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Turmeric-Curcumin Health Benefits and Nutrition: A Detailed Guide

Introduction

Now, we know what you might be thinking. What is turmeric? What is curcumin? Are they the same thing, or something completely different? If they are different, why is it so that both terms almost always appear consecutively one after the other?

Trust us, we’ve been there. In order to clear up the confusion, let’s start by addressing these issues one at a time.

Curcuma longa root and powder

What Is Turmeric?

The easiest way to explain turmeric is to compare it to another, more popular (and easier to pronounce) root. To that extent, turmeric is a cousin of ginger and if you compare the two roots side by side in their raw form – you will notice a striking resemblance.

Scientifically speaking, turmeric is known as Curcuma longa. This root is considered a rhizome, a term which translates to a horizontal root. It’s found in Southeast Asia (native) where it receives the perfect weather and soil conditions for it to thrive (temperatures between 20 and 30 C).

Nowadays, turmeric is considered as one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents around, without even considering the other health benefits this root has to offer (we’ll get more into these benefits later). In fact, as consumers become more aware of harmful food additives and other chemicals used in the textile branches, turmeric has also seen a revival in its primary use as a dye.

Turmeric also shows great potential in helping treat a number of other medical conditions, including chronic pain, diabetes, some forms of cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, different allergies, depression, erectile dysfunction, chronic inflammation, migraine, knee pain, heart palpitations, kidney stones, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), heart disease, and more. If you happen to experience a cognitive decline, turmeric might also provide you with a lending hand there as well.

So, what makes turmeric such a powerful agent against a multitude of ailments, medical conditions, and the underlying symptoms of those conditions therein? Science has a definitive answer to this: it’s called Curcumin. [1]

 

What Is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, which means that the two aren’t the same thing. Or let’s put it this way: Turmeric is a type of root, while Curcumin is a compound found in that root responsible for most of the beneficial properties of Turmeric. However, curcumin is also part of a larger group called curcuminoids. There are 3 curcuminoids in turmeric:

  • Curcumin
  • Desmethoxycurcumin
  • Bis-desmethoxycurcumin

It’s exactly these curcuminoids that give turmeric its distinct yellow color, which is exactly why it’s also used as a yellow food dye. In fact, curcumin is obtained through the rhizome of the turmeric plant (basically its root), accounting somewhere between 2-5% of turmeric in its dried form. If we downscale things to a molecular perspective, 2-5% is considered a significant percentage to introduce an impact to users.

Additionally, curcumin can be found in two main tautomeric (constitutional isomers of organic compounds, basically two different molecular forms) forms: keto and enol. The enol form is considered more stable in both solution and solid phases. To this extent, curcumin is also used as a boron quantifier since it reacts with boric acid to form a type of a red-colored ingredients dubbed “rosocyanine”.

So, when we use the terms “turmeric” and “curcumin” interchangeably, what we mean is the benefits of curcumin from the turmeric plant root.

 

Turmeric Curcumin Benefits

Some have nicknamed turmeric (curcumin) the “golden spice”. This may well be because the compound is such a powerful agent whose benefits appear to steadily increase with each new scientific study done on the plant root. Here are some of the most prominent benefits:

 

Turmeric Curcumin Is Beneficial For The Skin

Turmeric is rich in antioxidants that play a crucial role in maintaining proper skin health. The compound helps in the treatment of rashes, skin redness, acne, and even more serious skin conditions like psoriasis. What’s more, the spice can also aid in treating skin pigmentation and skin marks as well.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown.

It Can Help Clear Up Psoriasis

There’s a significant body of evidence that turmeric curcumin can potentially obstruct the inflammatory pathways which lead to the development of psoriasis. In addition, this ingredient has also been known to lower the overall cytokine levels in the body as well. For those familiar with basic molecular biology (and who isn’t nowadays!), cytokines are a type of molecules that stimulate the cells to become more inflamed during stress, illness, or other unwanted condition in the body. In some instances, cytokines can even lead to the development of psoriasis. Or in plain English: cytokines are all sorts of bad news! [2]

Treating psoriasis with turmeric is very easy. Just take a teaspoon of turmeric powder and slowly add water while steadily stirring the brew. Keep stirring until it becomes a paste. Apply this ointment on your skin lesions. Cover the spot with a breathable fabric (fabric from old cotton shirts would do the trick) and leave it overnight, or in a period during the day when you’re not active. The next day, go ahead and remove the fabric and apply warm water to your skin for a thorough cleanse. Repeat the steps above until you see a visible difference in your psoriasis lesions – or until they’re completely healed.

It Aids In Treating Acne

Turmeric also has a ton of antibacterial properties that, when combined, provide multiple benefits for those individuals affected by acne. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties are the perfect weapon against the inflammation caused by pimples. Finally, curcumin can be also used as a face pack for oily skin.

To make it even easier on yourself, you can even combine turmeric with milk for additional medicinal properties to treat your skin. Make the following mix: 3 tablespoons of milk, 2 tablespoons of flour, few drops of honey, and finally – 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Stir well until it becomes a homogenous mixture. When done, apply a thin layer (exactly like the psoriasis treatment) of the ointment on the affected area and allow it to dry for at least 30 minutes. When done, rinse the natural mask off and apply your preferred skin moisturizer immediately after the wash.

It Prevents (And Delays) Wrinkles

According to a recent Japanese study, curcumin can put a stop to the formation of melanin, and subsequently stop wrinkles dead in their tracks. And not only that, but it might also prevent decrease in skin elasticity caused by prolonged UVB exposure as well. [3]

In fact, the scientists used the rhizomes of Curcuma longa L., Zingiberacease to assess whether or not turmeric prevents chronic ultraviolet B (UVB)-irradiated damage of the skin. More precisely, they examined the effects of a turmeric extract in relation to skin damage, including the following factors:

  • Thickness
  • Elasticity
  • Wrinkling
  • Pigmentation

The study had several hairless mice subjected to either 300 or 1000 mg/kg of turmeric extract twice daily, and the resulting effects that the spice extract had on their skin was very promising. It prevented a reduction in skin elasticity and it put a stop to a potential increase in skin thickness caused by exposure to UVB-irradiated light. Plus, the extract also prevented the formation of melanin and wrinkles (in the mice who received the 1000 mg/kg dose), and it also stopped the increases in the length and diameter of the blood vessels in the skin.

