Turmeric is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, found on the slopes in the osuthern provinces of India. The health-boosting properties are believed to come from the root’s main active ingredient, curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its bright colour.
It’s now also a popular nutritional supplement for both supporting cartilage that cushions the joints and immune function.
Dr Sarah Brewer says: ‘Turmeric is an extremely powerful antioxidant. It demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties in conditions such as arthritis, muscle sprains and other injuries by supporting cartilage.
‘This bright yellow spice offers some surprising benefits and today is used as a dietary supplement for supporting the immune system, as well as stomach, skin, liver, and gallbladder problems, and other conditions.’
What does turmeric do?
Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is a powerful antioxidant which may help to support immune function by protecting against free radicals that cause diseases. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. Most chronic diseases have an inflammatory component, including heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Turmeric also contains essential vitamins and minerals, especially manganese and iron. These are vital for healthy bones, oxygen transport, thyroid function and metabolism. It may also increase the activity levels of liver enzymes, stimulate bile production and improve digestion to relieve bloating.
Turmeric may be helpful in supporting maintenance of cartilage in joints, reducing pain, inflammation and stiffness related to osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis in the UK.
A 2016 study by King George’s Medical University in Lucknow, India, found patients with osteoarthritis of the knee who took turmeric extract compared to a placebo, had significant improvement. Turmeric could suppress inflammation and show a clinical improvement of the condition.
Memory and dementia
Turmeric is also being investigated to see if the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may help support memory. So far, the evidence is mixed. Laboratory studies have shown curcumin can break down amyloid-beta plaques that are seen in Alzheimer’s disease, but there isn’t any evidence that it can do that in the human body.
However, a 2016 study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, compared 96 people who took either 1,500mg of curcumin or a placebo pill daily. During cognitive assessment tests to measure verbal and memory skills, those taking the placebo suffered a decline in mental function after just six months, whilst those taking curcumin did not. Researchers hope this finding may help develop new treatments for dementia, although more studies are needed.
Getting turmeric from your diet
Using turmeric in Asian cooking, such as rice dishes and curries is the most obvious way to get turmeric from your diet, but you can also add it to your favourite foods, as well as tea.
However, turmeric is not well absorbed in the gut and what’s absorbed is excreted very quickly. Taking Opti-Turmeric™, a liquid supplement capsule which contains a patented water-soluble form of turmeric called NovaSOL®, may be a more effective way to take turmeric as it is 185 times better absorbed than standard turmeric extracts and seven times faster-acting that other standard turmeric tablets.
Turmeric is considered safe to use for most people, although high doses or long-term use may cause stomach upsets. It may also increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.
If you are taking any blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin or heparin, consult with your doctor before taking turmeric as it has been shown to decrease blood platelet aggregation (blood clotting).
There is currently no UK or EU recommended daily allowance or upper safe limit. One to two capsules of Opti-Turmeric™ is a commonly taken daily dose. Each capsule contains 500mg of turmeric NovaSOL® and 20mg of vitamin C to boost immune function and cartilage maintenance.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.