The colorful spice and herbal remedy turmeric can be found in almost every kitchen. However, by far it is not only used for coloring and flavoring food, but also serves as a beneficial agent in the treatment of numerous diseases. However, excessive consumption of turmeric can also cause unpleasant side effects.
In this article we will introduce you to the tropical medicinal plant, its properties and areas of application in more detail and explain how taking turmeric has both positive and negative effects on the human body. In addition, we provide you with information on the correct intake of turmeric.
the essentials in brief
- Turmeric is best known as a spice that is characterized by its intense yellow color. Turmeric has a slightly bitter, earthy and spicy taste and gives dishes a special touch.
- The root of the turmeric plant contains curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thanks to these properties, curcumin is mostly used as a supplement in the treatment of numerous diseases.
- In moderation, turmeric is a safe and highly digestible remedy. However, excessive consumption can have a negative effect on health and trigger gastrointestinal problems, among other things.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant that belongs to the ginger family. It bears the scientific name Curcuma longa and has numerous names in German. In this country it is therefore also known as yellow ginger, turmeric or saffron root. The turmeric plant needs warm temperatures all year round, which is why it is mainly found in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia and India.
The usable part of the turmeric is called the rhizome (root stock) and is characterized by its orange colour. This rhizome is available fresh and dried as a powder.
Turmeric is particularly popular for seasoning dishes such as soups, rice dishes or vegetables and is an integral part of every curry spice mixture. But turmeric is also often used as a herbal medicine or in dietary supplements.
The curcumin contained in the root is responsible for the orange color of the tuber. (Image Source: Steve Buissinne / Pixybay)
What ingredients does turmeric contain?
The root of the turmeric plant has essential oils, important nutrients as well as vitamins and minerals. It consists of around ten percent fat, but also provides a proportion of proteins. Thanks to its high iron content, turmeric with 2 mg iron per 5 g covers around 16 percent of the daily requirement (approx. 12.5 mg). Vitamin C and potassium are also contained in larger amounts in the rhizome.
The following table provides an overview of the most important nutrients contained in turmeric powder:
|ingredient||Ingredient per 5 g of turmeric powder|
|calorific value||74.55kJ / 17.8kcal|
|of which sugars||2.88g|
|vitamin C||1.3 mg|
The active ingredients of the turmeric plant are the curcuminoids, which among other things are responsible for the yellow color of the root. About 5 percent of curcuminoids consists of curcumin. The composition and use of these substances varies in dietary supplements. There are products that contain the pure powder, curcuminoids with curcumin or only curcumin. Other herbal additives (e.g. black pepper) or vitamins (vitamin D) are often added to such products.
Due to the interaction of these ingredients, turmeric has a slightly earthy, bitter taste and gives dishes a mild to spicy spiciness.
What does turmeric do?
Turmeric has been used as a spice in food and drink for thousands of years. The turmeric root is not only extremely popular in many kitchens, but is also an integral part of traditional healing arts thanks to its health-promoting properties. For example, it is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in the Indian healing art of Ayurveda.
She goes as:
- cholesterol lowering
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the turmeric root. The yellow dye has an antioxidant effect and thus helps to fight diseases. Curcumin works as an antioxidant in the body and scavenges harmful free radicals. If free radicals combine with body cells, they can be damaged.
A meta-analysis from 2015 confirmed the antioxidant effects of turmeric. After taking curcumin for 6 weeks, an increased production of endogenous antioxidants was observed in the subjects. In addition, the number of free radicals contained in the blood decreased. (1)
Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties. As a comprehensive analysis of individual studies shows, taking curcumin already has a positive effect on the human CRP value after about 4 weeks. This value provides information about possible inflammatory processes in the body and serves as a risk factor for chronic diseases or diseases of the cardiovascular system. (2.3)
Turmeric has a cholesterol-lowering effect and can serve as an accompanying antidepressant.
A falling cholesterol level and decreasing fat levels in the blood were the positive consequences of a daily intake of 1000 mg curcumin in 100 test subjects. (4) Through another meta-analysis, the researchers also came to the conclusion that curcumin could bring about a significant improvement in patients with depression and anxiety. (5)
What is turmeric used for?