These effects of the turmeric curcumin extract might very well be a consequence of its ability to inhibit the increases in MMP-2 expression induced by chronic irradiation.

It Reduces Stretch Marks

Turmeric works wonders against the annoying (and often very visible) stretch marks on the body. This is all thanks to, again – curcumin – which “works” the cell membranes on a molecular level. In fact, this helpful substance is also known to change the physical traits of the cell membrane, and therefore cure stretch marks as a consequence of that action.

To achieve this effect, simply apply a turmeric paste to your waste or abdominal area before taking a shower. Wait for approx. 20 minutes to allow the ointment to enter the affected areas in the skin. Wash the remainder of the paste in the shower.

As a side note, turmeric curcumin has been also known to heal scars as well. Applying the similar treatment should do the trick.

It Treats Burns

Remember how we praised turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties a while back? Well, those same properties can help reduce pain and soothe burns too. Plus, the burns (most of them) won’t swell up while using turmeric as they’ll do if you apply other “medicine”. [4]

To treat the burns, simply repeat the above procedure to apply the ointment to the affected areas. Here’s the science behind how it works.

According to the study, about 5% of curcumin was found in the type of turmeric the meta-researchers had examined. [5] As per their claims, turmeric has been used in traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine to provide luster, glow, and rejuvenation to the skin. Its antioxidant, antimicrobial, astringent, and other useful properties make turmeric a potent healing agent that helps heal wounds, reduce scarring, treat burns, and continuously provide nurture to the skin.

Additionally, purified turmeric curcumin extract inhibits the so-called phorbol ester-induced activation of transcription factors NF-κB and AP-1. This suppression of the phosphorylase kinase activity significantly correlates with psoriasis healing when turmeric (curcumin) is administered topically to the wound lesions. For those worried about the potential yellow staining when turmeric is applied to the skin – microencapsulation can help solve this problem whilst also prolonging the bioavailability of curcumin’s healing properties as well, the researchers concluded.

It Can Improve Skin Tone

Turmeric is also very popular because of its powerful bleaching properties. This property can help in treating hyperpigmentation of the skin, while keeping the skin safe from infection. To prepare the mixture, simply mix together one teaspoon of lemon juice for each teaspoon of turmeric powder. Spread the ointment to the affected area and leave it there for about 20 minutes at most. Don’t expose the area in the sun for at least an hour and a half. Once you’re sure about the timing, simply rinse it with cold water. You don’t have to do this more than once a day before taking a shower.

By using the same procedure as noted in the paragraph above, you can also utilize turmeric’s function to relieve redness from sun exposure. Mix a pinch of turmeric with lemon juice and some raw milk, and apply this mixture to the skin area that’s been affected by too much sun exposure. Allow for it to dry and then clean it off with cold water.

Finally, you can also use turmeric as a night cream to improve your skin complexion. You’ll need the following ingredients: few soaked and peeled almonds, one teaspoon each of lemon juice, sandalwood powder, saffron, and finally – turmeric. Mix well all of the ingredients and store them into a refrigerator. Apply this ointment every night when it’s the most convenient for you, and wash it off first thing in the morning.

It Can Soothe Cracked or Dry Feet

Again, the astringent effects of turmeric curcumin can play a major role in treating cracked feet. Mix equal amounts of coconut oil with castor oil and add a pinch of turmeric powder to your mix to make a paste. Administer this paste to the cracked areas of your feet and leave it there for 15 minutes tops. Rinse off with cold water.

It Helps With Exfoliation

Believe it or not, turmeric is a good agent to exfoliate your skin. Mix the following ingredients to get an effective turmeric scrub: water, apple cider vinegar, and turmeric. Apply the mixture topically to the affected areas and massage gently. Leave it for about 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. If the yellow color remains, you can always reach out for a natural cleanser. It’s recommended to apply this procedure twice a week for best results.

Turmeric Curcumin Hair Benefits

Some of the ingredients in turmeric are known to battle against hair loss. In fact, the curcuminoids in this root-based medicine can also treat conditions like scalp-affected conditions such as dandruff, inflammation, and more. The benefits are as follows:

It Prevents Hair Loss

Some initial research suggests that turmeric can help in the prevention of hair loss. Although the studies are yet in their infancy, the sole fact that they’re being done speaks volumes about the potential benefits of turmeric against hair loss.

It Treats Dandruff

A simple home-made mixture of turmeric and olive oil works wonders in relation to removing dandruff and keeping scalp health at optimum levels. Mix equal parts of both compounds and apply the ointment to the affected areas on your hair. Leave it for about 30 minutes and wash with lukewarm water.

Turmeric Curcumin For Migraines

Headaches are nothing new and have been part of our daily lives for as long as we remember. However, some headaches like migraines simply impair our ability to function and make life unbearable as soon as they appear. According to recent statistics, 6 million Americans are affected by a migraine, with one person visiting an emergency room every 10 seconds because of one. Also, migraines more commonly appear in women than in men. [6]

By definition, a migraine is considered moderate to a severe headache which affects either the left or the right side of the head. The pain from a migraine usually appears suddenly and has a pounding or a throbbing sensation. The severe pain may lead to stomach cramps, nausea, and even throwing up.

Before a migraine event occurs, people often tend to experience blurs, flashing lights, or even a momentary loss of vision. A throbbing migraine has been known to increase a person’s sensitivity to different lights and sounds as well (making the pain even worse).

Some individuals may experience an occasional migraine while others have been known to suffer from this debilitating condition several days in a single month. The pain from a migraine can last anywhere from couple of minutes, to hours, to even days if left untreated. To this extent, the condition can put an enormous toll on the affected, and can also impair the migraine sufferer’s day-to-day abilities for normal work.

