Turmeric: Medicinal Superfood

by Bev Hope

Turmeric is Nature’s Superfood to Live Well with Zest–

Turmeric is on top of the list of the most frequently mentioned super spice medicinal herbs in all of science. People in India and China have used turmeric for thousands of years in their cooking and for health benefits. The more I’ve learned about its powerful health benefits, the more I keep adding turmeric to my anti-inflammatory recipes and the more I keep up with my daily turmeric supplement. If you are managing a chronic health condition, turmeric can really help.  Here’s what I’ve learned about nature’s super spice and what I’d like you to know. 

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a potent natural ingredient that comes from the beautiful flowering Curcuma longa plant, which grows in India and other Southeast Asian countries. It is a member of the ginger family. Turmeric is derived from the underground stems of the plant. The dried root of the Curcuma longa plant is ground into the distinctive yellow turmeric powder you find in the spice section of your grocery store. Turmeric root or ground turmeric power, the main ingredient of curry powder, is commonly used in Asian cuisine and as a dietary supplement or an herbal medicine.

What Does Turmeric Do?

What turmeric does for the body is beyond amazing! This brilliant yellow golden spice helps support the entire body, from head to toe. It may be the most powerful herb on the planet as far as supporting optimal health, fighting disease and potentially reversing disease. Turmeric is considered an adaptogen – a botanical that supports your body’s ability to adapt to stress from any source. Adaptogens are valued for their contribution to energy, stamina, endurance, strength, and mental clarity. On a cellular level, turmeric assists cells by helping to neutralize substances that can cause stress.

How Does Turmeric Help?

There are many chemical compounds found in turmeric, known as curcuminoids. The active substance in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is what makes turmeric a “functional food”, ” defined by the Mayo Clinic as “foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.” Curcumin makes up only between 2 and 6 percent of turmeric. Whole turmeric root contains both the potent curcuminoids in curcumin plus many naturally occurring bioflavonoids found in the turmeric root. These potent chemical compounds naturally occurring in turmeric target your entire body, not just one or two parts, making the health benefits of turmeric exceptional and far reaching. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Turmeric?

Turmeric is one of nature’s most potent botanical medicines. Turmeric can help your skin glow, boost your mood, combat inflammation, regulate your cholesterol, promote cellular health and much more*! Over 12,500 peer reviewed articles show the diverse health benefits of this potent botanical ingredient. Turmeric helps support the entire body including:

  • Healthy inflammatory response*
  • Digestive health*
  • Mood balance*
  • Brain health and memory*
  • Heart health*
  • Diabetes and insulin resistance*
  • Joint health, flexibility and mobility*
  • Exercise and pain perception
  • Healthy immune response*
  • Cellular health*
  • Colon and gut health*
  • Skin health*
  • Prostate and breast health*
  • Lung health*
  • Liver health* 

What Do the Turmeric Research Studies Show?  

Anti-Inflammatory / Immune System Response

Vast studies show that the high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in turmeric help support a healthy inflammatory response.

  1. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory property of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) in patients with postoperative inflammation.
  2. Curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, induces heme oxygenase-1 and protects endothelial cells against oxidative stress
  3. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: A Review of Preclinical and Clinical Research
  4. Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of turmeric (Curcuma longa)
  5. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin
  6. Curcumin, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases: How Are They Linked?
  7. Regulation of LOX and COX by curcumin
  8. Immunomodulation by curcumin
  9. “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin. 

Antioxidant Activity/Anti-Aging

Research shows the antioxidants found in turmeric curcumin promote cellular health by reducing free radicals and oxidative stress. Turmeric helps fight free radicals that can attack healthy cells, leaving them permanently damaged.

  1. Chemo preventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer
  2. Role of phenolic OH and methylene hydrogen on the free radical reactions and antioxidant activity of curcumin
  3. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-κB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging …
  4. Free radical scavenging ability and antioxidant efficiency of curcumin and its substituted analogue
  5. Antioxidant and radical scavenging properties of curcumin
  6. The promise of slow down ageing may come from curcumin. 
  7. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin

Brain Function and Memory

Studies show that the anti-inflammatory antioxidants found in turmeric curcumin help support brain health and cognitive function. With curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, these health-promoting properties benefit all cells in the body, including the brain. 

