Turmeric (curcumin) : Uses, Side Effects, Dosage and Benefits

Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric or it’s main active compound curcumin, has been around for centuries and is known as it can be used for many different reasons. Not only are there numerous and diverse health benefits, there are also medical conditions which it can help inhibit, treat or reduce. 

The spice dates back over 4,000 years ago to India using it as a flavouring of their everyday cuisine. It was also used in Ayurvedic medicine in China. Today, it is much more than a spice and a traditional medicine. 

With it being a natural source from a root plant, there are many reasons why it is a big hit in the health industry right now. Natural products that can treat and benefit health issues are growing exponentially due to them being safer than some other medications. This superfood is an in demand product right now due to its one main function, anti-inflammation

It’s uses, benefits, studies and side effects will be discussed here along with any other facts deemed essential to discuss. 

Turmeric’s main function 

Turmeric has a long history of medicinal uses, and was once known as curcuma longa. It is a flavouring spice from a flowering root plant and belongs to the ginger family. It’s origin is primarily India and also other countries in Southeast Asia and aside from its cooking use and being used as a spice for centuries, it is also popular for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

Like most natural herbs, turmeric has a main active compound called curcumin. Curcumin is what gives the spice it’s vibrant yellow colour but it also takes the credit for being responsible for turmeric’s numerous health benefits. 

In its natural form, turmeric or curcumin cannot provide you with all of the proven health benefits therefore it is best consumed as a supplement. 

Most health benefits are successful due to its inflammation fighting properties which can help with a diverse range of medical conditions or health concerns. This includes stomach diseases, gum diseases, allergies, cancers, osteoarthritis and even skin conditions like dark spots or eczema. 

Turmeric and curcumin are often mistaken as the name thing, but they are not. Here is an outline of the difference between the two:

Turmeric vs Curcumin: what is the difference?

It is easy to get the two confused, so to break it down here are the differences. Turmeric is the root of a flower plant, scientifically known as curcuma longa. Curcumin gets its name from turmeric scientific name but it is not to be mistaken for turmeric itself. In fact, curcumin is the naturally occurring chemical compound found inside the spice and is its main active ingredient. 

The turmeric root is harvested, cleaned and dried before the curcumin compound is extracted. That is where curcumin comes from. 

Here is an outline of how turmeric, and it’s main active compound curcumin, works as a health supplement

How does Turmeric work?

Turmeric contains effective compounds, especially curcumin, which have many health and medicinal benefits. 

When curcumin is extracted from the roof plant, it is more effective as an anti-inflammatory. The compound naturally works to help your body fight disease and illnesses and plays a vital role in helping your body repair. It’s inflammation fighting skills are what make curcumin so powerful. Without anti-inflammatory drugs the body would struggle to fight off bacteria. 

Curcumin actually only makes up 3 percent of the turmeric spice, but it’s strength and effectiveness is much higher than turmeric itself. 

Turmeric and it’s main active compound, curcumin, can work in a number of ways as well as be used for many health and medical benefits:

14 Proven Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

Here are a list of proven health benefits of Turmeric Spice :

1 – Fights inflammation

Turmeric is known for one key reason, as an effective anti-inflammatory which is due to its curcumin content. It is also a very powerful antioxidant, adding to its inflammation fighting ability. According to a study, curcumin can be as effective or in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin. 

Fighting inflammation is beneficial for many medical conditions and health reasons including irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, gum diseases and asthma. Inflammation of wounds and skin infections can be fought too. 

2 – Helps with hay fever 

Turmeric is a well known anti-inflammatory due to its curcumin content. This active ingredient has been linked to reducing symptoms of inflammation such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever or nasal allergies. It can reduce the release of histamine which inhibits an allergic reaction, like pollen for hay fever sufferers.

3 – Helps with depression

Low levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, are closely associated with depression. BDNF is a protein found in the brain that plays a vital role in keeping neurons healthy and encourages the regulation of communication between nerve cells. All of which can be increased with turmeric as it helps boost BDNF and effectively works as an antidepressant. 

