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

ETHELMERZ 5/6/2018
Tried supplement for 11 months on purpose, did nothing for me, especially where arthritis is concerned. Another myth.... Report
OHANAMAMA 4/18/2018
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
CAROLYNINJOY1 2/15/2018
Thank you for the information on who shouldn't take it. Valuable to have. Report
MOM1014 10/10/2017
Thanks, I've been on Plavix (generic now) for years' so I will pass on this thanks to your good advice. Report
GRACED777 9/18/2017
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 9/15/2017
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
LRJUSTUS1 7/5/2017
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
I bought the root and planted it and got it to grow. Have not tried it yet but am going to harvest it when I transplant it to a bigger planter. I have used the pills but want to try the fresh stuff. Report
When I take turmeric in pill form I get itchy all over...head to toe. It does work for my arthritis but I can't take the itch. I bought fresh turmeric and used it as a tea with ginger or in a smoothy., Fresh turmeric is not easy to find and often is really very fresh. There is also a great recipe for turmeric milk. Report
What I found online is to always couple turmeric with cinnamon - so I keep a shaker jar and I open capsules of each into the jar and use it like any other spice. I buy True Cinnamon capsules and Turmeric capsules.

So far I really haven't found anything they don't taste good in. Especially good on chicken!

I started using it for my circulation when I was having leg pains. I kept using it because it tastes good, smells good and won't hurt me. Report
MEG0711
Don't forget to use black pepper with it. Report
There is a research that was reported on recently by BBC news. They did find benefits in people who put the turmeric in their food. That showed more benefit than supplements, which the FB team I'm on said is probably due to fat and pepper in the food and the food being heated which makes the turmeric more absorbable. I put it in food a lot, but I am not consistent enough to know if it is helping with anything. I plan to make "Golden Paste" which works well in drinks or just straight eating or putting in food.

My doctor recommended turmeric to me for anti inflammatory. She likes that better than prescription drugs. Report
It is amazing how spices can help alleviate health conditions just as good as some medication. I'm all for going the natural route versus prescriptions given the choice. Report
MLANDRELLI
I am a big fan and have used the spice in a tea (almost immediate affect), but not practical so take the supplements every day. I also have Lymphodema (which I find out not long ago, this helps with that as well as my back pain). I had to go off them on 4 days ago, and by day 3 couldn't sleep because of pain in all of my joints, but particularly my back and pain in my legs because of Lympodema was worse. Took again 12 hours ago, within a 6 hours pain was greatly reduced again. Will take a day or 2 to go back to full benefits, but I have had to go off before, and know it is amazing for me. Report
MLANDRELLI
I am a big fan and have used the spice in a tea (almost immediate affect), but not practical so take the supplements every day. I also have Lymphodema (which I find out not long ago, this helps with that as well as my back pain). I had to go off them on 4 days ago, and by day 3 couldn't sleep because of pain in all of my joints, but particularly my back and pain in my legs because of Lympodema was worse. Took again 12 hours ago, within a 6 hours pain was greatly reduced again. Will take a day or 2 to go back to full benefits, but I have had to go off before, and know it is amazing for me. Report
Turmeric is a SPICE, NOT a medication nor really a supplement. It will NOT hurt your health in any way. Report
I've been taking a turmeric/curcumin supplement for several years for spinal arthritis. I'm allergic to all anti inflammatories, celebrex and aspirin and have little options for pain control. I've tried several different supplements and found that turmeric takes the edge off the pain and seems to help me move a little better. I do notice an increase in pain and stiffness if I stop taking it. Report
I had read in Prevention magazine a couple of years ago that turmeric was as powerful as Prozac in preventing depression. I decided to give it a try since I have suffered from depression all my life and don't want to take drugs for it anymore. I have been taking 1000 mg in a capsule form for almost 2 years. I don't know if the turmeric is responsible, but I have not had any depressive incidents that lasted more than a day or two since then. Report
LCERTUCHE
Adding turmeric and cinnamon to my a.m. berry smoothies is a great way to start the day. Low-fat, low-calorie and it works better as an anti-inflammatory than over the counter pain killers. Report
MLANDRELLI
Huge, huge fan. Mostly take supplement (they are not all the same, and noticed a big difference between brands) or the tea. Completely off prescription anti inflammatory, less problems with stomach. Tested going off them for a week, the pain after 2 days was horrible. Went back on, pain gone. Report
MLANDRELLI
Huge, huge fan. Mostly take supplement (they are not all the same, and noticed a big difference between brands) or the tea. Completely off prescription anti inflammatory, less problems with stomach. Tested going off them for a week, the pain after 2 days was horrible. Went back on, pain gone. Report
I have been taking turmeric capsules for the past three weeks and although initially very skeptical, as I am with any supplement, have found my morning aches and stiff joints are greatly reduced. This has led me to stop taking NSAIDS. I am satisfied with the results. Report
I love turmeric! I use it in tea, in foods, and I grow it. I don't use it for any specific ailment, but I do notice I don't need as many NSAIDS as i'd been using. In fact, I've almost completed stopped ibuprofen. Iced turmeric tea is very refreshing, so I don't care if it doesn't work medicinally! LOL
Report
I've found that adding a potassium supplement to ensure that the daily recommended allowance is met (hard to do with food alone) goes a long way in combatting inflammation.
Tried turmeric, and it didn't do squat. I strongly suspect it's a bit like Dumbo's feather: it works if you believe it works. Report
Love turmeric! If I can, I always buy fresh then I wash and chunk it up and freeze it. I add it to my smoothies and cooking. Report
SAFIRE82
I take turmeric daily, it is awesome stuff! It is a food I am shocked any doctor would tell a person to not take it.....likely because it may help so much that you stop taking their prescriptions! LOL
I have had docs do that to my dad, they literally tell him "don't take that because it does the same thing as what I am prescribing for you." O_o Come......on.......
You can even buy it just the loose powder like you cook with and capsule it yourself. Add a tiny bit of black pepper to up absorption. Report
My orthopedic surgeon told me not to take turmeric while I was taking prescription anti-inflammatories after knee surgery this past February so it is a known anti-inflammatory. I had no idea it was helpful in reducing LDLs and increasing HDLs. My grandmother died from complications related to Alzheimers and anything that can assist in delaying or preventing this debilitating disease is a winner for me.

