Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. It’s native to southeast Asia, primarily in India, where it’s been used for thousands of years as part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It’s also been used in other Indian medical practices, as well as traditional Chinese medicine. In other words, there’s a long history of turmeric’s health-promoting use. In India, it has mainly been used to support skin, joint, respiratory, and digestive health. The turmeric root is commonly converted into a powder that is used to add flavor to various cuisines; it’s a common spice and a major component of curry powder.
In recent years, the health benefits of turmeric have been the subject of greater study. The most widely used part of turmeric is the turmeric root, which consists of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. The health benefits of turmeric are largely derived from curcumin, a phytonutrient that’s a major component of turmeric. Today, turmeric is often promoted as a supplement that can help with digestion, respiratory function, mental health, liver health, joint health, and more. It’s also available as a paste that supports skin health.
Turmeric boasts a wide array of benefits and uses for your health, both mental and physical.
One study looked at the effect of curcumin – the important phytonutrient in turmeric – on cognition and mood in older adults. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that one hour after receiving the curcumin, the subjects demonstrated significantly improved performance and attention on working memory tasks. The curcumin group also experienced greater contentment and improved moods compared to the placebo group. Turmeric has also been shown to promote brain health by increasing the functioning of what’s called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps the brain develop new connections, repair failing cells, and protect healthy cells. Another study found a similar result: Short-term curcumin supplementation enhanced BDNF serum levels.
Furthermore, researchers recently looked at the effect of turmeric supplementation on joint health and comfort. The study included 90 participants, who were then divided into a control and placebo group. The participants were given turmeric after engaging in ten minutes of strenuous knee exercise. The results were stark: The group taking turmeric experienced significantly less joint discomfort post-workout than the control group.
Turmeric has also been tested for its antioxidant properties, with studies showing that curcumin has potent antioxidant effects.
And then, finally, there’s gut health. Your gut health has a big impact on the health of your whole body, since your gut is responsible for breaking food into the nutrients your body needs to thrive. Turmeric and curcumin have been shown to positively alter gut microbiota, which are the bacteria that help your gut do what it needs to do.
Most studies of turmeric use doses of 500-2,000 mg of turmeric per day, usually as an extract with a curcumin concentration that’s higher than the amounts you’d find in food. Turmeric as a spice contains less curcumin than the supplement form does.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.4 mg of turmeric per pound of body weight is an acceptable daily intake. The Care/of turmeric supplement comes in capsules of 250 mg of aqueous extract and of 100 mg of supercritical extract. The dual extract ensures that the supplement contains all the benefits of a natural turmeric root.
High doses of turmeric over the long term are not yet recommended, since more research is needed.
Turmeric is generally safe as a medicinal herb. If pregnant or lactating, however, you should use caution; there hasn’t been enough research turmeric on subjects experiencing either of those conditions.
The most common side effect of high doses of turmeric is digestive discomfort. This doesn’t apply to turmeric that’s applied to skin; for this scenario, few side effects have been reported.
If you’re starting to incorporate a turmeric supplement into your routine, consistency is the most important thing. Turn it into a habit by pairing it with an activity you already do. Studies show that the effects of turmeric aren’t altered by the time of day when you take it.
Do you already take vitamins and supplements to start your day? Then you can consider taking your turmeric then. Turmeric can be taken as a tea, as a smoothie, as a spice added to your meal, or as capsules and softgels. The key is to figure which of these options will work best for you.
The term “bioavailability” describes the body’s ability to absorb and use a substance after it’s consumed. One common method to boost the bioavailability of turmeric and curcumin is to add black pepper. One animal study exploring the methods of increasing bioavailability of curcumin found that incorporating piperine – an alkaloid found in black pepper – increased the serum concentrations of curcumin in rodents. When assessing high doses of oral curcumin (2000 mg/kg) and co-administration of piperine, bioavailability increased by as much as 154%. Whole fresh turmeric root extracts contain certain synergistic compounds that can help ensure optimal absorption in comparison to extracts derived from dried roots.
Studies show virtually no difference, in terms of effectiveness, between consuming turmeric in the morning or at night. A study that looked at urine markers of oxidative stress found no difference between night-time or day-time turmeric consumption. Researchers do recommend taking turmeric with a meal, since that can support easier absorption.
The length of time it takes for turmeric to take effect depends on a variety of factors having to do with your particular body, your activity levels, and your overall health. One animal study found that curcumin could be detected in the brain up to 96 hours after consumption, while it was found at higher levels at 24 and 48 hours. Some studies report seeing results after just 1-3 hours, while others report positive changes within 4-12 weeks.
To get the best results out of using turmeric, you can start by asking a medical professional about your body’s specific needs. Then work your turmeric use into a steady routine to stay consistent. Take your turmeric with food or add some black pepper to the mix to boost bioavailability. And, as with any supplement, turmeric is likely to work better when you’re pursuing some healthy lifestyle habits generally, including exercise and a healthy diet.
Turmeric drinks and shots are a fun and tasty way to get the turmeric you need. When having these drinks and shots, try to incorporate some kind of fat, like milk, to help with absorption. You can also add some black pepper, which has been shown to boost turmeric’s bioavailability. And it’s best not to consume turmeric on an empty stomach – enjoy your drinks with some food!