A human research 2014 study shows that taking curcumin can show comparable improvements for depression to those taking Prozac, an antidepressant. This study tested 60 individuals, 20 took Prozac, 20 took 1,000mg on curcumin and 20 took a combination of the two for 6 weeks. All three groups showed similar results, suggesting turmeric is a safe and effective antidepressant. 

4 – Could help ease osteoarthritis pain 

Due to turmeric having anti-inflammatory benefits, curcumin is known as a safe long term option to help ease osteoarthritis pain. It is best used in combination with other herbal medications. 

Research shows impressive results and improvement in osteoarthritis patients who took Meriva for 3 months. 50 individuals took 1,000mg of Meriva, a treatment made up of 75% curcumin and 25% of other herbal ingredients. After the 3 month research period, they saw great improvement in stiffness and physical function. With that, patients also report to see a reduction in pain. 

5 – Decreases high cholesterol 

So far evidence is not sufficient enough to say if turmeric has a great effect on human cholesterol as tests have only been done on animals. However, the studies on animals do show positive results which could reflect how effective results would be for humans. 

These studies show that turmeric mainly affects low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides. LDL is known as the bad cholesterol and keeping this low is key for decreasing high cholesterol. Also the reduction of triglycerides is important to inhibit the build of fat and risk of heart disease. 

6 – May prevent cancers

Inflammation is linked to tumour growth, which is a common issue with certain cancers worsening. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and its curcumin compound could potentially play a role in treating or preventing certain cancers. This includes cancer types such as pancreatic, prostate, breast, gastric and colorectal. These types of cancers worsen over time due to tumour growth and turmeric may be able to slow down or inhibit growth. The research for this benefit is still ongoing, but there are several studies, including one particular successful study done on mice, which suggests it is a compound that can prevent tumours from growing or even forming in the first place. 

7 – Reduces itching 

This benefit may sound strange but there are many reports of turmeric being a great anti-itching ingredient. Itching can be an issue for many medical conditions, two that have turmeric have been tested with is eczema and kidney disease. The reason for turmeric being tested is for itching due to its anti-inflammatory properties. To stop itching, inflammation needs to reduce. 

People with kidney disease can suffer with extreme itching. When kidneys fail, there can be a build up of waste in your bloodstream, which is where the itching begins. The use of turmeric will need to be taken orally for the ingredient to reach the bloodstream, which may reduce or inhibit itching. 

For those with skin conditions, such as psoriasis and hyperpigmentation, the inflammation fighting properties of turmeric and curcumin are once again the reason for it being crowned. To treat any skin irritation issues, medical advice always suggests using an anti-inflammatory product, which turmeric is.

8 – May help diabetes 

Curcumin has been thoroughly tested to see its effect on blood sugar levels. In particular, these tests were to see if the compound could help prevent diabetes. Many studies suggest that curcumin can in fact lower blood sugar levels, which is a great benefit for diabetic patients

A 16 week study in 2019 tested obese mice with curcumin supplements, and the conclusion revealed that the curcumin helped lower blood insulin levels. One drawback of this benefit is that the studies have only been treated on animals and not humans. Although, most animal studies do conclude positive results for the effect in humans. 

9 – Reduces the risk of heart disease 

A key role in regulating blood pressure is by improving endothelial function, a thin membrane that covers the inside of the heart. This is particularly important for those who suffer from aging and those with or at risk of heart disease. 

A low level of endothelial function gives an individual a higher risk of getting heart disease. Studies found that curcumin can help increase the health of the membrane and in then increase the endothelial function. 

A study on post menopausal women who took curcumin supplements along with regular exercise for 8 weeks saw an increase of their endothelial function. This study was done on older women, therefore the study suggests that curcumin can reduce the risk of heart disease that is caused by age related declining endothelial function. 

