Wild Guide to Turmeric
A Wild Guide
Turmeric, a bright golden orange spice that was once reserved for curries, is now in, well, practically everything!
How come turmeric has become so popular that many are turning their typical morning coffee into a ‘golden latte’?
Does turmeric stand up to all the health hype?
What are turmeric’s health benefits anyway?
Well, I'm glad you asked, because we are going to cover it all—and more—in the following Wild Guide to Turmeric!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about this potent ingredient.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the same plant family as ginger.
It’s commonly used in Asian cuisines and is added to a range of foods such as curry powder, mustard, butter, and cheese for its flavor and color (1).
What Are The Nutrients In Turmeric?
Turmeric contains iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium, but what gives it such potent health powers is its curcuminoid content.
The most commonly studied curcuminoid is curcumin. A bit of a mouthful to pronounce, but research is showing that it packs a punch when it comes to fighting disease and inflammation (2).
Why Is Curcumin So Good For You?
When you hear about the benefits of turmeric in the media, you can bet they’re actually talking about curcumin.
Most studies examine the benefits of incorporating curcumin into your diet daily.
This powerful compound has been shown to reduce inflammation, combat pain, prevent eye conditions, ward off cancer, control cholesterol, and so much more (3)!
The quickest way to get more curcumin into your diet is by consuming more turmeric or taking a curcumin supplement.
Turmeric is low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense addition to your meals.
Turmeric Nutrition Information
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of turmeric powder provides you with
- 29 calories
- 0.3g fat
- 0.1g saturated fat
- 0.8mg sodium
- 55.6mg potassium
- 6.3g carbohydrate
- 2g dietary fiber
- 0.3g sugar
- 0.9g protein
Turmeric also provides 26% of your daily manganese, 16% of your iron, 5% of your potassium, and 3% of your vitamin C needs for the day.
12 Powerful Health Benefits Of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a natural medicine alternative.
It’s health-promoting properties have assisted in the treatment of diabetes, cough, sinusitis, flu, rheumatism, and liver disorders to name a few (4).
What’s fascinating about turmeric is the power of turmeric is only recently being discovered by researchers in modern medicine.
And what modern research is finding is nothing short of amazing. Once you read all the benefits of turmeric below, you’ll be wondering, what can’t turmeric do?!
The incredible health benefits of turmeric and its key compound, curcumin, include:
1. Diabetes Prevention and Symptom Reduction
As of 2017, more than 29 million people in the US have Diabetes, and an incredible 89 million have prediabetic conditions (5).
It sounds crazy, but turmeric may actually have the power to prevent and improve many of the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, including reducing insulin resistance, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and damage to the cells in your pancreas (6).
Long-standing diabetes can lead to kidney problems that may also be managed with the help of a turmeric supplement (7). Research is still in it’s early days but the few human studies available are promising.
2. Reduced Trauma Post-Brain Injury and Healthy Brain Function Support
Consuming curcumin, the key active compound in turmeric, after a brain injury, may in fact help heal the brain. This is thanks to its amazing ability to help minimize the activation of systems that breakdown damaged brain cells (8). Fascinating.
Furthermore, another study showed curcumin may help boost the conversion of omega’s from plant foods (ALAs) to the more beneficial form (DHA) by increasing the number of enzymes involved in this process, that occurs in both the liver and the brain. This can lead to increased DHA in the brain, which is linked to improved moods and healthy brain function (9).
3. Turmeric Research Shows a Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Lowered Cholesterol
One in every four deaths in the United States is due to heart disease, making it one of our biggest killers (10).
By taking as little as 45 mg/day of curcumin for 2 months, patients with acute coronary syndrome saw a reduction in their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (11).
Curcumin is also a polyphenol, which is a class of potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants. One study showed that curcumin may reduce the number of fatty acid deposits found inside the arteries, one of the key risk factors for heart disease (12).
This may be due to its role in increasing the body’s ability to manage, process, dispose of and remove harmful fats, and promote a healthier, balanced cholesterol level in the body (13).
This was also demonstrated in a study of 65 people who took either a curcumin extract capsule containing 630 mg, three times a day, or a fake pill without curcumin. After 12 weeks, those who had the curcumin capsules had significantly lowered their cholesterol levels (14).
