At first glance, turmeric may seem rather inconsequential—only a peppery, warm, flavorful spice used in cooking—but it’s time to take a closer look. For starters, the oil content of turmeric is strong, but the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, called curcumin, is considered the primary health impetus of turmeric.
Studies are now uncovering the intrinsic, multiple health powers of turmeric, such as its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory activity as well as its role in weight management.
The high antioxidant capacity of turmeric makes it, by definition, a potent force against cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers are pushing for further studies to determine the extent of turmeric’s cancer-fighting qualities. Antioxidants come in many forms, but, as K. Sandeep Prabhu, a Penn State assistant professor of immunology and molecular toxicology, states, “What these compounds [antioxidants] share is the ability to neutralize harmful molecules in our cells.” Those harmful molecules are called free radicals, which contain unpaired electrons. Prabhu explains, “The unpaired electrons make free radicals highly reactive, and in this state, they can cause damage by attacking the components of our cells, and can even cause cancer.”
Likewise, Stanford researchers say studies indicate that turmeric has antioxidant properties that help remove free radicals from the body, helping to prevent cellular damage and offering effective ways to protect the body from conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
Likewise, a number of studies point to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects—so much that it is comparable to pharmaceutical approaches, but without the unwanted side effects. Turmeric also performs as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatories in fighting inflammation—but without the toxic or ill effects, including ulcer formation, liver toxicity, intestinal bleeding, decreased white blood cell count and more.
Additionally, Stanford University researchers say that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that can be effective for wound treatment, while doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center say that turmeric can help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce the pain and lack of mobility associated with it.
Adding to the positive health benefits of turmeric are its effects on weight. More specifically, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researched the possible benefits of turmeric on weight management. Since curcumin inhibits blood vessel growth, researchers believed that it could also prevent the spread of fat tissue by stopping the growth of blood vessels required to sustain fat tissue growth. The outcomes were that the tested mice fed high-fat diets, and which were supplemented with curcumin, had less weight gain and total body fat than the control mice fed the same diet without curcumin. The study concluded that turmeric, through curcumin content, appears to stop fat tissue growth.
Other scientific evidence indicates that curcumin can support thermogenesis, which leads to increased fat burning. Thermogenesis happens when the central nervous system triggers fat burning to maintain the body’s temperature. Interestingly, the spice in turmeric can bind to capsaicin receptors and increase thermogenesis rate. Additionally, turmeric lowered blood fats and reduced weight gain in volunteers.
Along the lines of fat burning, turmeric also enhances the detoxification of the liver and protects its cells from damage caused by managing toxic compounds—which is a primary role the liver plays. When the liver—one of the body’s most important fat-burning organs—is overburdened, however, it can become sluggish. Turmeric helps rev up its natural processes for greater fat burning and detoxification.
Additional benefits of turmeric include:
- stimulating your gallbladder, which improves digestion, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- fighting off respiratory problems, liver disorders, sprains and sinusitis.
- reducing the body’s triglyceride levels by up to 30 percent, according to a Penn State study.
- benefiting common menopausal symptoms.
- building up of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
- being effective against stomach discomfort, bloating, appetite loss, nausea and gas, according to physicians at Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
You see? Turmeric has terrific health benefits that extend far beyond being just a flavorful spice.