Numerous studies and investigations have already shown that turmeric effectively promotes our health. The root has healing and anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore used to treat a wide variety of diseases. These include, among other things:
- Digestive problems and chronic gastrointestinal diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases and dementia diseases / Alzheimer's
In the following we will go into more detail about the individual areas of application of goldenseal.
Turmeric for the digestive tract
The intake of turmeric is particularly recommended for constipation, flatulence and a feeling of fullness. The use of turmeric to aid digestion is known as an ancient, traditional use of the plant. The curcumin contained in the root supports the production of digestive juices and stimulates the flow of bile. This improves the digestion of particularly fatty foods.
However, turmeric not only helps in the short term after eating fatty foods, but also contributes to a permanent improvement in the inflammatory values in chronic intestinal diseases. In a meta-analysis, scientists examined individual cases of patients with Crohn's disease. They concluded that taking curcumin was a cheap and safe way to reduce symptoms and markers of inflammation in Crohn's disease. (6)
Turmeric for osteoarthritis
Regular intake of turmeric can have a pain-relieving effect on joint complaints. This was confirmed by the results of a placebo-controlled study from 2014. 40 subjects with knee osteoarthritis were given either a curcumin preparation (1.5 g) or a placebo. After six weeks of daily intake, in contrast to the placebo group, a significant improvement in pain was observed in the subjects treated with turmeric. (7)
The need for painkillers can be significantly reduced by taking turmeric. (8th)
In addition, scientists found in another study that turmeric has a similar mode of action as conventional painkillers. This was observed when treating knee osteoarthritis patients by administering curcumin powder and ibuprofen. After 4 weeks, significant pain relief was recorded in both groups. (9)
Turmeric for Alzheimer's
Curcumin has the special ability to cross the so-called blood-brain barrier in the human head. There it can also unfold its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect. This in turn could protect against inflammation in the brain and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's.
However, there is still insufficient scientific evidence that consuming turmeric could prevent dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. A review of the study only confirmed the potential of curcumin to reduce the inflammatory process of a subsequent Alzheimer's disease. (10)
Turmeric for Cancer
Treating cancer patients with turmeric can prevent tumor formation or have a positive effect on already existing cancer cells. This was confirmed by a study on the growth-inhibiting effect of curcumin on breast cancer. It was found that turmeric curbs the growth of various cancer cells without attacking healthy cells. (11)
In addition, curcumin strengthens the membrane of our healthy body cells and protects them from invading pathogens. The American researchers involved in this study were also able to observe that cancer cells, on the other hand, lost strength and stability. (12)
Turmeric for diabetes
Scientists recommend turmeric as an adjunct to diabetes treatment. This emerged from a review of diabetes therapies published in 2013. The researchers came to the conclusion that turmeric or curcumin supports blood sugar regulation and thus contributes to improved insulin absorption by the cells. (13)
Curcumin can be used as a means of preventing diabetes.
In a scientific study, subjects with signs of diabetes either took six curcuminoid capsules a day or swallowed a placebo preparation. Compared to the placebo group, no or very slow development of the disease was observed in the turmeric group. Insulin resistance and inflammation levels also decreased in patients treated with curcumin. (14)
What are the side effects of turmeric?
Basically, taking turmeric and curcumin in the form of powder, tablets and capsules is extremely safe. It is safe to use regularly in food and drink or as a dietary supplement.
Side effects can only occur if the dose is too high or if turmeric is consumed excessively. These include, among other things:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- stomach pain
- liver problems
- Allergic reaction
However, turmeric can also cause interactions. Bleeding can be increased when taken as a dietary supplement in conjunction with blood-thinning medications such as aspirin. This could already affect your period, a harmless nosebleed or a cut finger.
Likewise, an excessive dose of curcumin can increase the effects of diabetes medication, which could trigger hypoglycaemia in patients. Therefore, risk groups should always consult a doctor before taking turmeric.
