What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a brightly colored spice traditionally used in Indian cuisine. Sometimes called Indian saffron, it grows naturally in Southeast Asia and has been used medicinally for centuries. Turmeric’s “claim to fame” is that it contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin.


Thanks to curcumin, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can reduce the risk of several diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Turmeric spices and additives are made from the rhizomes or roots of the plant that are ground.


Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits of turmeric and how to add it to your diet.



Turmeric is widely known to contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, it has been studied as a potential treatment for anxiety, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and many inflammatory conditions. Scientists attribute most of turmeric’s benefits to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.


Although turmeric has been studied for many years, most research has been done in animals or in vitro (human cells in petri dishes). Because few human studies have been conducted, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that the health benefits of turmeric remain unclear. However, some limited evidence suggests that turmeric has some health benefits.


Can improve kidney disease in people with diabetes

Kidney disease, also commonly called kidney disease, is caused by diabetes and affects one-third of all diabetics. If your diabetes is not well managed, excess blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys over time. Kidney disease usually develops slowly over many years.


A small study looked at type 2 diabetes patients with end-stage renal disease. They found that turmeric supplementation improved tests that measure markers of kidney damage. The tests revealed lower levels of albumin in the participants, a muscle-building protein that is normally found in your blood and is only found in the urine in cases of kidney damage. Although the study was small, with only 40 participants, it showed some promising improvements in kidney function in those who took turmeric supplements.


Can reduce inflammation

Inflammation is part of your immune system’s defenses. When you come in contact with a virus or injure yourself, your immune system sends out inflammatory cells and chemicals like cytokines to protect and heal your body. Chronic inflammation means that your immune system can mount an inflammatory response all the time, even when it doesn’t need to. Chronic inflammation can cause pain, fatigue, depression, weight gain, infections, acid reflux and other problems.


The research team analyzed the results of seven clinical trials that looked at turmeric and oxidative stress, an imbalance between damaged cells and antioxidant cells in the body that can lead to inflammation. In this analysis, they found that taking turmeric supplements for more than six weeks led to fewer markers of oxidative stress and increased antioxidants. However, it is worth noting that these studies were small. The study authors said more research is needed before any health benefits can be fully understood.


May improve metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, also called insulin resistance, is a condition that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. It also includes abdominal obesity and low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. One in three adults has metabolic syndrome.


A small study investigated the effects of curcumin supplementation in participants with metabolic syndrome. They specifically examined anti-inflammatory cytokines because these proteins are associated with metabolic syndrome. They found that turmeric significantly reduced cytokines in the participant’s blood over eight weeks. This study was also small and calls for larger studies.


May help with depression and anxiety

Depression is a common and serious medical problem characterized by sadness, low energy, low appetite, loss of pleasure, and other symptoms. Almost 17% of people will experience depression in their lifetime, usually in their teens or early 20s.


A team of scientists analyzed the results of nine studies that investigated the effects of turmeric on depression and anxiety. They found that participants who supplemented with turmeric significantly improved their symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, the study authors concluded that the studies were too small to inform any medical decisions and further research is needed.


Can inhibit cancer cells

Cancer refers to a number of diseases that all have one thing in common: cells begin to grow abnormally, spread, and damage nearby body tissues. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, second only to deaths from heart disease.


There have been many studies on turmeric and cancer, but most have been done in animals, such as mice, or in vitro. Some of them have been done with humans. Most studies show that curcumin nanoparticles can slow the growth of cancer cells or even reduce tumor size and weight. Larger human studies are needed to prove anything definitively.


Can reduce arthritis pain


Arthritis is inflammation of a joint where two bones meet, such as the knee or elbow. There are many types of arthritis, and each has its own cause and treatment. Arthritis is characterized by joint pain and swelling, although its cause is unknown. One in four adults in the United States has arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability.


Turmeric is known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Research shows that turmeric can modulate proinflammatory cells called cytokines, which can reduce inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.


A team of scientists conducted a review of all research on turmeric and concluded that although many studies show that turmeric has beneficial effects on arthritis, the research was too small to make a definite recommendation about the use of turmeric in patients with arthritis at this time. .



Turmeric is a spice used in cooking in many parts of the world. In India it is used to make curry, in Japan it is served in tea, and in the US it is used as an additive and seasoning. The curcumin in turmeric is also available in creams, energy drinks, cosmetics and soaps.


Curcumin in turmeric is poorly absorbed by the human body unless black pepper is added. If you use turmeric in your cooking, try adding black pepper for maximum health benefits.


Turmeric is fat-soluble, which means it must be eaten with a fat source in order to be well absorbed. Pair it with fat sources like avocado or cheese.



Turmeric is considered safe when eaten in food or drink or applied to the skin. It is not known whether turmeric is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women because it has not been fully studied in these populations.


Some companies are developing turmeric or curcumin products that have increased bioavailability for better absorption. It is important to remember that herbs that have been modified for better absorption can also increase the harmful effects of the supplement.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved curcuminoids — anything isolated from turmeric — and calls them “generally recognized as safe.” Turmeric supplements of 4,000 to 8,000 milligrams per day are known to be safe.




Like conventional drugs, herbs and supplements can cause negative interactions when taken with other drugs or supplements. Turmeric is known to reduce your body’s ability to absorb certain drugs, such as drugs to treat cancer or heart disease. It may also increase the risk of negative side effects when used with antidepressants, antibiotics, diabetes medications, or allergy medications.


Research doesn’t provide enough evidence to make firm rules, so talk to your healthcare provider before taking turmeric supplements.


Where to buy


Turmeric is available as a supplement at most grocery stores or pharmacies and comes in capsule form. It is important to remember that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements to the same extent as drugs. Supplements are only tested for safety, and the FDA controls what claims can be made on product labels. When purchasing supplements, be sure to find a brand that has been tested by a third party to ensure you are getting a pure formula of the right supplement.


Turmeric grows naturally in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. Many grocery stores sell fresh turmeric in their produce section and as a dried spice in the spice aisle.


Can you take too much turmeric?


It is possible to ingest too much turmeric, but it is unlikely. One study found that high doses can be toxic to cells, but other studies suggest that supplements of less than 8,000 mg per day are safe. More research is needed to find the best dose of turmeric.



Turmeric is complex and difficult to study because it changes easily in your body and rarely reaches your bloodstream. Therefore, some manufacturers have produced turmeric or curcumin products that have a better absorption rate.


If you choose to use it, it’s important to read the label clearly and talk to your healthcare provider about the amount of turmeric you’re taking.



Although rare, turmeric supplementation may cause side effects in some people. These side effects may include:


  • Skin rash
  • Diarrhea or other gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Headaches



Turmeric shows great promise as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may benefit people with cancer, metabolic syndrome, depression, arthritis, or other inflammatory conditions. More scientific research is currently underway to further explore the full potential of turmeric for human health.


Try using turmeric as a spice in your cooking if you like the taste. If you choose to supplement with turmeric or curcumin, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you are taking other medications.

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