While it may seem like just another seasoning in the spice aisle, turmeric has been revered for its medicinal properties for centuries and is one of the most extensively researched spices on the planet. When it’s not lending its signature flavor and color to curry dishes, turmeric is now frequently found in supplements, skin-care products, and more. Consider this your guide to all things turmeric—from its benefits to how to get more of it into your diet.
Turmeric’s Power Player
Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, is responsible for the spice’s wealth of health benefits. This compound acts as a powerful antioxidant and supports our body in a number of ways. In fact, studies show that curcumin can have far-reaching effects on our health, ranging from immune function to blood sugar control and beyond.
Here are a few of the top benefits of turmeric, plus how to get your daily dose.
Top 5 Benefits and Uses of Turmeric
Of the golden spice’s many benefits, the following five are perhaps the most powerful.
1. Supports Immune Function
Because of curcumin’s antioxidant activity, turmeric is believed to have potent benefits for our immune system. In fact, one study published by Oncogene found that curcumin extract effectively eases minor immune issues.
Not only are immune issues thought to be major contributors to chronic disease, but they’re also involved in the development of inflammatory joint and skin conditions. Studies show that curcumin extract can ward off cell damage, relieve joint issues, and even make a notable difference in skin health.
2. Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Considering heart disease affects millions around the globe, it’s no wonder heart health is top priority—especially as we age. Promising research suggests that, when paired with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle, incorporating turmeric into your daily diet can help keep your heart healthy and strong.
In fact, several studies have found that supplementing with curcumin can support healthy cholesterol.
3. Supports Mood
The more we learn about mental health, the more we see its links to our diet. Some research now suggests turmeric can have a notable effect on our mood and mental well-being. Studies suggest this may be especially true when it comes to common issues like low mood and nervousness.
For instance, one large review of six clinical trials actually found that turmeric supplementation eased anxiousness and improved mood in people with mood issues. (It did so with minimal side effects, by the way.)
Plus, other research shows that turmeric supports the synthesis of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the brain, helping to boost levels overall. (DHA is involved in cognitive function and deficiency is linked to a number of mental and cognitive issues.)
4. Promotes Healthy Blood Sugar
Is there anything turmeric can’t do? According to a review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism, turmeric increases insulin secretion and enhances the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This helps to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Some research even suggests that turmeric can help support healthy blood sugar levels in those with impaired blood sugar regulation.
5. Enhances Liver Health
The liver, which is responsible for detoxifying our body, is absolutely crucial to our overall health. Research suggests that turmeric helps protect and preserve liver function, enabling it to work more efficiently.
How? Early animal research, like this study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition,
Has shown that turmeric can help boost levels of several enzymes involved in the liver’s detoxification process.
How To Up Your Turmeric Intake
When used in cooking, turmeric is vibrant and versatile; it’s the perfect way to add a splash of color and boost the health benefits of your favorite recipes. Try brewing up turmeric tea or golden milk, sprinkling the spice into soups, or even adding it to smoothies.
Just be sure to pair your turmeric with a bit of black pepper! It contains a compound called piperine, which has been shown to increase the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric by up to 2,000 percent.
To really ramp up the benefits you reap from turmeric, consider a turmeric or curcumin supplement. I recommend looking for a product standardized to at least 95 percent curcumin and that includes at least 20 milligrams of piperine to boost absorption. To ensure you’re getting the best quality possible, look for a supplement made from organic turmeric. If easy digestion is top priority, consider a fermented supplement.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.