I looked at the six brands that were recalled for lead and my brand was not one of them. BTW, we planted curcumin in our garden last year and it has the most beautiful flowers, dies back in the fall and pops up the following spring. Report
I started taking it about 3 months ago for Plantar fasciitis and it has helped so much with the inflammation in my foot. Had no idea that it was good for bad cholesterol, so sounds like a win win for me! Report
I use numeric in cooking and also take a supplement. It is possible to get safe supplements if you use reputable brands. A good health food store can help you select. It helps my arthritis and I'm hopeful that the claims about neuro benefits will also prove true. My father died of dementia and I'm trying to keep my brain healthy. Report
I make a paste with turmeric and pepper. I add half teaspoon to my coffee or chai tea once or twice a day. I don't know if it helps with any inflammation but it keeps my sweet tooth cravings at bay. Report
ALLTHECUPCAKES
There is currently a recall on multiple brands of turmeric supplements because of lead. Report
My NP told me to take it for TMJ pain. It worked. My husband can't take any asprin or derivative. He has significant arthritus. It has taken the edge off for him. Report
Supplements are not the way to go to take in these touted spices or herbs, waste of money. "Dr. Weil" owns way too many of these supplement companies....same as Dr. Oz. Report
Dr. Weil, for one, has been touting the stuff for years. A tiny bit is great for making egg whites look like "eggs". But this (Aug. 2016) may not be the time to try it. Several brands just got recalled for excessive LEAD! Report
I'm not so sure about all the health claims, but it is tasty mixed with fresh ginger for a tea. Iced, it's like Gatorade without the nasty sweet, metallic taste. Seems to work well as a workout recovery drink. Report
I first learned of turmeric from my husband's orthopedic surgeon. She suggested he use it following his shoulder surgery. He and I have both supplemented with the following: Curcumin C3 Complex® (95% minimum curcuminoids from Curcuma longa standardized extract)(root). It has helped both of us. But, miracle cure? No. It has kept the edge off of inflammatory pain and prevented the use of NSAIDS and pain pills. So, I'd call that a win. Report
I'm definitely a fan of turmeric. I use it often in my cooking for its known benefit of reducing inflammation and arthritis. Report
 
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