High triglycerides levels in the body are now known to be one of the main risk factors for heart disease (15). As little as 1 gram of curcumin per day can reduce triglyceride levels.
Turmeric reduces inflammation and oxidation and improves the functioning of your artery walls just as much as exercise can (16), all of which can help prevent heart disease.
4. Turmeric May Kill Cancer Tumor Cells
While the primary treatment for cancer treatment and prevention is up to your medical professional, studies have shown that curcumin may help kill cancer tumor cells without harming normal cells. It is thought to do this by affecting a number of cell signaling pathways involved in tumor growth (17).
While research is still needed to fully understand how powerful turmeric can be for preventing and helping to support cancer treatment, the results from this study shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Turmeric’s health benefits may also include the ability to prevent cancer in the first place (18).
The best part of turmeric is it's well tolerated at high doses for most people, and it’s affordable and it’s easy to find.
5. Turmeric may Reduce Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that many people suffer from. It causes pain and immobility and typically requires the use of strong medications for individuals to maintain movement and mobility.
In one study, 500mg of curcumin was given to study participants which significantly improved their osteoarthritis activity. These same subjects didn't show unwanted side effects when using a safe, obtainable-sized dose (19).
For long-term, chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, extracts of the curcuma species, curcuminoids and enhanced curcumin supplements would likely be required to see any significant improvements.
One study successfully used curcumin extracts to improve pain, physical function, and quality of life in those with osteoarthritis (21).
Despite this, turmeric itself is a naturally nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory agent and there are easy ways to increase the absorption rate by up to 2,000% (hint: use black pepper).
6. Turmeric May Lower Risk of Alzheimer's and Dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia are progressive brain disorders that occur from degeneration of the body’s central nervous system (22).
It’s a horrible thing to watch someone you love struggle with these disorders. In cell-based studies, curcumin has been shown to have a protective effect (23).
Researchers believe that a decline in the function of brain insulin receptors may be part of the cause of these brain disorders. In a study using rats, researchers simulated dementia symptoms using a drug called streptozotocin. The rats were given 200 mg/kg of curcumin before and after they were given the drug and found that it restored memory function and brain insulin receptors (24).
Another potential factor in the development of common brain disorders, including depression and Alzheimer's, is the reduction of the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, a growth hormone in the brain.
Curcumin may increase the levels of this hormone in the brain, and by doing so, may help prevent or even reverse these conditions (25).
7. May Reduce Depression Symptoms without Harmful Side Effects
People with mental health conditions are often prescribed medications with negative side effects, including suicidal thoughts and other psychotic disorders (26).
It's unfortunate that strong medications are dosed out so frequently to those who desperately need help. Researchers are continually on the hunt for solutions to optimize treatments for depression without the unwanted side effects of standard pharmaceuticals.
One exciting study has shown that taking curcumin may be just as effective as Prozac for treating depression, without the unwanted side effects (26). (Note: this is not medical advice. Always consult your physician.)
Participants in one study who were on antidepressants took two capsules containing either 1,000 mg of curcumin or soybean powder daily for six weeks. Those who took curcumin reportedly experienced a significant antidepressant effect (27).
8. Powerful Antioxidant Protection and Anti-Inflammatory Power
Many of the key benefits from turmeric and curcumin is believed to come from the potent antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory properties they possess.
The beginning of many chronic diseases may stem from inflammation and excessive oxidation from free radical damage to our cells. Our cell structure, membranes, and even DNA can be affected by this, and curcumin may play a vital role in preventing complications such as cancer, clogged arteries, and brain disorders because of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (28).
An example of its effectiveness occurred in one study for an inflammatory bowel condition called Ulcerative Colitis. Curcumin enemas were given to study participants which resulted in reduced inflammation of the colon (29).
9. Soothing and Healing Gastrointestinal Disorders
If you’ve ever been told to have a ginger tea with an upset stomach, you would definitely want to consider adding turmeric to your brew.
There’s ample research showing the benefits of turmeric or a curcumin supplements for digestive health. They have been shown to reduce the symptoms of many gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (30).
