Most people don’t realize that inflammation is at the root of nearly every chronic disease, and the symptoms that go along with them. Things like joint and muscle pain, brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and more are all rooted in inflammation. And while we do have medicine like NSAIDs to reduce inflammation, these come with side effects. Which is why natural solutions like turmeric are invaluable.
Most people have heard of turmeric. A golden, orange spice, popular in curry dishes. But, what a lot of people don’t realize is it has an extensive history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4,000 years. The first use of turmeric we know of is from 250 B.C., in an Ayurvedic medical text which recommends using turmeric as an ointment to relieve the effects of poisoned food.
Back then, they were simply using trial and error to determine its efficacy. But now we have proof. Thanks to the advancements of modern medicine, we now know that was likely due to its ability to promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body. And this just scratches the surface of all we’ve learned about turmeric.
In just the last 25 years, there have been over 3,000 publications attesting to the benefits of turmeric. There are cell studies, animal studies, and human studies demonstrating that turmeric is one of the most powerful medicines we have – outperforming some of today’s most commonly used drugs. The best part? Not only does turmeric not come with all the side effects we see with most meds, but there are numerous side benefits instead. That’s not to say we don’t owe a great deal of gratitude to the researchers who developed these mainstream treatments, but if there is an effective, natural, whole food alternative without side effects, it is well worth exploring.
Let’s dive in with the top seven benefits of turmeric.
1. Weight Loss and Fat Loss
In a review of 18 articles pertaining to curcumin and weight loss, researchers found curcumin intake significantly reduces body mass intake, weight, and waist-circumference in patients with metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems)!
2. Relieving Knee Discomfort
In a study published in December of 2020, researchers at the University of Australia assigned 70 patients over the age of 40 with knee discomfort and swelling with either 1000 mg of turmeric, or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the turmeric proved significantly more effective than the placebo, with the turmeric group reporting significantly less knee discomfort.
3. DNA Protective
In one study, researchers gave chronic smokers 2.5 mg of turmeric a day for 30 days and saw a significant decrease in DNA mutagens in their urine. As a control group, they gave the same amount of turmeric to six non-smokers, and saw no change. This indicates that turmeric could have an antimutagenic effect, protecting DNA changes due to mutagens, and may be useful in cancer prevention.
4. Digestive Issues and Discomfort
In one study, researchers gave 207 volunteers struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) two different doses of turmeric extract for eight weeks and both groups saw a significant decrease of 41 % and 57% in IBS prevalence! After the study, researchers found abdominal discomfort decreased 22% and 25% between both groups!
5. Memory, Mood, and Brain Health
In a double-blind, placebo controlled study, published in January of 2018 by The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers took 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 who had mild memory complaints and gave them standardized cognitive assessments at the start of the study. They were then randomly assigned either 90 milligrams of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, or a placebo, for 18 months. At the end of the 18 months, researchers observed significant memory and attention improvements in the curcumin group while there were no changes in the placebo group.
But that wasn’t all! The curcumin group also saw mild improvements in mood, and their PET scans showed a greater decrease in problematic amyloid and tau accumulation in the amygdala and hypothalamus than the placebo group. These two areas of the brain are responsible for many memory and emotional tasks, indicating the mechanism behind the improvements.
But this is where it really gets interesting. In one study, researchers wanted to compare turmeric with fluoxetine (Prozac), a prescription drug with a long list of side effects, in treating depression. They took 60 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and separated them into three groups. One group received the prescription drug, one received curcumin, and one received a combination. Researchers were shocked to discover the changes recorded on the depression assessment scale were similar in all three groups, indicating curcumin could be just as effective as prescription drugs in treating depression. More studies are needed, and no one should abandon their prescription drugs for a natural remedy, but it is worth noting curcumin had a significant and comparable success rate in improving mood in this one trial.
6. Heart Health
In a study published in 2017 by The University of Colorado, Boulder, researchers gave a group of 39 healthy men and postmenopausal women 12 weeks of curcumin supplemention or a placebo. At the end of 12 weeks, they concluded curcumin supplementation resulted in improved artery health, blood flow, and reduced oxidative stress!
7. Immune Health
In a review of studies published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, researchers concluded some incredible benefits of curcumin on the immune system. It has been shown to downregulate various inflammatory markers, and modulate the activation of T cells, B cells, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells – all of which are vital parts of the immune system. They also found curcumin at low doses can enhance the body’s antibody response. When all of these mechanisms come together, it’s safe to say turmeric and its active component curcumin are potentially effective ways to support a strong immune system.
But, harnessing these benefits is unfortunately not as easy as adding turmeric to your diet, or taking a curcumin pill.
How to Harness The Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is a natural (and delicious) spice, and you could harness the above benefits by adding it to your diet, but you’d have to do so every single day. As seen above, the benefits of turmeric are seen when taken regularly for weeks at a time. For most people, this would not be realistic.
Which is why turmeric has taken over pharmacy shelves in the last few years, which is a good thing! Except they are not all created equal.
Address problem #1: Isolated curcumin
If you go to your pharmacy and take a look at most “turmeric” products, you’ll see most of them are actually just isolated curcumin. This can be useful in therapeutic instances, but for preventative purposes, taking an isolated curcumin supplement could mean you are missing out on many of the other well-documented benefits of turmeric.
In fact, turmeric in its whole food form has been found to be more powerful than isolated curcumin alone, containing nearly 300 other beneficial components. There is also evidence that curcumin-free turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, and that other compounds in turmeric, (like Ar-turmerone) can improve the growth of brain cells! But if that wasn’t enough, it is widely accepted among experts that the very best way to get the nutrients you need is in whole food form. So why isolate just the curcumin?
Address problem #2: poor bioavailability
Turmeric is also well known for its notoriously poor bioavailability, with many studies showing very low or even undetectable levels. But luckily, there is a solution. High fat diets have been associated with increased absorption. But the real promise comes from somewhere slightly unexpected: black pepper.
When researchers gave volunteers just curcumin alone, the serum levels were either very low or undetectable. But when they were given curcumin with piperine, bioavailability increased an impressive 2,000%!
Meaning, anyone interested in harnessing all the power of turmeric should look for a product that contains it in whole food form, with a fat, and piperine. And one of the most powerful products on the market that checks all the boxes is Paleovalley Turmeric Complex.
It contains organic, whole food turmeric, organic coconut oil, and organic black pepper. But it also goes one step further. In addition to these 3 powerful ingredients, Turmeric Complex contains three additional DNA-protective superfoods: Organic Ginger, Organic Rosemary, Organic Cloves.
The mission at Paleovalley is to harness the power of whole foods, and deliver them to people in a way that fits into their lifestyle. That’s why each of these ingredients is gently freeze dried to preserve as many of their nutrients as possible, and then put into an easy to take vegetable capsule.
There are no harsh processors, no fillers or flow agents. Nothing weird, just food.
By: Autumn Smith, FDNP
Autumn Smith is a Holistic Nutritionist, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, and Co-Founder of Paleovalley. After struggling with her own digestive issues, particularly IBS, she started to focus on food as the potential root of the problem, and found it’s also the solution. In her journey she’s discovered that natural, whole foods hold the power we need to thrive, particularly certain “superfoods” she currently doesn’t go a day without.