Turmeric (or Curcumin), the bright orange spice that gives curry its distinctive glow, has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years. The bitter herb sees generous use in nearly all Indian meals — and on a possibly related note, India has among the lowest rates of lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancer.
The holistic health community has long utilized turmeric to clear infections and inflammations both in and outside of the body. But recently, Western medical practitioners have also hopped aboard the Turmeric train.
As one of the most thoroughly researched plants ever, there are currently 8,421 peer-reviewed articles published which claim to prove the numerous benefits of turmeric.
Packed with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, turmeric has been shown to fight free radicals, rejuvenate the cells, cleanse the liver, protect the heart, boost mood, and support the brain. It may also be helpful in treating osteoarthritis, viral and bacterial infections, stomach ulcers, cancer, and other conditions.
“It’s a very powerful plant,” says Natalie Kling, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist who recommends it to clients for joint pain. Kling says that when taken as a supplement, it helps quickly. She advises adding raw turmeric to food whenever possible.
“Sprinkling it on vegetables or mixing it into dressings is quick and effective,” Kling says. “It’s inexpensive, mild in taste, and benefits every system in the body.”
More effective than medication?
Of the studies published, many claim that the potent herb is even more advantageous than prescription drugs — one of the biggest reasons is due to the lack of side effects (other than allergic reactions).
The attention-grabbing headline, “Turmeric confirmed to be as effective as 14 drugs” has recently been in circulation around the web. But upon review of scientific studies, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database concluded that the herb is “Likely Safe” or “Possibly Effective” for dyspepsia and osteoarthritis, and there is “Insufficient Reliable Evidence” to rate effectiveness for other indications, such as Alzheimer’s, anterior uveitis, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer.
"I see no reason to jump on the turmeric bandwagon," says Harriet Hall on ScienceBasedMedicine.org. "On the other hand, I see no compelling reason to advise people not to use it," adding that it's important for people to understand the state of evidence before simply going along with its touted benefits.
As a supplement
While most research is still in the animal stages or having only been conducted on humans through intravenous administration, it’s important to consult your doctor before starting this supplement to ensure that it’s safe for you.
But according to New York University Langone Medical Center, Turmeric dosages must supply 400 to 600 milligrams of Curcumin three times per day to see therapeutic benefits.
A doctor can recommend a supplement type and dosage amount to address your health concerns.