Currently, the appearance (and causes) of migraines is not clear. Leading researchers think that it may be the result of an impaired sensory system in the nervous system in the brain. In fact, some hypothesize that blood vessel narrowing in the brain can also be a likely trigger for this condition as well.

In fact, there are many factors at play that can potentially trigger migraines. Depression, anxiety, and stress are one of the most common factors. The other changes that often lead to a migraine include hormonal imbalances (particularly in women), irregular sleeping or eating patterns, certain foods and food additives. Further, genetic reasons may also be responsible for a migraine. Finally, women are more often (and more heavily) affected by migraines than men, with the reasons behind this occurrence not being 100% clear.

Migraine Treatments

Current treatments of migraine pain include pain-killers and over-the-counter medicine. Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and paracetamol are most commonly advised for migraine-affected individuals to take.

But, other options are also viable. Some alternative treatment methods are recently gaining in popularity, including exercise, dietary changes, psychological therapy, and more. Working around the most prominent migraine risk factors (genetic conditions, proneness to headaches) have also turned out to be very significant in lowering or preventing the occurrence of migraines.

However, excessive use of medications for migraines might lead to chronic headaches itself. Other side effects include gastrointestinal issues and behavioral changes in an affected individual’s sleeping and eating habits as well. Some of these side effects can be severe, so naturally, patients were inclined now more than ever to try the alternative methods to end their migraine pain. One of these methods is turmeric.

It Relieves Migraine Pain

As said above, severe pain to the one side of the head is the no.1 symptom of a migraine. This symptom causes a significant inconvenience to the patient and can impair their ability to function. This pain is often attributed to a disturbance in the so-called “cortical sensory modulation system”. In other words, the pain occurs when the channels of coordination in the signaling mechanisms in the brain are severely impaired. [7]

Additionally: if the sensory neurons become inflamed, then it’s very likely for the sufferers to experience migraine pain. Add to this the additional release of a certain set of neuropeptides that activate the nociceptive sensory nerves, and the pain becomes even more debilitating both in duration and intensity as well. [8]

To this extent, turmeric is a well-known agent whose beneficial properties can potentially reduce or even prevent migraine pain. One of the actions through which the compound does this is by decreasing the sensitivity to the pain itself, and therefore providing relief to the patient from the pain.

So, the essential oils extracted from turmeric curcumin have been found to have anti-nociceptive (pain relieving) properties, with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties acting against the inflammation that produces pain. One turmeric curcuminoid in particular has been shown to induce pain-relieving effects more so than others. This curcuminoid emulates the effects of a protein called “TRPV1” (important in the cessation of pain) to relieve pain and exert analgesic properties to the user. [9] Therefore, a consumption of turmeric-based products can potentially decrease the sensitivity to pain, as well as modulate the pathways responsible for pain stimuli production as well.

It Reduces Depression And Stress

One of the markers with the highest correlation to triggering migraine attacks are depression and excessive stress. More precisely, people who are more stressed regarding their everyday work and life musings are also more likely to suffer from migraine attacks as well. [10]

To this extent, it can be asserted that the aspects (and their respective biological systems) between depression and stress are interlinked. In fact, both conditions are closely associated with low levels of a molecule known as 5-hydroxytryptamine. Colloquially speaking, this molecule is also known as serotonin. [11]

Thankfully, some of the components found in turmeric have been shown to battle against the symptoms of depression. Multiple studies have examined curcumin and concluded the same thing: it immensely helps in effectively treating depression. More precisely, curcumin increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Consequently, this leads to the reduction of the symptoms associated with depression over the long haul. [12] Plus, turmeric curcumin has been also found to play a major role in battling against major (also known as severe) depression as well.

But that’s not all. Yet another compound found in turmeric, turmerone, has also shown promising results in regards to battling depression. Turmerone reduces depression by providing a “jolt” to serotonin levels and consequently decreasing corticosterone levels in the body.

It Prevents Hormonal Imbalance

Again, migraines are more prevalent in women than men. This mainly happens because women experience more hormonal changes throughout their lives, especially in the area of estrogen (the sex hormone that gives women their distinctive psycho-physiological characteristics that makes them different from men). A hormonal imbalance in this area (estrogen) disturbs the nervous system and causes neural misfiring, which leads to a migraine. [13]

According to a recent study, turmeric has been found to increase the serum estrogen levels in cases when estrogen levels “dip” below the norm. The study used female subjects affected by climacteric syndrome that were previously established by a procedure called “ovariectomy”. The subjects were given Rhizoma Curcumae (a curcumin mixture extracted from turmeric root) for 12 weeks straight. The study also established a control group (affected by the same condition) which did not receive any turmeric supplementation at all.

When the administration of turmeric root extract was completed, the treated subjects’ serum estrogen and interleukin-2 levels were measured by methods of immunofluorescence assay and radioimmunoassay.

The following results were very promising for turmeric curcumin. In fact, the turmeric-treated subjects experienced a significant increase in both their serum estrogen levels and interleukin-2 levels as well compared to the control group. So, Rhizoma Curcumae has the potential to increase serum estrogen levels, including estrogen receptor expression in the spleen of ovariectomized subjects, as per the study’s conclusion. [14]

And although more research would be needed, this is certainly a step in the right direction in relation to turmeric curcumin and treatment of hormonal imbalances – and migraine (by association) – in women.

It Protects Against Food Allergens And Other Additives

Migraines can be triggered by food products as well. Various dietary products such as fruits, coffee, beans, alcohol, and even food additives can lead to migraine attacks largely induced by allergic reactions to said food. [15] Needles to say, all individuals should have well-balanced and healthy diets – regardless if they suffer from migraines or not.

To that extent, some substances found in food (monosodium glutamate, aspartame, sodium nitrate, caffeine) are often said to cause migraines.        The relation between migraines and these foods and additives is not very clear, but some experts suggest that certain individuals are more prone to food allergies – and therefore migraines – than others. Whether they’ll come to a consensus or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: migraines triggered by foods and additives are treatable and preventable given what we know so far.