Turmeric may play a role in repairing the lining of the stomach in people who have ‘leaky gut’ or issues with their digestive health because of eating a standard Western diet (31).
One particular study found that a mix of curcumin and fennel essential oil improved the symptoms and quality of life in patients with IBS in 30 days (32).
When it comes to IBD, inflammation is a key component of the disease and the typical treatment involves strong steroid medications. However, in mild to moderate cases, the use of curcumin and steroids together was much more powerful than steroids alone for inducing remission, without the same side effects (34). To get this effect, a dose higher than 450 mg/day was needed (35).
Curcumin supplements are well tolerated in children with mild IBD according to one small study. The children were given 500mg of curcumin, twice daily, for 3 weeks in addition to their standard treatment. The supplement was well tolerated and a number of children had improved disease markers (33).
The potent anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and curcumin are impressive, but make sure to read below to get the best results, if you’re looking to improve your digestive health.
10. Turmeric May Support Asthma and Allergies Symptoms
In traditional medicine, turmeric is used to enhance the immune system and support respiratory diseases including asthma. However, many of these studies have only been conducted on animals. Despite this, evidence is showing an exciting potential for turmeric and curcumin in treating allergic rhinitis, airway inflammation, and allergic encephalomyelitis (36, 37, 38).
The theory being tested is that curcumin has antiallergic properties with the ability to inhibit histamine release in the body. In animal studies, the results are indicating a substantial potential for curcumin to assist with reducing allergic responses and alleviating symptoms (39, 40).
Amazing news for those with allergies as turmeric and curcumin may be a natural alternative to current medical therapies.
11. Reduced Severity of Common Skin Conditions
Turmeric has the potential to help skin conditions ranging from acne, alopecia, and atopic dermatitis, to oral lichen planus, pruritus, psoriasis, radiodermatitis, and vitiligo.
A number of studies have reported seeing significant improvement in a range of skin conditions and their severity by using turmeric or curcumin as a treatment (41).
It may even work to alleviate eczema when applied topically (42)!
12. Eat Grilled Meat Safely
When you prepare meat on the grill, the cooking process creates a range of mutagens called heterocyclic amines or HCAs. Unfortunately, while grilled meat is delicious, these compounds can place you at a higher risk for cancer.
But turmeric is once again here to save the day!
Curcumin, thanks to its antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects can inhibit against seven of these HCAs by up to 80% (43). All you have to do is use a marinade on your meat that has a base of ground turmeric. Satay sticks anyone?
Turmeric and Pain Medication
We would never recommend stopping your medication for a trial of turmeric or curcumin without consulting your doctor first.
However, turmeric may be able to reduce inflammation just like steroids. Several studies show similar effects when comparing common steroid treatments and a curcumin supplement of some type (44).
For example, corticosteroids are the only available treatment for the inflammatory eye condition chronic anterior uveitis. Yet, research shows curcumin can produce very similar effects (45).
Pain can also be managed with turmeric.
Just like steroids, turmeric controls pain and burning sensation caused in many disorders, injuries and cancer. When comparing steroid gels and curcumin gels on ulcers, within 7 days curcumin gel users had the same significant reduction in pain, size and number of ulcers (46).
It can also help reduce pain during PMS with two capsules a day. It is just as effective as ibuprofen for knee arthritis and may even help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness after heavy exercise (47, 48, 49).
How to Take Turmeric
Turmeric can be grated fresh into curries, mixed into marinades, blended into your smoothies and soups, made into gelatin gummies, added to your milk-based drinks (nut milks work too), or sprinkled into your butter coffee (recipe below).
If you can’t get your hands on fresh turmeric, you can also use turmeric powder in your cooking or as a supplement.
How Much Turmeric Should I Have?
Around 1,000 mg per day is the most common dose in human studies, but this does vary from 400-2,000 mg depending on the condition. This amount appears to offer health benefits and is likely safe for most people up to 8,000 mg per day (3).
What About a Turmeric or Curcumin Supplement?
For the majority of people, turmeric and turmeric supplements as a part of a healthy diet do not cause any side effects. We recommend you work with your health practitioner to determine the appropriate dose tailored to your personal needs.
