The Lamen

Health Benefits of Turmeric – Based on Science

Turmeric roots on a wooden board.

Many of the health benefits of turmeric are derived from curcumin.






by | Aug 11, 2022

Turmeric might be the most beneficial natural supplement in existence. This article explores the wide variety of health benefits of turmeric, ranging from its anti-inflammatory properties to a potential cure for cancer.

Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a flowering plant. Its rhizomes are used for various purposes, both culinary and medicinal. It has a warm, bitter flavor with an earthy aroma.

The plant is native to the Indian subcontinent and could be the most effective plant in terms of its medicinal capabilities. It has been long used in Ayurveda, an ancient medicine system said to have evolved over more than 2,000 years.

Many studies suggest that turmeric substantially benefits your body and brain. One of the main chemical compounds present in turmeric – curcumin- imparted these qualities.

While there is no substantial clinical evidence implying the effectiveness of curcumin consumption in disease treatment, it has been gaining more and more efficacy for its medicinal properties, as discussed in this article.

Curcumin is what makes Turmeric special

Benefits of turmeric are due to an active compound called curcumin.

Credits: Pexels

Turmeric is a ginger-like plant characterized by its yellow to orange, aromatic rhizome (modified plant stem). This root is generally dried and powdered down to use as a spice in Indian cuisine.

Ancient Indian texts show the use of turmeric as a medicine and spice for thousands of years, referring to it as ‘Haridra’. In more recent years, it has been gaining scientific credibility for its regenerative and medicinal properties.

These qualities come from compounds called curcuminoids. Curcuminoids are phytochemicals, that is, chemicals that impart color to turmeric. The most important curcuminoid in turmeric is curcumin.

About 6% of turmeric is composed of curcuminoids, of which the curcumin content is around 3% by mass. Curcumin has various health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties and a strong antioxidant.

Benefits of turmeric and curcumin

Turmeric has been one of the most integral medicinal plants in Ayurveda, a pseudoscientific alternative medicine system with roots tracing back to ancient India.

According to the ancient ayurvedic texts, the health benefits of regular turmeric consumption include:

  • strengthening the energy of the body and building a stronger constitution
  • relieving gas and gastric discomfort
  • improving digestion
  • regulating menstrual cycles
  • relieving arthritis
  • dissolution of gall stones

In this article, however, we will focus on the health benefits which have been backed by science, most of which is accounted to the curcuminoids present in turmeric.

1. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant

Antioxidants are your body’s primary defenders against free radicals, compounds that cause oxidative stress and damage DNA, proteins, and fatty acids at high concentrations.

A high free radical concentration in the body has been linked to multiple illnesses, including heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer.

Curcumin is one of the most potent antioxidants and has the potential to increase the body’s total antioxidant potential (TAC).

A meta-analysis of four studies showed that after an average supplementation time of 67 days among a total of 308 participants, there was a significant increase in TAC and a decrease in malondialdehyde concentration – an indicator of low oxidative stress (1).

2. A natural anti-inflammatory compound

Inflammation is a natural process in your body. It is generally defined as the body’s immune system’s response to anything that irritates it. It could be a wound, an infective bacterium, or any foreign object.

Being the response to illness and injury, it signals the immune system to fight these things. Hence, inflammation is key to the wellness of the body. It becomes a problem, however, when the inflammation becomes chronic.

Long-term inflammation can harm your body instead of helping it because of the extended oxidative stress it places on the body. Inflammation has been identified in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions, including:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

One major reason behind curcumin being heavily researched is its natural anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to block NF-κB activation, which has an inflammation-suppressive effect on the body (2).

There are several different mechanisms of its inflammation suppression, although most research shows that high doses of curcumin must be administered to produce any significant results.

3. Curcumin may lower your risk of heart disease

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for over 30% of all global deaths.

Without adequate amounts of antioxidants, the body undergoes oxidative stress due to an excess of free radicals. This can lead to damage to cells and DNA among other harmful effects.

Curcumin can help massively in protection from this oxidative stress being a potent antioxidant. It is beneficial in improving the functioning of the endothelium (blood vessel lining).