Here is the full list of potential food and additive migraine triggers:

  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Bananas
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • “Cured” meat
  • Pork
  • Cereals
  • Beans
  • Pizza
  • Other dairy products
  • Hot dogs
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cola drinks
  • Red wine
  • Beer
  • Whisky
  • Phenylalanine
  • Phenolic flavonoids
  • Tyramine
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Aspartame

Of course, this list is by no means final, but it’s a good starting point for those looking to avoid migraines by means of prophylaxis.

Again, turmeric has the potency to act against allergies caused by the various foods and food additives. This healing property is mostly owed to curcumin’s immunomodulatory ability, i.e. the modulation of the immune response to stop allergic reactions dead in their tracks. [16] Here’s how it works.

The proposed hypothesis was that turmeric curcumin carries anti-allergic properties to inhibit the effect of histamine release in mast cells. This effectiveness of turmeric on both asthma and allergic responses was tested on allergic mice.

Finally, the results were more promising than expected. In short, curcumin helped to reduce the allergic response in mice by a significant margin. However, these findings need further replication to prove the real effectiveness of turmeric curcumin in treating food allergies and asthma in humans.

It Protects Against Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Aspirin) are commonly used to treat migraines. Ironically enough however, they often do more harm than good – which nullifies their effectiveness in the first place. In particular, NSAIDs are known to cause cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders in patients who weren’t affected by any before taking the NSAIDs. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, hypertension, gastric ulcers, and other conditions of which some can even turn into life-threatening events. [17]

Turmeric and curcumin are viable agents to remedy the side-effects caused by NSAID use. In fact, people affected by gastrointestinal disorders should seriously consider this plant as a viable alternative to the various NSAIDs that are currently selling on the market. And not only that, but research continues to repeat the findings that turmeric is a very potent healing agent as well. [18]

Turmeric Curcumin For Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic condition that targets the joints, weakening them and causing discomfort and pain. In addition, arthritis is also known to decrease the elasticity of the joints and make it difficult for people affected by it to participate in physically challenging tasks (walking up the stairs, cycling, running, and other sports).

Further, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to turmeric as a viable option in treating the following two types of arthritis, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

This is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized as a type of arthritis that “targets” the joint cartilage and bone, leading to their deterioration, breakdown, and eventually a gradual loss of function.

A recent, double-blind randomized study, examined the potential for turmeric supplementation in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. [19] In it, subjects were given either a curcumin supplementation (along with piperine, an ingredient found in black pepper and known for its abilities to increase curcumin bioavailability), or a placebo pill for a duration of six weeks in total. At the end of the study, the curcumin group experienced significant improvements in the areas of physical function (increase) and pain (decrease), but there was no reduction in stiffness compared to the control group.

Additionally, another study tried to compare the benefits of turmeric VS the benefits of an NSAID drug (in the study’s case, ibuprofen) in relation to knee osteoarthritis in selected subjects using WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index) scores. The score methods they used included: WOMAC total, WOMAC pain, WOMAC stiffness, and WOMAC function scores. Additionally, they also kept tab on adverse effects (AEs) as well. [20]

The results of the study were very interesting, to say the least. On-hundred-and-eighty-two and 185 patients were randomly given either turmeric curcumin extracts (C. domestica), or ibuprofen, respectively. The mean results across the two groups showed significant improvements in comparison with the baseline measurements from before the beginning of the study. Or in other words, both treatments (curcumin and ibuprofen) were effective in treating knee osteoarthritis.

But the question is: how well did each agent performed?

During the study and after the study ended, the WOMAC scores (measured at weeks 0, 2, and 4) for both groups were better than their baseline measurements. In colloquial terms, both curcumin and ibuprofen were equally as effective in treating knee osteoarthritis. One slight difference however was that the ibuprofen group had a significant number of abdominal pain events than the curcumin group did. Meanwhile, both groups had the same number of subjects who developed AEs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

While osteoarthritis affects the joint cartilage and bone, rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the lining of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disorder whose system mistakenly “tells” the body to attack its own cells in the joints. This leads to swelling, stiffness, and pain. The condition might also affect other parts of the body besides the joints.

In a 2012 study, rheumatoid arthritis-affected subjects were divided into three groups and were told to take either curcumin, diclofenac sodium (an anti-inflammatory drug), or some combination of the two.

In detail, here’s how the study went.

Forty-five patients with rheumatoid arthritis were, as said, randomly divided into three groups. The first group was given 500 mg of curcumin supplementation, the second group took 50 mg of diclofenac sodium, and the third group was subjected to a combination of both curcumin and diclofenac sodium. Patients were then assessed using two endpoint scales: the Disease Activity Score (DAS) and the “American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for reduction in tenderness and swelling of joint” endpoint scale. [21]

At the end of the study, all three groups showed major improvements in their two endpoint scores. More interestingly however, the curcumin group showed the most improvements out of the three featured groups regarding their ACR and DAS scores. Plus, the curcumin group fared significantly better regarding these scores than the subjects in the diclofenac sodium group.

Finally, curcumin treatment was deemed to be safe and did not cause any adverse side effects in over the course of the study. With that being said, more research is needed to be determined if curcumin is a viable replacement in treating rheumatoid arthritis pain.

 

Turmeric Curcumin For Diabetes

Individuals affected by type 1 diabetes don’t have the ability (or have a limited ability) to produce enough insulin to cover the carbohydrate needs. Carbohydrates, along with protein and fat, are essential to nurture the body in order to keep it healthy and true-to-form. Or in other words: without carbs, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Our bodies are, simply said, built to derive energy from carbs.