  1. Effect of curcumin on brain insulin receptors and memory functions in STZ (ICV) induced dementia model of rat
  2. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function
  3. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition
  4. Plants used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for improvement of memory and cognitive function
  5. Neuroprotective effects of curcumin
  6. Antidepressant-like effects of curcumin in WKY rat model of depression is associated with an increase in hippocampal BDNF
  7. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB


Research studies also suggest that curcumin may help protect against cancer and be useful in cancer treatments.

  1. Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric.
  2. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin
  3. Anticancer potential of curcumin: preclinical and clinical studies

Cardiovascular Health

Studies show that the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin help support cardiovascular health.

  1. Biomarkers of aging and age-associated disease. Curcumin supplementation improves vascular endothelial function in middle aged and older adults
  2. Curcumin supplementation improves vascular endothelial function in healthy middle-aged and older adults by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and reducing oxidative stress
  3. The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases
  4. Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women
  5. Effects of curcuminoids on frequency of acute myocardial infarction after coronary artery bypass grafting
  6. Curcumin Inhibits Acute Vascular Inflammation through the Activation of Heme Oxygenase-1.

Diabetes/Metabolic Health

Research studies show that the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may play a beneficial role in diabetes management and metabolic health. 

  1. The beneficial role of curcumin on inflammation, diabetes and neurodegenerative disease: A recent update
  2. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes
  3. Targeting inflammation-induced obesity and metabolic diseases by curcumin and other nutraceuticals
  4. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells.

Digestive Health

Studies show that turmeric curcumin helps support healthy digestion and a healthy digestive system. Turmeric possesses a wide range of biological properties that support digestive health, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial activities. 

  1. Curcumin therapy in inflammatory bowel disease: a pilot study
  2. Curcumin and inflammatory bowel disease: biological mechanisms and clinical implication.
  3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): a review of conventional and alternative treatments.
  4. Effects of curcumin on reflux esophagitis in rats
  5. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases.
  6. The plant kingdom as a source of anti-ulcer remedies
  7. Curcumin inhibits gastric inflammation induced by helicobacter pylori infection in a mouse model
  8. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in gastrointestinal diseases
  9. Curcumin maintenance therapy for Ulcerative Colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial


Many factors can cause an excess of oxidative stress, including physical activity. As a powerful antioxidant, studies have shown that turmeric curcumin can aid in post-exercise recovery.

  1. Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.
  2. Effects of curcumin supplementation on exercise-induced oxidative stress in humans. 
  3. Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.
  4. Curcumin attenuates oxidative stress following downhill running-induced muscle damage. 

Joint Health

Research shows turmeric curcumin benefits joint health with its potent antioxidant properties. Turmeric curcumin provides the body a concentrated dose of antioxidants that is not only beneficial for joint health, but also for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. 

  1. Curcumin inhibits pro-inflammatory mediators and metalloproteinase-3 production by chondrocytes  
  2. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials
  3. Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management.
  4. Regulation of LOX and COX by curcumin
  5. Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management
  6. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy
  7. Curcumin reduces prostaglandin E2, matrix metalloproteinase-3 and proteoglycan release in the secretome of interleukin 1β-treated articular cartilage

Liver Function

Research shows turmeric curcumin supports liver function. The liver’s main job is to filter out toxins found in your body.  As a rich source of antioxidants, turmeric helps maintain the liver’s natural antioxidant levels, so it can function at its best.

  1. Potential protective effects of quercetin and curcumin on paracetamol-induced histological changes, oxidative stress, impaired liver and kidney functions and haematotoxicity in rat…
  2. Curcumin prevents alcohol-induced liver disease in rats by inhibiting the expression of NF-κB-dependent genes
  3. Protection of liver cells from ethanol cytotoxicity by curcumin in liver slice culture in vitro
  4. Pharmacological actions of curcumin in liver diseases or damage

Lung Health

Research shows that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidants found in turmeric curcumin can help support lung health.