It’s best to avoid taking turmeric supplements during pregnancy or lactation, as its safety during this time hasn’t yet been determined.
Also, if you are controlling your diabetes with medications or are taking medicine to control your blood sugar levels, please check in with your doctor first, as you may need to adjust your medication.
Side Effects of Turmeric
The impressive benefits of adding turmeric to your diet are undeniable, and what’s most exciting, is that despite having such potent results to rival modern medicine, it comes without an endless list of unwanted side effects.
For most people, turmeric won’t have any side effects at all.
That said, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, even if it’s natural.
Individuals that have consumed very high doses of turmeric have reported feeling nauseous, having diarrhea, an increased risk of bleeding, abnormal liver function results, hyperactive gallbladder contractions, low blood pressure, uterine contractions and an increased menstrual flow in women.
In saying this, doses of up to 8g of curcumin in humans have been shown to be fairly well tolerated (3).
Turmeric Drug Interactions
Even though turmeric is an all-natural ingredient, it may may interfere with some medications, so it’s important to make sure you’re not taking any of the following before starting a turmeric supplement:
- Anticoagulants including aspirin, clopidogrel and warfarin,
- Blood sugar medications,
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (1).
Even if you are on medications, turmeric has such powerful health benefits it’s important not to discount it completely.
In fact, taking curcurmin can help reduce the side effects of many long-term medications (51).
Speak with your doctor to make sure the amount of turmeric you’re taking is right for you and your personal circumstances.
Eat Turmeric With Healthy Fats
As the nutrients in turmeric are fat soluble, it’s best consumed with a healthy source of fat, e.g. coconut milk, avocado, olive oil, ghee, nut butters, or butter. This helps to boost the absorption, and in turn, the benefits (52).
Combine Turmeric And Pepper
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is naturally metabolised rapidly via the liver and intestinal wall. This means that it’s actually not very bioavailable (53). If we ingest it without much else, say for example, tea, then it’s going to make its way through us pretty quickly, without our body actually absorbing the beneficial nutrients (3).
But we have a trick to get around that. Studies have shown that a nutrient in pepper, known as piperine, can increase the body’s uptake of curcumin by up to 2,000%. By adding 20 mg of piperine per 2,000 mg of curcumin, researchers were able to greatly increase the absorption rate, bioavailability, and serum concentration of curcumin in the study participants (54).
So how can you do the same?
Simply add a sprinkle of black pepper to the same turmeric-containing meal or drink. For example, you can create a delicious hot chocolate using the Wild Cocotropic blend with coconut milk and a dash of black pepper, or enjoy a Golden Latte (recipe below). For dinners, make sure to add black pepper to your turmeric-infused sauces and marinades - easy!
Turmeric for Gut Inflammation
When it comes to adding pepper to your dishes, there’s one little catch. The benefits of adding pepper and consuming your turmeric with a healthy fat source are undeniable, but if you’re suffering in particular from an inflamed gut, then it’s best that you leave out the pepper.
Why? Because when you add the pepper, thanks to the piperine compound in pepper, the body absorbs the beneficial nutrients into the bloodstream, before it reaches your colon.
If you want the maximum benefit of curcumin to soothe and calm an inflamed colon, then you need to let it make it’s way through your system. So skip the pepper if gut healing is at the top of your health concerns (3).
Where To Buy Turmeric?
We’ve also added turmeric into our Wild Blend #5 to have you feeling amazing even when you feel like you’re indulging!
Turmeric Recipe Ideas
Add some turmeric to your day with these delicious and easy recipes!
- 1 cup of your favourite milk
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon of honey or xylitol
- ½ teaspoon of Wild Vanilla Powder
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of mixed spice
- A pinch of black pepper
Simply combine all of the ingredients and stir over medium heat until warm. Serve for a soothing drink anytime of day.
Turmeric Butter Coffee
- 10 oz Wild Coffee
- 1 tablespoon of Non-alkalized cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon of Wild MCT Oil
- 1 tablespoon of Kerrygold Butter
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon of Wild Vanilla Powder
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of xylitol
Brew coffee with preferred method, and place hot coffee into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until frothy and serve.
Turmeric Research References: