If you’ve ever spilled turmeric powder in the kitchen, you may be all too familiar with its properties as a food coloring. Aside from lending a beautiful color to curries and stews, however, turmeric has a bevy of impressive health benefits that range from reducing inflammation to preventing and treating a wide variety of conditions.
Turmeric has relatively high concentrations of the micronutrients iron, copper, manganese and potassium. Iron is found in every cell of the human body and works together with copper to produce healthy blood cells. Manganese encourages healthy brain and nerve functioning as well as blood sugar regulation, proper metabolism and connective tissue formation. Including more potassium in your diet may reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and glucose intolerance.
The compound that gives turmeric its signature hue, curcumin, is a key addition to many anti-inflammatory drugs Specifically, curcumin is able to reduce the amounts of two types of enzymes in the human body that cause inflammation. Curcumin may help relieve basic wound or injury swelling as well as more severe inflammatory conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, turmeric may even be as effective as ibuprofen for relieving pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Possible Cancer Prevention
Curcumin also has antioxidant properties, which is a potential explanation for why turmeric may help prevent certain types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer as well as skin wounds associated with cancer, even without the aid of chemotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society, curcumin has demonstrated the ability to kill cancer cells and slow surviving cancer cells’ growth in various laboratory tests. More human research is needed, however, before there is conclusive evidence to support turmeric’s anti-cancer properties.
In 2007, the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology published a research review stating that turmeric’s curcumin has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. The results of several studies compiled by the University of Maryland Medical Center also suggest that turmeric could improve or prevent indigestion, heart disease and the eye infection uveitis. Historically, turmeric has been used to treat respiratory conditions, upset stomach and skin problems as well.
Turmeric is safe for most people and is not likely to cause any side effects in small amounts. It adds color and health benefits to warm milk or chai tea, and it's also an important component of many curries and stews. Supplemental turmeric is likely to have fewer negative side effects than over-the-counter pain relievers, with the most common side effects being nausea, dizziness and diarrhea. Before self-diagnosing any health problem or using turmeric to treat a condition, speak with your doctor.