Now, scientists aren’t really sure what causes type 1 diabetes, how to prevent it, or how to cure it. Thankfully, the “Charles-Banting” duo back in the early 20th century managed to isolate a then-new hormone from the pancreatic cells (beta cells, to be more precise), which was thought to regulate the sugar molecule in human (and other mammals) bodies. The new hormone was named insulin, and is used today to treat millions of patients worldwide. [22]

The key term here however is “treat”; type 1 diabetic patients require lifelong subcutaneous (in rare cases, even intravenous) injections to keep their blood sugars from going over the limit (normal blood sugar ranges are 4.0 mmol/l to 6.5 mmol/l). Anything above that is high blood sugar and borderline diabetes. Anything below that is considered low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.

There is one major difference however that most people are either confused about, or just lazy to differentiate between the two major types of diabetes (which, in all honesty, should’ve been named different than what ended up happening instead).

Type 1 Diabetes VS Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are two very different conditions that lead to patients suffering from some of the same overall symptoms, but not all.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease where the body loses its ability to produce insulin, due to a viral infection that destroys the majority of Langerhans cell islets in the pancreas (also known as “beta cells”), but often triggered by genetic factors that make these patients more susceptible to this condition than others. But the real reasons why this happens are not so clear.

Therefore, a type 1 diabetes-affected individual has the inability to make insulin on their own accord.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes usually develops more gradually, and it encompasses the patient’s resistance to insulin above other factors. In other words, type 2 diabetics can make insulin on their own (their pancreases are usually intact), but the insulin that circulates in their bodies cannot be used to efficiently distribute this hormone to the organs for energy. Colloquially, type 2 diabetics have excess insulin circulating in their bodies, as opposed to type 1 diabetics who have none or limited insulin quantities as-is.

The reason why people often confuse the two is because, if left untreated, both type 1 and type 2 patients usually develop the same symptoms (increased thirst, fatigue, weakness, irritability, sleepiness, drowsiness, “fruity” breath, blurred vision, weight loss, stomach cramps, and more) and complications (cardiovascular disease, nerve damage – also known as neuropathy, kidney damage or nephropathy, eye damage or retinopathy, various skin conditions, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, pregnancy issues, and more).

To recap:

  • Type 1 diabetes – lack of insulin in the body
  • Type 2 diabetes – excess insulin production in the body

But, how can turmeric help treat all of this, if anyhow?

It Helps To Treat Both Diabetes Types

Turmeric curcumin, thanks to its healing properties as discussed above, can treat both high glucose levels in the blood (predominantly type 1 diabetes-induced complication) – and the body’s inability to respond to insulin as needed.

As we’ve said, type 1 diabetes patients suffer from inflammation in the pancreas which destroys most of the cells responsible for insulin production. Turmeric plays an important role in helping to heal the beta cells that remained in the pancreas, and therefore having some saying in potentially reversing the damage. Colloquially speaking, turmeric is a great agent in stabilizing glucose levels in the blood, which can make type 1 diabetes more manageable.

Additionally, turmeric has been also shown to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a chemical reaction in the body where the body enters into an imbalanced state caused by a “battle” between its antioxidant defenses and the production of reactive oxygen matter. Reactive oxygen matter is considered molecules that contain oxygen which also bring newly vigor to the functioning of normal cells. When this matter increases in number, it can cause an onset of inflammation in the cells – and therefore cell death.

Obviously, this is an outcome we want to avoid. Turmeric curumin use increases the level of enzymes that contribute in reducing the oxidative stress in the body, therefore reducing oxidative stress as caused by the interference of both types of diabetes.

It Helps To Control Glucose Levels In The Blood

Using turmeric to treat high blood sugar levels has been nothing new; in fact, Curcuma longa has been used for the treatment of both diabetes types (1 & 2) in Chinese and traditional Ayurvedic medicine as well. One of the components in tumeric we’ve talked about so much in the past several paragraphs – curcumin – has been a popular alternative to conventional medicine (excluding insulin therapy, since this type of therapy is the only method known to work for type 1 diabetes patients). This is mostly because the aforementioned ingredient is both an inexpensive, and a relatively safe drug that lowers glycaemia and hyperlipidemia in diabetes-affected subjects.

A recent meta-study examined the scientific literature on the use of curcumin in treating diabetes and its related disorders, including neuropathy, vascular disease, adipocyte dysfunction, liver disorders, pancreatic conditions, and other diabetes-related complications – including its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. [23] The results from the research acknowledged turmeric curcumin’s beneficial properties and concluded that, yes, this compound can be a reliable alternative in helping to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes and lower blood glucose levels as per the extensive turmeric studies that were examined.

Another study examined curcumin extract from turmeric and its ability to delay the development of type 2 diabetes in the pre-diabetic (people with borderline diabetes) population. [24]

The double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study used 240 subject previously assessed with prediabetes criteria. The subjects were then randomly assigned to have either curcumin supplementation or a placebo treatment for 9 months. To help assess the effectiveness of the curcumin treatment and the rate at which T2DM developed after curcumin supplementation, the researchers monitored the following parameters at baseline (before the study), 3, 6, and 9 months over the course of the trial:

  • Changes in beta cell function
  • Homeostasis model assessment [HOMA]-β
  • Proinsulin/insulin changes
  • C-peptide levels
  • Insulin resistance [HOMA-IR] levels
  • Anti-inflammatory cytokine (adiponectin)

The results were more than promising after nine months of treatment. In fact, a staggering percentage of 16.4% of participants in the placebo group were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, as opposed to none in the turmeric curcumin group. Additionally, the curcumin-treated group also showed significant improvements in all featured parameters, including a better function of the beta cells, higher [HOMA]-β, lower C-peptide levels, lower HOMA-IR levels, and higher adiponectin than the placebo group.

Finally, a nine-month curcumin therapy in a prediabetic population has the potential to significantly lower the number of individuals who develop T2DM. Plus, the same therapy proved as very effective in helping to improve beta cell function, with minor to no side effects appearing in any of the participants of the study. Therefore, as per the study’s conclusion, turmeric curcumin supplementation can be a very beneficial alternative method in preventing, treating, and alleviating the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

 

Turmeric Curcumin and Cancer

Turmeric curcumin has the potential to stop cancer cell growth, but more research is needed to determine whether it can be a viable alternative to conventional medicine in treating cancer.

