1/27/2019
thanks Report
UROPA31 1/27/2019
Perform a search using the keywords UCLA and Altzheimers and you will get dozens of links to published and peer reviewed papers. Personally, I consume one gram per day in the hopes of helping stave off that dreaded disease. Report
POINDEXTRA 1/27/2019
This article is 2 years old. I'd like to see an update based on more recent research. Report
CACUJIN 1/27/2019
Hopefully people will do more research regarding this spice. In 2019, studies have demonstrated that it could be dangerous to use as a supplement. A small amount for cooking would be fine for most people. Report
JUSTFURKIDS 1/26/2019
I take a turmeric supplement daily. It’s supposed to be most effective when metabolized with fats so I take it at the same time as my Fish Oil, D3, K2 and Astaxanthin (all oily) capsules. Feelin’ great and 69 lbs lost last year! :-) Report
EDWINVV 12/26/2018
Hi Melissa,

Thank you so much for elaborating about the different turmeric supplements. I like the way you put so much useful information in the post and it's still enjoyable to read. Thanks for that!

I have a question for you if that's ok. I have anxiety and depression but also suffer from Arthritis, which if I'm not mistaken is an inflammation-based disease. Now, I heard wonderful messages about these supplements, but my only problem is, that I'm on a budget.

I've looked on this site:https://natureshealthyroots.co
m/2016/11/23/turmeric-plus-review-b
est-turmeric-capsules/ and they have a discount package, which makes it affordable for me to buy.

Will you do me a favor and check it out as a proffesional and if the supplements are good? It looks promising though. I hope to hear from you soon!

With love,

Edwin Report
ANHELIC 12/17/2018
Thanks for the suggestions Report
KHALIA2 12/13/2018
Great info to know. Thanks! Report
SUPERBIEN 11/28/2018
I'm a huge fan of turmeric extract for chronic pain and inflammation. I have a lot of inflammation, esp around my C-section scar, and turmeric extract was the first thing that consistently helped. Curcumax Pro is the only supplement that I feel when I miss doses - it's been consistently that way for years. I so bless the doctor who mentioned turmeric. (But don't try to cook a bit more with plain turmeric spice - medicinal doses are high enough to need an extract.)

The other thing that helps with chronic pain is CBD oil. Bluebird 6x concentrate, 1-3 times per day. Report
SUPERBIEN 11/28/2018
I'm a huge fan of turmeric extract for chronic pain and inflammation. I have a lot of inflammation, esp around my C-section scar, and turmeric extract was the first thing that consistently helped. Curcumax Pro is the only supplement that I feel when I miss doses - it's been consistently that way for years. I so bless the doctor who mentioned turmeric. (But don't try to cook a bit more with plain turmeric spice - medicinal doses are high enough to need an extract.) Report
ETHELMERZ 11/10/2018
Was part of a test group for turmeric for one year, supplement did nothing, 200 people, will not waste money on supplements again. Report
GREYTDOLPHIN 11/4/2018
My doc recommended taking the supplement. I also use it in my cooking, but not convinced that it's done much to reduce the inflammation. Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL 10/26/2018
Tumeric fan Report
NASFKAB
Use it a lot & add black pepper to it Report
ALEGRIARISING
Thank you for siting the reference materials and resources for your information. As every female on my mother's side of the family has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's I really should look into this. Report
What is best dosage? Report
Good to know! Report
I enjoy using tumeric when making cashew "cheese" or scrambled tofu. It gives these dishes the yellow color I need. Any added health benefit is a plus. Report
CHRIS3874
Is there enough in mustard for it to make a difference ? Report
Good article. Like the pros and cons mentioned. Good need-to-know information. I use turmeric in my daily cooking. I find it helps relieve my arthritic pain in my knees. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Tried supplement for 11 months on purpose, did nothing for me, especially where arthritis is concerned. Another myth.... Report
It's recommended, if you take a supplement of turmeric, to choose one that includes BioPerine which is extracted from black pepper and aids in absorption. I take it daily and I cook with it often because of it's known benefits and it's flavor. :) Report
Thank you for the information on who shouldn't take it. Valuable to have. Report
Thanks, I've been on Plavix (generic now) for years' so I will pass on this thanks to your good advice. Report
Taking one turmeric capsule a day since April has helped me with arthritis in my wrist since hurting it last September. It's helping me take a lot less ibuprofen. Report
SUNSET09
This is good information and have recently heard about and using turmeric tea, preferably. I am not a pill popper and prefer the spice. Haven't tried it on food yet and thanx for the great ideas. Report
Turmeric has been great for me. I take that & ginger to help with knee arthritis(result of being obese for decades) & getting me off of a constant regimen of ibuprofen, which comes with its own horrid side effects when used for so long. Now with the two supplements, a long with a very significant weight loss (which didn't completely stop the pain) I can now jump, climb, walk for miles..no running though, but that's a bone spur problem, not a pain issue. Report
duplicate post - sorry :( Report
I take tumeric in capsule form after a cancer diagnosis. It does help with joint pain. Report
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