A study found that 12 weeks of curcumin supplementation for healthy middle-aged and older adults resulted in improved resistance artery endothelial function and improved conduit artery endothelial function (3).

Endothelial cells regulate the exchanges between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues. They signal the growth and development of the connective tissues forming the surrounding blood-vessel wall layers as well.

4. May be a potential cure for cancer

Cancer accounted for nearly 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020. That’s one in six deaths.

Cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth, unmediated by the body, which forms the mass we call a tumor. Tumors are of 2 general types – benign and malignant.

Benign tumors are smooth with regular borders but do not invade nearby tissues or spread throughout the body.

Malignant tumors are irregular bordered tumors that grow faster than benign tumors. What makes them deadlier is their ability to spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, referred to as metastasis.

Curcumin exhibits anticancer ability by targeting cancerous cells and cell signaling pathways including growth factors.

Studies suggest that a daily oral dose of 3.6 g of curcumin has been efficacious for colorectal cancer (4). Some studies have also shown that it can cause the death of cancerous cells and reduce metastasis.

It is to be noted, however, that it has been shown to have side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.

Curcumin may help manage depression

Curcumin supplementation has been shown to be beneficial in treating depression.

Inflammation plays a key role in the development of depression in individuals (5). Inflammation gives rise to various diseases and fatigue, often a precursor to depression among other mood disorders.

A review of six clinical trials involving 377 patients showed that curcumin showed significant anti-anxiety effects with no notable adverse effects reported (6).

While mood disorders like depression and anxiety seem strictly mental and behavioral at first, this is just glancing the surface.

Just the potential of a natural remedy for this disorders makes turmeric one of the most important areas of study in alternative medicine.

Tips to reap the most benefits of turmeric

Even with a wide variety of suggested health benefits, ingesting curcumin by itself is not as effective. This is because of curcumin’s poor bio-availability (how efficiently the body absorbs the compound).

The primary reasons behind this are poor absorption of curcumin and its rapid metabolism and elimination by the body. Curcumin has low solubility in water, and in normal conditions gets metabolized by the body before it can be absorbed due to the enzymes in the gut.

There are, however, some techniques that could help you increase the bioavailability of curcumin, some of which are listed below.


Research has found that exposing turmeric and curcumin to heat can increase solubility in water. Short cooking times (under 15 minutes) are shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin.

Other studies have also shown that heating enhances the overall antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. It may also produce a stronger cancer cell-fighting stimulus, although this topic has not been studied extensively.


Image of black pepper corns on a spoon.

Black and white pepper are known to be easily available sources of piperine, the content of anywhere from 2 to 9%. 

One of the best ways to increase curcumin absorption is to ingest it with black pepper. This is because of a compound found in black pepper called piperine. One study even showed that piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000% or 20 times (7).

Piperine is a strong inhibitor of drug metabolism and protects curcumin by the digestive enzymes that cause its rapid metabolism without any adverse side effects.


While curcumin has low solubility in water, it loves getting together with fats and oils. Binding to these fats, it can be more easily absorbed by the gut. It is therefore suggested to consume curcumin with some healthy fats or combine turmeric in your dishes or smoothies with something like coconut oil or MCT oil.

Dosage and supplementation

Curcumin is well established as a safe chemical compound, with the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) reporting an allowed daily intake of 0-3 mg/kg of body weight.

While it is generally safe to consume, too high a concentration has potential health risks, including:

  • upset stomach
  • acid reflux
  • nausea and dizziness
  • headaches
  • risk of kidney stone formation

It is extremely unlikely to consume a harmful concentration of curcumin through a regular diet, and almost all cases of overdose are reported with curcumin supplementation. It is therefore suggested to supplement with curcumin after consultation with a professional.

In a nutshell

Turmeric, or specifically curcumin, has the potential to be one of the most important supplements for health and longevity in the near future.

It is a strong antioxidant and one of the most potent anti-inflammatory compounds and has been gaining recognition for being one of the key ingredients in health and longevity.

While research suggests that curcumin has positive effects on heart health and brain-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, it still needs to undergo extensive research.

On the plus side, it is one of the safest supplements one could take, and adding some turmeric to your diet is not too much of a hassle.