In fact, research has shown that countries where people eat more curcumin have lower rates of cancer. “More curcumin” equates to consuming about 100-200 mg of curcumin a day over long stretches of time.

Additionally, some clinical studies on cancer cells have demonstrated that curcumin may potentially have anti-cancer effects – insofar it kills cancer cells and prevents more cancers cells from growing and multiplying in the body (thus replacing healthy cells). Turmeric curcumin had been found to extend its beneficial properties best to certain types of cancer such as bowel cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, and skin cancer as well. [25]

Painstakingly, Panda AK et al were considering the anti-cancer effects of natural compounds obtained from various plants. They hypothesized that curcumin has a unique ability to “check and prevent the onset of cancer”. Plus, they argued, curcumin is becoming increasingly popular due to its nontoxic nature and the fewer side effects they manufacture when compared to traditional chemotherapy drugs. Further, these natural compounds (such as curcumin) do even better when they’re administered as an adjuvant (a second set of therapy given after the initial treatment for cancer, often to suppress tumor cell growth) alongside traditional chemotherapeutic medicine. Finally, the combined treatment of natural compounds paired with chemotherapeutic drugs can enhance the latter’s healing potential while also reducing any side effects that were appearing with only a chemotherapeutical treatment.

Probably the only major challenge encountered in this adjuvant therapy is the low bioavailability of the curcumin molecule, which prevents the compound acting as efficiently as needed to help prevent cell cancer growth at a desirable rate. Otherwise, turmeric curcumin should be considered a possible option in treating cancer.

Another study by McCubrey JA et al examined the potential anti-cancer, anti-aging, and other health-improving features of three natural products: resveratrol (RES), berberine (BBR), and finally – curcumin (CUR). More precisely, they examined the potential of these ingredients to regulate the microRNA (miR) expression, an important system that regulates cell death and plays a major role in preventing aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic ailments.

Secondly, the researchers isolated curcumin from the turmeric root (Curcuma longa) and closely examined its properties, later coming up with a visual representation of its benefits in regards to alleviating, treating, and healing various disruptive health conditions.

Finally, McCubrey JA et al concluded that curcumin is a very potent agent in treating many disorders that involve an inflammatory process as it is. In fact, curcumin and its derivatives were shown to have major anti-cancer effects, especially considering its impact on the so-called “cancer stem cells (CSC)”. In detail, curcumin can impact many signaling pathways which suppress cell growth, induce premature apoptosis (cell death), inhibit cell cycle progression, and other pathways important for their ability to regulate the body. What’s more, curcumin supplementation may affect many proteins which decrease growth, lead to metastasis, or cause inflammation. You can read more about the study’s findings here. [26]

Turmeric Curcumin and Erectile Dysfunction

Turmeric curcumin is a potent agent that plays a major role in alleviating and treating erectile dysfunction.

In a 2012 study, researchers divided 120 male subjects into 4 groups who received an oral dose of pure curcumin, and 2 other groups who received a dose of water-soluble curumin daily over the course of 12 weeks. All subjects who received the curcumin supplementation (regardless of groups) were diabetics, while the first group in the first set of subjects was acting as the control group in the study.

Researchers then measured several important markers to determine the effectiveness of both the pure and the water-soluble curcumin therapy. The markers were as follows, and bear with us as we’re going to get scientific more than usual:

  • Quantitative gene expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)
  • Inducible NOS (iNOS)
  • Neuronal NOS (nNOS)
  • Nuclear transcription factor-erythroid2 (Nrf2)
  • Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1)
  • P38
  • NF-Кβ
  • cGMP
  • Intracavernosal pressure (ICP)
  • Cavernous tissue levels of HO
  • NOS enzyme activities

After the diabetes-related erectile dysfunction was assessed, all subjects saw a significant decrease in the majority of the markers as stated above.

At the end of the study, water-soluble curcumin was deemed the more efficient agent in treating ED than pure curcumin in relation to prolonged duration of action, as well as repeated curcumin dose regimens (which were superior to a single curcumin dose regimen).

Finally, water-soluble curcumin could help in treating erectile dysfunction, thereby allowing more effectiveness and prolonged duration of action, as per the study’s conclusion. [27]

Another study by Andrew Draganski PhD et al tried to replicate the results of the first study, with slight deviations. Instead of water-soluble curcumin, here the researchers used a topical curcumin-loaded nanoparticle cream (curc-np) to treat erectile dysfunction in T2D-affected subjects. Their aim was to determine if curc-np can help treat ED in T2D subjects, modulate the expression of inflammatory markers (in other words: reduce inflammation), as well as to replicate the results of the first study as cited above. [28]

Additionally, they used the following methods: 4 mg of curc-np was topically applied to the shaved abdomen of diabetic male rodents, while a control group received the same treatment, but with blank nanoparticles instead (non-turmeric). The effectiveness of curcumin nanoparticles was confirmed by a method of histology and 2-photon fluorescence microscopy. Further, EF (erectile function) was determined by measurement to intracorporal pressure (ICP) relative to systemic blood pressure (ICP/BP) after stimulating the cavernous nerve. Additionally, researchers also used some of the markers as noted in the previous study, but not all.

The results showed a statistically significant increase in ICP/BP in the curcumin-nanoparticle treated subjects compared to the control group (blank nanoparticles). Furthermore, oxygenase-1 levels increased by 60% in the curc-np group and Nkap levels decreased by 60% respectively. Colloquially speaking, ICP-BP values are inversely proportional to Nkap levels and directly proportional to oxygenase-1 levels, meaning a reduction in Nkap and an increase in HO-1 (oxygenase-1) are considered good results for treating ED in diabetic subjects, which is what the study concluded as well.

Turmeric Curcumin and Pregnancy

Is curcumin safe to use for women who are expecting, and especially those who don’t know that they’re expecting? Based on historical data from over 30 years of research, the answer would be a resounding yes! In fact, supplementing with curcumin has the potential to reduce the probability of several birth defects in expecting mothers. With all of that being said however, more research needs to be done to be determined whether or not curcumin can be taken as a safe natural remedy during pregnancies.

