What is turmeric, and what are the benefits?
Find out all about turmeric food supplements, including what it does, the benefits of taking it and how much you might need.
Turmeric is responsible for helping to make a lot of good stuff happen. So, if you’ve ever wondered, ‘is turmeric good for you’, then you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s lots of evidence to suggest that it is. In so many ways.
For more on why turmeric is so good for you, keep reading. But first, before we start focusing on the many benefits of turmeric, we’ll spend a brief minute explaining what it actually is.
- What turmeric is
- What curcumin is
- How to take turmeric
- Side effects
Turmeric is an orangey, yellow-coloured spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It has been used for thousands of years as both a cooking ingredient and a medicinal herb.1 It’s the curcuminoids, also known as curcumins, that give turmeric its striking colour - so much so, they’re often used to colour food and cosmetics.2
Extracted from the root of the turmeric plant, it’s part of the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes ginger.3 Interestingly, the turmeric plant is related to ginger and originates from India and other parts of Asia and Central America.2 Using turmeric dates all the way back to 4,000 years ago in India.4
Historically, it’s mainly been used in Ayurvedic medicine, primarily in South Asia, for many conditions, including breathing problems, rheumatism, serious discomfort and fatigue.
You can buy turmeric powder, tea, essential oil and scrubs. You can also take turmeric tablets, too.
Like most spices, turmeric goes by more than one name - turmeric root and Indian saffron. However, it’s not to be confused with the Javanese turmeric root either which, despite the reference to turmeric, is something else entirely.
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The compound curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow colour, has been isolated by scientists as turmeric’s most important active ingredient.
Studies show curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and may support digestion, too – but more on that later.5
Between 2-6% of turmeric consists of curcuminoids, active plant compounds, most of which is curcumin.6
Turmeric and black pepper
Heard about taking turmeric and black pepper together? There’s a good reason. Scientists have discovered that black pepper helps your body absorb curcumin, so you may sometimes find turmeric and black pepper together.7
What is turmeric good for?
Traditional Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic approach to medicine that originated in India, has long praised the health and wellbeing benefits of turmeric, and now Western studies are discovering the following:
- It may help manage bodily discomfort
There are many turmeric benefits for men and women, but our first pick is its ability to help with the reduction of bodily discomfort. A 2013 study in the journal Biofactors found that curcumin may be responsible for helping with discomfort and swelling. Researchers say it has this effect by blocking enzymes and other proteins that create an inflammatory response in the body.8
- It may support your joints
Another benefit of turmeric is that it may help to protect your joints from wear and tear thanks to curcumin contents. This includes helping to ease symptoms of arthritis like joint movement and stiffness, according to a 2016 study in Journal of Medicinal Food.9
The curcumins in turmeric have soothing properties, so much so, that they are said to help improve the symptoms of arthritis.
According to research carried out on people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin may be even more effective than some anti-inflammatory drugs.10
What’s more, many other studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and noted improvements in various symptoms.11
- It may ease digestion problems
Curcumin may also be able to help support gut health, including managing excess gas, abdominal discomfort, and bloating.12 A 2013 trial by the University of Nottingham found curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, an essential substance needed to break down fat in foods.13
- It may support skin health
As well as having soothing properties, turmeric is also said to have antioxidant properties, making it effective for skin types and conditions, such as blemish prone skin and psoriasis.14
The soothing properties can help calm sensitive skin.
You can also use it, or different variations of it, like face cleansers, skin masks and night creams within your skincare regimes. This can regulate oil production, cleanse the skin, and even, manage facial hair.15
Turmeric can also be used for pimples, thanks to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help with breakouts and can help manage redness and scarring.15
For glowing skin, why not give our lemon and turmeric face mask a go? You only need three ingredients to create it, it takes just six steps to make and, the good news is, two of them are available here online and in-store.
- It may help with acid reflux
You may not have put the two together until now, but turmeric may also help with acid reflux and gastrointestinal problems, too.
Research into acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease has shown these conditions may be caused by inflammation and oxidative stress and that they can be managed with antioxidants and supplements with soothing properties.16
Turmeric, and its extract curcumin, are both said to possess these properties. Because of this, turmeric may help with acid reflux.
Meanwhile, a separate study revealed that the soothing effects of curcumin manage the risk of oesophageal issues.16
- It may help with symptoms of depression
It’s believed that curcumin might be able to help ease depression and enable antidepressants to work more effectively.
Some studies says there’s a connection between depression and chronic inflammation, suggesting that chronic inflammation and depression can aggravate one another.17
It’s thought that antioxidants, such as curcumin, can help with the symptoms of depression by managing the chronic inflammation that’s been highlighted by wider research.18
Handpicked article: Top uses for turmeric
There is no reference nutrient intake (RNI) for turmeric tablets, but be careful to not exceed the dosage stated on any label. However, there is an RNI for curcumin.
The World Health Organisation advises up to 3mg per kg of bodyweight of curcuminoids, which includes curcumin.
The average daily intake in an Indian diet is much higher, between 60 and 100mg per kg of bodyweight.19
For the best effect, you should have turmeric in combination with black pepper. A 2017 study by USA’s Central Michigan University reported that an important compound in black pepper, piperine, can promote the body’s ability to absorb curcumin by 2000%.6
Children under 12 years old and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take turmeric, as its safety in these groups not been proven.20
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to use turmeric. Some people believe that the best way to take turmeric is to mix the powder with liquid to form a drink. You can do this with water (but it may not taste great) or you could add it to a smoothie so that it’s a little easier on the palette.
But that’s not all. Turmeric is also available in capsule, gummy and liquid form – so you can find the ideal format and flavour to suit your tastes.
Check out our turmeric coffee recipe if you’re not sure where to start. Not a coffee fan? Don’t worry.
So, what are the side effects of taking turmeric? While they’re considered to be rare, some side effects when taken in large amounts can include:6
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea
- Yellow stools
The Final Say
Now you know what turmeric is and why it’s good for you, will you add it to your diet? With so many different types to choose from, you’ll find the ideal turmeric supplement for your tastebuds.
Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first.
Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 6 September 2022