  1. Protection from acute and chronic lung diseases by curcumin
  2. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activating and interleukin-8 release in aveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity 

Mood Balance

Studies show the mechanism-based actions of curcumin can help support mood balance.

  1. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial.
  2. Antidepressant activity of curcumin: involvement of serotonin and dopamine system
  3. Potentials of Curcumin as an Antidepressant
  4. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population 

Skin Health

Turmeric benefits include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that have proven effective in treating multiple skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, and wound healing.

  1. Beneficial Role of Curcumin in Skin Diseases
  2. Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Skin Health: A systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence
  3. Efficiency and safety of a Curcuma extract combined with visible blue light phototherapy on adults with plaque psoriasis: A phase IV, randomized, open pilot clinical trial
  4. Effects of Curcuma extract and visible light on adults with plaque psoriasis
  5. Inhibitory effect of the extract of rhizome of Curcuma longa L in gelatinase activity and its effect on human skin
  6. Essential oil from waste leaves of Curcuma longa L. alleviates skin inflammation
  7. Topical Turmeric Micro Microemulgel in the Management of Plaque Psoriasis; A Clinical Evaluation
  8. Turmeric tonic as a treatment in scalp psoriasis: A randomized placebo-control clinical trial. 

Turmeric and Curcumin for Health and Disease Prevention

Studies show that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidants found in turmeric curcumin have wide-reaching health benefits to potentially treat and prevent disease.

  1. Turmeric Root Extract and Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Taken Together are Synergistic
  2. The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease
  3. Curcumin the Indian Solid Gold
  4. Role of Curcumin in Disease Prevention and Treatment

Turmeric Use in Cuisine and Manufacturing

Turmeric has been part of the traditional cuisine of India and China for centuries for both health and taste benefits.  turmeric’s aromatic, pungent flavor adds a delicious flavor boost to cuisine, such as in curry. With its brilliant yellow color, turmeric is also used for making yellow dye for manufacturing yellow products. 

What are the Turmeric Nutrition Facts?

One tablespoon (about seven grams) of ground turmeric contains approximately:

  • 23.9 calories
  • 4.4 grams carbohydrates
  • 0.5-gram protein
  • 0.7-gram fat
  • 1.4 grams fiber
  • 0.5 milligram manganese (26 percent DV)
  • 2.8 milligrams iron (16 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
  • 170 milligrams potassium (5 percent DV)
  • 1.7 milligrams vitamin C (3 percent DV)
  • 13 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)

What are the Side Effects of Turmeric?

It’s always important to discuss taking dietary supplements with your healthcare provider and to follow medical advice. Turmeric has been found safe to take, and it has GRAS (‘generally recognized as safe”) status by the FDA when taken in amounts tested for health purposes. In high doses turmeric may cause nausea and digestive issues. Turmeric is not suitable for those who are pregnant or taking anticoagulants.

What Dosage Is Recommended for Health Benefits?

There is no official recommended turmeric dosage to get the for full health benefits. However, most studies show that taking 500 to 2,000 milligrams per day of turmeric extract could be beneficial. It’s best to start with a lower dosage and work up gradually to assess tolerance and reduce risk of any side effects

Final Thoughts on the Power of Turmeric Curcumin

As science continues to discover more and more applications for this powerful and natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it becomes clear just how beneficial turmeric curcumin can be for living well with zest!

I’m convinced that incorporating turmeric as much as possible in cooking and taking a daily supplement can zest up your anti-inflammatory lifestyle to the max! The proof for me is in the results. When I take my maximum potency, water soluble turmeric supplement, I recover from my half marathon training runs very quickly. I don’t feel stiffness or pain in my shins, calves and joints. It’s like a natural pain reliever for me.

Turmeric is the Medicinal Superfood

The evidence clearly proves that Turmeric is the crown golden jewel of all medicinal super foods. To harness the full power of turmeric, I recommend adding organic turmeric to a wide variety of meals and recipes from curry, to drinks, to salads and mains. I also recommend taking a high-quality turmeric curcumin supplement made from whole turmeric root to get the maximum health benefits possible from this amazing super spice!

Enjoy and Live Well with Zest!



Written by Bev Hope

Reviewed by Board Certified MD

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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