Turmeric has been a staple of Indian cuisine for nearly 4,000 years. It’s also been a staple of folk medicine — used throughout the centuries to improve digestion, relieve arthritis, heal wounds, and treat dozens of other ailments.
The buzz about turmeric comes from these and other health-promoting properties. Studies suggest that it acts as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-cancer, and antioxidant agent. A compound it contains called curcumin gets most of the credit for these benefits.
In cancer, for example, curcumin activates pathways that cause cancer cells to die prematurely. It also blocks pathways that enable these cells to grow, divide, and multiply. Turmeric is of special interest to cancer researchers because it can target cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.
- Skin conditions like acne, itching, psoriasis, and rashes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- High cholesterol and heart disease
- Gum disease
Why Turmeric Isn’t a Simple Solution to Good Health
One of the main reasons why your doctor doesn’t prescribe turmeric for everything that ails you is that our bodies don’t take in curcumin very well. “It doesn’t get absorbed by the gut. So you have to eat a boatload of turmeric to get the active ingredients into your bloodstream,” says Shrikant Anant, PhD, associate director of cancer prevention and control at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Is It Safe?
In general, turmeric is considered safe, whether you take it by mouth or rub it on your skin. Studies have found that even large doses — up to 1,200 milligrams a day — aren’t dangerous. A typical daily dose is closer to 500 milligrams twice a day, says Chiasson.
Turmeric can have side effects, though. Some people who take high doses or use it as a supplement long-term get nausea and diarrhea.
Is Turmeric Worth Taking?
Turmeric has a lot of potential as a health supplement, but there isn’t enough research at this point to recommend taking it. “In theory, I think it will work, but more studies need to be done,” says Anant. The trick will be to figure out how to get enough curcumin into the body to prevent or fight disease.
Turmeric also isn’t a magic cure-all on its own. It likely works along with other spices and nutrients to promote good health, Anant adds.
Source: Is Spice Rack Staple Turmeric a Health Star?