Turmeric - The Golden Spice

To help reduce inflammation and the aches and pains of arthritis, your doctor may recommend adding a turmeric supplement. Though turmeric has been used in cooking and medicine for more than 4,000 years in China and India, consumers in the U.S. have been late to the turmeric game. In the past 25 years, more than 3,000 studies have been done investigating its potential benefits. 

Turmeric is probably most familiar for the yellow color it gives to curry dishes, though it is also used in beauty products and herbal supplements. Part of the ginger family, whole turmeric looks a lot like its ginger root cousin, though the inside is distinctly orange.

In the mid-1800’s, the compound in turmeric that provides its beneficial effects, curcurmin, was identified. A wide range of studies both preclinical and in human cohorts have found that curcurmin has primarily anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic (preventing or inhibiting tumor growth) effects. 

Turmeric is frequently used as an herbal supplement or added to food and drinks to help relieve a myriad of symptoms like dyspepsia (indigestion), diarrhea, headaches, bloating, colds, arthritis, and so many others. Researchers have found that turmeric is well-tolerated with few side effects, unlike many pharmaceutical options for the same conditions. 

Because turmeric holds excellent anti-inflammatory properties, it is often used in topical formulations to treat skin conditions, body aches and pains, joint pain and arthritis. Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, a substance that may prevent damage to cells from free radicals, known to cause cell damage.

Many studies examining turmeric extracts and curcurmin have shown that the benefits begin at about 1 gram per day, so the most efficient way to gain the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric is in supplement form, especially when paired with piperine (an active compound found in black pepper), which increase turmeric’s bioavailability.