10 – Helps with the buildup of fat in the liver

A buildup of fat in the liver is commonly associated and due to alcohol. But for those who have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, also referred to as NAFLD, turmeric extract can help reduce the fat in the liver as well as inhibit the buildup of more fat. 

In a 12 week study, 50 patients with NAFLD were told to change their lifestyle habits, half were given a 1,500mg curcumin supplement and the other half took a placebo. The results showed a significant decrease of hepatic fibrosis, which is excessive tissue in the liver. 

This is a positive benefit for NAFLD patients, however the rest of the results showed not much of a difference in the curcumin supplementation to the placebo. The test results in mixed conclusions, but there is some effect on reducing the fat content in the liver. 

11 – Cures hangovers 

Again, turmeric is praised here for its anti-inflammatory properties. After consuming excessive alcohol, the body naturally reacts by stressing the liver with oxidase. 

This toxic effect can be inhibited by drinking turmeric water as it can protect the body by reducing inflammation and balancing the oxidatives in the liver. The best way to consume turmeric is to mix it in a pan with hot water, lemon juice, honey and fresh ginger. Once mixed and simmered, drain the water from the pan and you can drink it all day long. 

12 – Helps reduce the risk of premenstrual syndrome

Curcumin has shown to have positive effects on hormones, including dopamine and serotonin, which are two hormones that can improve mood and behaviour. This discovery was seen as a benefit for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) due to it being able to control mood symptoms. 

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can also help fight the pain caused by PMS, and the pain is closely linked to inflammation of the ovaries and the reproductive systems pathways. 

PMS has many underlying symptoms and turmeric cannot fight them all, however studies conclude that mood, behavioural and physical pain symptoms can be reduced. 

13 – Helps treat inflammatory skin conditions 

Due to turmeric anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric can help treat skin conditions that are caused or worsened by inflammation. There is lots of evidence and many studies that reports how oral turmeric supplements can help with dermatological conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. 

One article reported that curcumin can be safer than other topical medicines to treat psoriasis. There are many other options available on the market but most come with side effects, whereas curcumin has little to no side effects or risks when used according to the respected doses. The antioxidative property of the curcumin compound helps treat psoriasis lesions as well as calm and treat eczema.  

14 – May help treat Alzheimer’s disease 

Over the years of studying turmeric, many reports show that turmeric can improve memory and cognitive function. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a common brain disorder which is associated with low levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain. This protein is what keeps the nerve cells healthy and helps regulate communication between cells, which is key for maintaining good memory and cognitive function. 

A study tested on 51 to 81 year olds found that consuming curcumin improved memory by up to 28 percent. The test consisted of 40 patients who all took tests before and after taking curcumin and the test results and scientists behind it suggest that this could help treat Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that involves cognitive degeneration. 

There are many other reported benefits and reasons for taking turmeric, but as of now, there is not enough sufficient evidence to guarantee it works. Let’s take a look at the general studies, user reviews and advice: 

Turmeric Supplements: studies, advice and reviews 

Turmeric and curcumin are most commonly reviewed and studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits. To break down the turmeric and its properties and content, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrition Database released a report.

One tablespoon contains 29 calories, 0.91 grams of protein, 0.31 grams of fat and 6.31 grams of carbohydrates. That one tablespoon can provide 26 percent of daily manganese needs, 16 percent of daily iron, 5 percent of daily potassium and 3 percent of vitamin C.

This data demonstrates just how powerful turmeric can be. A small amount can provide a high percentage of vitamins and minerals to encourage and help health conditions. 

There are hundreds of studies to suggest there are many health benefits of turmeric and conclude it is safe. In a review by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, they conclude curcumin has many health benefits. 

One study showed that when curcumin is combined with piperine, the active component of black pepper, the bioavailability of piperine increased by over 2000%. 

Most studies and research on each health benefit can be found with the information above.

Most user reviews score 4 out of 5 on average, with the majority of users stating it has helped reduce inflammation of their concern. Most of these reviews suggest that the product takes a little while to show results.

As shown here, most reviews report the product works for them and has helped fight or reduce their health concerns. 

Negative reviews mainly suggest the recommended dosage of some supplements is not high enough, therefore not showing as effective results as other products. Reiterating the importance of buying a genuine, natural and safe pack of turmeric supplements.

Most advice given by professionals and researchers of the studies suggest that buying a genuine product that contains the right amount of curcumin is key. The best results are seen from taking the right supplements. Before taking the supplements it is important to read instructions, seek medical advice if you have any health concerns and respect the dosage. Taking too much turmeric can cause side effects or in some cases, worsen their existing medical conditions. 

Due to its numerous and diverse health benefits, turmeric can be taken by most people:

Who is Turmeric for?

It is a natural spice found in fresh or ground form and can be used for its many health benefits as well as being used as medical treatments. 

Those that should seek advice before consuming turmeric are those who wish to take it as a supplement, or have existing medical conditions that could interact with the curcumin compound found in turmeric. 

Pros and Cons

PROSCONS
Little to no side effectsMay cause sickness, nausea and an upset stomach
Prevents inflammation Can be risky to take if you have an iron deficiency 
It is fairly priced Not yet enough sufficient evidence for all of its health benefits 
Can be used from its natural roots for many health benefits Can take a long time to see great effect 
Has profound healing benefits for the bodyThere are lots of different versions, some genuine and some synthetic 

When taking any new medicine or herbal treatment, it is important to be aware of how to take it and what precautions there are. For turmeric and curcumin this includes: 

Dosage: how to take Turmeric?

Here is a complete guide on how to take Turmeric (dosage, when to take…etc) :

When to start and stop?

It is safe to start and stop taking turmeric at any time. It is best to take turmeric on an empty stomach 30 minutes before a meal. 

If you notice any side effects or symptoms, stop taking it immediately and seek medical help. 

What are the dosages to respect?

The dosages to respect differ depending on what you are taking turmeric for. Consuming it by mouth is the safest way and the recommended daily dosage is 2 to 4 mg of curcumin, for up to 1 month. The advised dosages for particular concerns and benefits, to be taken orally, are as follows:

  • For hay fever – 500mg daily (of curcumin)
  • For depression – 500mg of curcumin twice daily for 6-8 weeks 
  • For cholesterol – 1.4g of turmeric extract in two divided doses (0.7g per dose, twice daily)
  • For osteoarthritis – 500mg two or four times daily 
  • For itching – 1500mg in three divided doses (500mg per dose, three times a day) for up to 8 weeks 
  • For build up of fat in the liver – 500mg of turmeric, containing no more than 70mg of curcumin, used daily for 8 weeks 

It is advised to seek medical advice on dosages for your particular concern, especially if you have other underlying medical conditions. 

What to do if you forget to take Turmeric?

Turmeric is not a medicinal product as cannot be harmful if you forget to take it. The best option is to not take it outside of your routine and if you miss a dose, wait until the next dose to take it. 

It is best taken on an empty stomach so that it can work to its full capacity for best effect. If you forget it and eat, wait until your stomach is empty/your next dose. 

What to do in case of an overdose?

Turmeric is considered a safe product and there are little to no side effects if you take the respected dosage. However, if you do exceed the recommended amount, do not take anymore. 

If you notice side effects then seek medical help right away. The typical side effects are dizziness, nausea and stomach pain which is not considered very harmful. 

Precautions

For those with iron deficiency, prone to blood clotting, take hormone tablets, are undergoing surgery or are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take turmeric

It is advised to seek medical advice before taking it if you have these conditions or for those unsure on its effects. There is not yet enough evidence to ensure turmeric is safe if you have health or medical concerns. 

How to keep Turmeric?

You can purchase fresh turmeric root which should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Or, it can be frozen for several months. Alternatively, turmeric can be bought in ground form which will be in a container. 