Who Should Not Take Turmeric?
People who have health problems or pre-existing medical conditions should consult a doctor or naturopath before taking turmeric and curcumin as a spice or dietary supplement. This is the only way to ensure that the medication is properly combined with the herbal remedy.
As already mentioned, interactions can arise that pose health risks for sick people, for example diabetes or cancer patients.
People with gallstones should avoid taking high-dose turmeric supplements. Since curcumin stimulates bile production, gallstones could be agitated and lodged in the bile ducts.
The extent to which turmeric can trigger cramps and bleeding during pregnancy has not yet been sufficiently researched. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to take turmeric supplements.
How is turmeric taken correctly?
You can take turmeric as a dietary supplement in the form of powder, tablets, extract or capsules, or use the freshly grated or dried tuber as a spice. As a condiment, turmeric gives food a spicy note, even in small amounts. In larger quantities, however, turmeric tastes very bitter and is therefore hardly edible.
You can use or add turmeric to your dishes two to three times a day. So you can get the amount you want without hesitation and you can do something for your health at the same time. Since curcumin is hardly water-soluble, it is always advisable to add a little fat (oil). Bioavailability can also be increased with additional black pepper.
You can take turmeric capsules and tablets according to the instructions on the package insert. These preparations are very effective and can be bought in different concentrations. The size of the capsule can also vary and should be considered for the correct dosage.
The flower of the turmeric plant shines in a bright pink while the root is orange. (Image source: Mouse23 / Pixabay)
How Much Turmeric Should You Take?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) monograph, the recommended dose is 3 g per day.
This value refers to the intake of turmeric powder from the dried roots of the turmeric plant and does not apply to the treatment of diseases with curcumin.
The tolerable intake of turmeric, on the other hand, is 2 mg per body weight. This value was determined on the basis of a "no observed effect level" (NOEL), which assumes a daily 250 - 320 mg per kg body weight and a safety factor of 100.
What should be considered when buying turmeric products?
In Germany, turmeric preparations are not medicinal products. They are to be understood as food and may not make any alleviating claims or advertising in this regard.
Manufacturers who advertise promising effects should therefore be treated with caution. Not all areas of application and effects of turmeric have been sufficiently researched and scientifically proven.
Turmeric products are also available with different ingredients. If you want a high bioavailability of curcumin, then you should use a preparation with piperine. Piperine is a black pepper extract and increases bioavailability by a factor of 20. If you are allergic to pepper, you should choose a product made from pure curcumin.
Also note the size and dose of each capsule or tablet. Depending on how large and concentrated the turmeric product is, you should adjust the intake accordingly.
What alternatives are there to turmeric?
Turmeric is considered a medicinal plant whose root has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there are other herbal remedies that can be used alternatively.
If you are struggling with digestive problems such as constipation, you can use flea seeds. Flea seeds have a high swelling capacity and stimulate the intestinal flora. The volume of the swollen psyllium triggers a stimulus inside the intestines and thus promotes defecation.
The use of turmeric for gallstones should be avoided. Dandelion, on the other hand, can counteract gallstones by promoting bile production. It can also be used as a tea for flatulence and a feeling of fullness.
The leaves of the artichoke have a particularly antioxidant, antispasmodic, cholesterol and blood fat-lowering effect. The leaves of the perennial have a positive effect on the health of the liver and gallbladder. They also stimulate the flow of bile and support the regeneration of the liver. The juice of the leaves can be taken both fresh and in the form of capsules.
The root of the turmeric plant and the curcumin it contains can be used in many areas thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. As a spice, it not only gives food a bright color, but also provides an intense aroma. Turmeric has been shown to have beneficial effects on a variety of medical conditions. As a natural remedy, it primarily reduces inflammatory processes in the human organism.
However, excessive intake of turmeric can cause side effects. It is not uncommon for abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea to occur as a result of too high a dose of turmeric. Risk groups such as pregnant women, breastfeeding women and people with gallstones should therefore avoid turmeric preparations. In principle, people with previous illnesses should consult a doctor in order to avoid complications and health risks.
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