Healthy or Hype: Turmeric

Welcome to another edition of Healthy or Hype! Our featured guest this time…


Turmeric is a deep orange-yellow spice typically associated with curries and Indian cuisine, although it is used internationally.

The health benefits associated with turmeric are primarily due to the presence of the phytochemical curcuminoid compounds, most notably curcumin. It is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of benefits from from consuming turmeric are actually based on studies examining the effect of curcumin.

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used as a treatment for conditions such as indigestion, throat infections, colds, liver ailments, inflammatory conditions, and to cleanse wounds and treat skin sores.

Typical intakes of turmeric in countries like India have been found to be around 1-2 grams per day (about 0.5 – 1 teaspoon).



Curcumin is is diarylheptanoid belonging to a group of curcuminoids – natural phenols responsible for turmeric’s yellowish coloring. Annual sales of increased largely due to its increased popularity as a dietary supplement.

Curcumin has poor oral bioavailability, meaning that a small amount of what you consume is actually absorbed. To improve absorption, it should be taken with an enhancing agent such as black pepper extract (piperine, bioperine). However, if you want the curcumin in your colon (as an anti-inflammatory or to help with digestion) then you would not pair it with an enhancer.

Curcumin is fat soluble, so consuming turmeric in a fat-containing meal would help with absorption as well. Water soluble forms of curcumin are also available for purchase.




Glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD) – antioxidant enzymes – have been found to be increased, although the exact mechanism that brings this about is unsure.


Curcumin seems to be more effective than a placebo in reducing symptoms of depression, although it may take up to 2-3 months to notice any changes. It may also be effective in treating severe anxiety compared to a placebo.


Decrease in conditions associated with inflammation (ex. osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, diabetic neuropathy).


Doses of 400-500mg curcumin seem to have similar alleviation of pain symptoms as 2g acetominophen.


Curcumin seems to enhance the synthesis of DHA, a long chain omega-3 fatty acid vital for brain development and protection, and increases concentrations in the liver and brain. Cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, are linked to a dietary deficiency of DHA. This may prove helpful for those who do not consume omega-3 fats from fish or fish oil. Speaking of Alzheimer’s, curcumin may be able to reduce b-amyloid build-up in neural tissue, although evidence is limited at this time.



For systemic use, supplementation of 80-500mg curcumin (plus use of an enhancer) would be required. For intestinal health, daily doses of 2-4g turmeric or curcumin supplementation without enhancers should be sufficient.

Golden Milk Lattes are a popular, modern, sweet treat that incorporates turmeric. If you prefer a more savory drink, Turmeric Broth is a great alternative.

As a face mask, mix 2 Tablespoons of plain yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon honey. Apply to the skin and wash off after about 5 minutes. Make sure to use an old towel as turmeric tends to stain!

To sooth skin or inflammation, make a past of castor oil, turmeric, and black pepper. Apply to the area and cover for a few hours (may stain the skin).

To spot treat acne, mix equal parts honey and turmeric and apply to the affected area.

For colds, mix honey with turmeric as a natural aide to sooth a sore throat.

Turmeric can even be used to naturally whiten teeth! Simply wet your toothbrush with water and dip it in 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder. Brush as normal but allow the powder to sit on your teeth for 5 minutes. Then spit and rinse thoroughly, followed by a second brushing with regular toothpaste.


Although curcumin has been assessed in many lab and clinical studies, it has no medical uses established by quality clinical research.

Disclaimer: As always, do not begin taking a supplement without speaking to your physician first, especially if you are already taking other supplements or medications.
U of Maryland Medical Center:

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Healthy or Hype: Coconut Oil


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