For those using it out of a container in ground form or those taking turmeric/curcumin supplements, always keep the bottle in a cool dry place. If the seal becomes broken or damaged, discard the product as it may come into contact with harmful chemicals. 

With all medicines, natural or manmade, there can be side effects and precautions to abide by. For turmeric, there are a few side effects and risks to be aware of:

Risks, hazards and side effects 

It is important to be cautious if you take other medications as there may be interactions and other side effects outside of the normal. This includes anticoagulant drugs which are medications that slow blood clotting as turmeric can also slow blood clotting. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen, warfarin and others.

One of the most common interactions with turmeric are those who are iron deficient as turmeric can prevent the absorption of iron. Therefore, if you are taking iron supplements, turmeric can act as a barrier. 

Other precautions to consider are if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It advised not to take turmeric medicinally if you are as there is not enough evidence to guarantee it is safe for the baby. 

Similarly, hormone sensitive conditions such as breast, uterine and ovarian cancer can be made worse with turmeric, as it’s main active ingredient curcumin can act like the hormone, estrogen. There is not enough evidence to say if turmeric is safe if you have these hormone conditions. 

For males, it is also key to be aware that curcumin can cause infertility issues in some cases. Turmeric may lower testosterone and decrease the sperms movement which can reduce the chance of getting pregnant. 

Additionally, gallbladder issues can be made worse with turmeric usage, this includes gallstones or a bile duct obstruction. In some rare cases, curcumin may decrease blood sugar level and make it too low which is dangerous for diabetic patients. Also be sure to take careful precautions if you have any stomach issues. Always seek medical advice. 

For those purchasing the supplement alone without advice, be aware that the cheaper the turmeric powder or supplement, the more likely it is to contain synthetic curcumin as reported by Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2018. 

When taken orally, turmeric is safe short term. To take daily for a period of 2 months, turmeric can contain up to 8 grams or curcumin and be safe. Also, when the ingredient is applied to the skin in respected amounts, it is safe. 

In terms of side effects some people, who do not have medical conditions that could interact with the ingredient, can experience mild side effects such as dizziness, stomach upset, diarrhea and nausea. Typically, these side effects would only occur if a higher dose is taken.

How to buy Turmeric: the complete buying guide 

You can purchase turmeric in many different ways, in its natural form as a root plant, as supplements, ground powder, teas, in foods and as skincare. If you’re looking to purchase turmeric for its health and medical benefits, as supplements or skincare, it is advised to stick to official health stores to ensure the product is not synthetic and is safe. 

The supplement version of turmeric is much more effective than turmeric in its powder form and is most common for those wanting to treat or reduce medical conditions. 

Where to buy?

Turmeric as supplements and skincare can be purchased in many stores and online from official and safe sellers. This includes Amazon, Walmart, Holland & Barrett and other health/pharmaceutical stores. 

Always ensure the product promotes turmeric as well as curcumin, as curcumin is the main active ingredient that provides the benefits. 

What price?

Depending on what you want to use turmeric for, the price will vary. The supplement version can cost anything from $8-10 upwards. The purer the product, the higher the cost. It is always worth buying an official product that contains a higher percentage of the ingredient to achieve the best results.

Our thoughts and conclusion 

Turmeric has many health benefits due to its curcumin content. It is most effectively used as a supplement and to achieve results, the supplement must contain the advised dosage of curcumin. Although curcumin only makes up a small part of the turmeric root plant, it is the most powerful component. 

There are numerous studies and validation that turmeric and curcumin do have extraordinary anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits which can help reduce and treat many health conditions. The tests and use on arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and skin conditions are the most popular due to the effective results. The user reviews also reflect the positive test results of the studies. 

With there being so many health benefits and little side effects, turmeric could be considered one of the most effective natural supplements on the market that is derived from a root plant. Although, do remember to take precautions if you have existing medical conditions or notice side effects. 

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