Turmeric is everywhere these days. You can even order a Turmeric latte in some Starbucks and Whole Foods! So why exactly has is Turmeric so hot right now- does it even have evidence based health benefits, and for what? Let’s get into it.
Turmeric is a spice derived from the tropical plant Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Curcumin, the principal curcuminoid found in turmeric, is generally considered its most active ingredient). In addition to its use as a spice and pigment, turmeric has been used in India and China for medicinal purposes for centuries. Recently, evidence that curcumin may have anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity has lead to its discovery in mainstream culture, media, and diet.
What is it good for???
1. Functional dyspepsia:
- How does it work? Turmeric has been found to increase biliary secretion, promote contraction of the gallbladder, and act as an antispasmodic.
- Research: In a placebo-controlled trial performed in Thailand, turmeric (2 g/day) was found to significantly improve dyspeptic symptoms (P = 0.003)
2. Inflammatory bowel disease: Ulcerative Colitis
- How does it work? Turmeric prevents formation of free radical species, inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene expression, decreases TNF-α and IL-1β production, inhibits nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation and cytokines thought to be necessary to IBD; and if thats not enough-- inhibits the synthesis of proinflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
- Research: An RCT of 43 patients who had UC in remission received curcumin enema for 6 months and compared results with patients who received placebo, 4.65% of those receiving curcumin suffered relapse versus 20.5% of individuals who received placebo.
3. Colon cancer prevention:
- How does it work? Curcumin decreases inflammation and expression of inflammatory COX-2 and endogenous DNA damage in adenomatous (pre-cancerous)tissue.
- Research: Studies have shown turmeric to have chemopreventive activity in mouse models of familial cancer syndromes where it inhibits the development of intestinal adenomas.
4. Liver fibrosis
- How does it work? TGF-beta is a major cytokine involved in the promotion of fibrosis and scarring of the liver that leads to cirrhosis.
Research: Curcumin may block TGF-beta signaling and has been found to reduce the severity of steatohepatitis (inflamed fatty liver) in mice.
BUT HOLD ON A MINUTE…
- Optimal doses of curcumin for cancer chemoprevention or therapeutic use have NOT been established.
- Safety has not been established in pregnancy/lactation
- Adverse side effects have been reported, including nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, rash, yellow stool
- Turmeric inhibits platelets therefore increases risk of bleeding in people taking anticoagulants or antiplateltes agents (aspirin, Plavix, Coumadin, etc)