Protection Against Genetic Damage

One of the major threats for the health of the child during the first months of a pregnancy is genetic damage. When the embryo comes into contact with chemicals or medications that have the potential to cause genetic damage, the subsequent results can be birth defects or even a miscarriage. The biological mechanism that prevents this from happening is the morning sickness that most expecting mothers experience over the course of the pregnancy.

There is still an ongoing debate of whether or not spicy foods that contain curcumin (curry) are safe for mothers during the first trimester of a pregnancy. With that being said, no one is going to start a clinical trial that puts expecting mothers and their babies at risk. Everything that researchers know about the beneficial effects of a curcumin therapy during the first months of pregnancies has been established through animal studies.

One such study found that 3,000 mg a day of curcumin supplementation did not have any adverse effects on both the health of the mother and the baby. The included markers were bone and blood cell mutations, percentage of pregnancies that resulted in healthy births, protection from alcohol consumption of the mother during early pregnancy, and more. More on the latter below.

Protection Against Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol during a pregnancy can be very harmful for the baby. It can lead to multiple health complications (cardiovascular and respiratory problems), as well as a premature birth.

This is where turmeric curcumin comes into play.

Not that drinking alcohol during a pregnancy is advisable, but for women in reproductive age who do like to drink, curcumin can offer some layer of protection against this activity. Plus, for those mothers who still don’t know they’re pregnant, curcumin can act as sort of a “tampon zone” to protect the embryo in the early months of pregnancies. Or in other words: mothers who aren’t 100% sure they’re pregnant can benefit hugely from including curcumin into their dietary plans.

But, keep in mind that curcumin does not in fact makes it safe to drink alcohol during the first months of a pregnancy. It only reduces the chances of damage by the alcohol being done to the baby’s developing brain. Curcumin does this by protecting against the triggers that cause apoptosis or cell death. [29]

Turmeric Curcumin And Kidney Stones

The evidence of turmeric curcumin for treating kidney stones is inconclusive and mixed. Some studies claim that too much TC is a potential risk factor for the development of kidney stones, while other studies report the exact opposite: turmeric curcumin is actually a potent ingredient in the treatment of kidney stones! [30] [31]

Why is this so?

Well, both studies had – more or less – the same approach. However, the study which reported a correlation between turmeric supplementation and increases in kidney stone formation risks used human subjects, as opposed to the other study that used Wistar albino rats. Read on for more detail on the studies.

The first study [30] gave an experimental-induced calcium oxalate urolithiasis in rats, which was also a prerequisite to test the effectiveness of curcumin in treating kidney stones. More precisely, the study used ethylene glycol with ammonium chloride (3 days) and ethylene glycol (25 days) in drinking water to induce calcium oxalate urolithiasis (kidney stone formation). Then, the subjects were given 60 mg of curcumin/body weight orally over the span of 28 days. After the treatment was over, oxalate and calcium levels were measured in kidney and urine pathways, while kidneys were also used to test histopathological examination.

The results were as follows: the method of induction raised the calcium and oxalate levels in the kidney and urine sample, whereas the curcumin supplementation brought it nearly back to normal. Additionally, histopathological studies also showed minimal tissue damage and less traces of calcium oxalate in kidney in subjects treated with curcumin than the calculi-induced subjects.

The second randomly assigned, crossover study [31] was conducted on eleven human subjects with normal calcium levels in the body. The objective of the study was to assess urinary oxalate excretion from turmeric and cinnamon, including monitoring the changes in cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, and triacylglycerol concentrations.

Further, the study was conducted over a 4-week period, with the subjects receiving supplemental doses of turmeric with 55 mg of oxalate/d. This is the second major difference between the two studies, since the first one didn’t feature any oxalate (or oxalate traces) in their curcumin supplementation.

Each 4-week experimentation period was followed by an oxalate load test. In addition, lipid concentrations and fasting plasma glucose levels were also being measured at the same time points as well.

The results were surprising. The scientists found that turmeric enabled greater urinary oxalate excretion and oxalate absorption than cinnamon. In fact, the scientists concluded that turmeric has the potential to increase the risk of kidney stone formation in those susceptible to the condition.

Given the different outcomes of both studies, it’s best to consult with your healthcare practitioner if you’re considering to include turmeric curcumin into your diet. It may potentially be safe for you, if you’re being careful with the doses and stick to your plan as ascribed by your nutritionist/doctor. If you start with turmeric supplementation but experience unwanted side effects, immediately stop taking the supplement and report your experience to your local clinic.

Turmeric Curcumin and Blood Pressure

Is turmeric a viable option for treating high blood pressure? Well, as it turns out, yes. However, different individuals may have different needs mainly concerning the dosage of this ingredient – if they decide to take turmeric curcumin to treat their high BP.

As we’ve said before, curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that helps lower blood cholesterol and it also provides some protection against potential blood-clothing (also referred to as anti-clothing). In addition, curcumin protects the cells from damage, therefore allowing a better flow of blood in the body as well.

Further, curcumin also has the potential to dilate arteries. The compound does this by inhibiting (stopping) the transport of calcium in the body, a process which leads to artery dilation.

Bioavailability

Turmeric for supplementation can be found in many forms, but more on this later. Adults are advised to take 400 to 600 mg of turmeric curcumin 3 times a day. If you’re dealing with turmeric extracts, take 30 to 90 drops per day. Dried powdered or dried cut turmeric root should be taken in 1.5 to 3 gram doses daily.

With that being said, turmeric blood pressure medicines are not quite there yet. One of the major challenges with this is that humans tend to have a low ability to absorb curcumin in the gastrointestinal tract. For example, when someone takes it in powdered form (capsules or otherwise), the curcumin isn’t directly absorbed – but it’s broken down into a number of other constituent ingredients instead. These ingredients are much less beneficial than the one we’re aiming for – curcumin, and so the individual ends up getting a less-than-ideal dosage over one capsule.

Thankfully, there is a solution for this problem. Mixing curcumin with coconut oil, fish oil, or even extra virgin olive oil is known to significantly increase absorption – even up to 7 times its original bioavailability! If you don’t want to go through all that trouble just to take one dose of the remedy, use the curcumin phytosome complex instead. This form is approx. four times better for human bioavailability than raw curcumin.

Is It Safe?

Turmeric curcumin is generally considered safe when consumed as food (since the body itself will reject more than you can handle; same with drinking water). However, turmeric can potentially have some side effects when taken in supplement form if you’re not being careful with the dosage. Some supplements can have as many as 500 mg of turmeric curcumin extract in a single capsule, with their labels recommending taking up to 4 capsules daily. This is too much and would often result in stomach cramps, nausea, and even involuntary throwing up.

Additionally, high doses of curcumin can lower blood pressure and blood sugar, meaning that people with prescribed diabetes (type 1 and type 2) medications should be extra cautious when using these supplements as it is. Also, individuals preparing for surgery should avoid turmeric supplements because it can increase the risks of bleeding. Turmeric may also have an impact on how the liver processes certain medications, so it’s best to consult with a professional if you want to take large doses of turmeric in combination with other medicine.

Finally, turmeric can also interact with drugs that affect blood clotting, including blood thinners and other medicine. Individuals may experience bruising or bleeding when taking large doses of curcumin with warfarin, aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAID drugs. Plus, turmeric can potentially “heighten” the blood-thinning properties of herbal medicine, including clove, garlic, gingko, danshen, angelica, panax ginseng, willow, and red clover. Other drugs, such as those meant to alleviate excess stomach acid and treat diabetes, can also have their properties made more potent by turmeric curcumin products.

Turmeric Curcumin and Anxiety

To reiterate, curcumin helps the brain in the following ways:

  • Protection against anti-oxidant damage
  • Reducing the symptoms of anxiety
  • Helping in reducing stress
  • Fighting inflammation
  • Boosting DHA levels in the brain

In addition, curcumin constitutes of a multi-targeted system that has a positive impact on several different cell activity types. This system has been proven to help treat conditions such as depression and anxiety, as well as to modulate neurotransmitter behavior. It is exemplified through the following studies:

It Reduces The Symptoms Of Anxiety

A 2015 study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine examined the effects of a curcumin supplementation on obese, anxiety-affected people over the course of two to ten weeks. The effects of this ingredient were compared to that of a placebo pill. [32]

Then, the Beck Anxiety Inventory system was used to measure the extent of anxiety the subjects experienced at the end of the study. Interestingly enough, the anxiety metrics of these subjects were significantly brought down after curcumin administration. This conclusion clearly demonstrates that the ingredient has the potential for use by other anxiety-affected people as well.

It Increases DHA Levels In The Brain

It has been suggested that lacking of the so-called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in an individual’s diet often results in a less-than-ideal brain development and neuro-protection. This can lead to the development of anxiety and cognitive diseases, and it is most commonly seen in people who don’t consume fish just as often – which is considered a powerful source of DHA in diets.

Thankfully, curcumin is a suitable alternative which can target and improve multiple molecular pathways responsible for the production of DHA. More precisely, including additional curcumin into your diet leads to its precursor α-linolenic acid, including elongase 2 with FADS2 enzymes being elevated both in brain and liver tissues. [33]

In the conclusion of the study, turmeric curcumin is seen as a potent agent that helps elevate the levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in the brain and liver tissues – thereby improving cognitive function, and decreasing the risks of anxiety attacks as well.

It Protects The Brain and “Sharpens” Mental Health

Mental problems are often signs of an underlying neurodegenerative condition (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease). Over time, this damage to nervous tissue can lead to significant loss in relation to an individual’s cognitive abilities. In turn, affected-individuals may start suffering from elevated stress, excessive worry, and early onset of depression.

Again, curcumin is a very powerful antioxidant and a neurotrophic agent. The latter means that curcumin helps the nervous tissue grow. All of these properties aid with the protection of some of the brain’s most vital functions, which lessen the impact of harmful and damaging chemicals. What’s more, these systems have been clinically tested in depression-affected individuals, meaning that curcumin treatments can be applied in anxiety models as well. [34]

It Has Natural Anxiolytic Properties

An anxiolytic medication is a type of medication that disrupts, lowers, and even prevents the signs and symptoms of anxiety. This mainly impacts the number of molecules and other neural pathways which are responsible for increasing stress and fear responses in the body, one of which is none other than serotonin.

Serotonin is an enzyme that serves as a neurotransmitter between cells. In fact, a 2014 study showed great potential in curcumin being able to reduce anxiety levels in a model of rats. [35] This led to suppression in neurotransmitter activity in the central nervous system, which brought even serotonin levels in homeostatic balance as well.

One year after that research was finished, Haider S. et al published another study referring to the potential applications of curcumin as a cognition-improving medicine (nootropic). The study took a closer look at the antioxidant activity of curcumin, including its ability to positively impact memory in stressed circumstances to boot. [36] They concluded that curcumin in turmeric has anxiolytic traits, which potentially makes it a suitable medication against oxidative damage, to be used in anti-stress therapy, and also as a potential agent in anxiety therapy as well.

It Reduces Anxiety In Alzheimer’s Disease

Sometimes, anxiety is just a precursor to a more serious condition such as Alzheimer’s disease. Which is where curcumin comes into play. In fact, researchers now believe that curcumin can potentially alleviate anxiety levels by improving other mechanisms in the central nervous system.

This was considered by Kulkarni AP et al., who examined the effects of curcumin and Vaccinia virus complement control protein (VCP) on the levels of anxiety in preselected subjects. [37] As it turned out, the administration of these compounds lowered anxiety levels and made the subjects more resistant to stress as well.

Conclusion

As studies are boasting all around the world, turmeric curcumin is becoming the go-to supplement both among fitness hobbyists and professional medicine practitioners alike. This makes it more attainable – even to individuals who’ve had a hard time finding a quality turmeric curcumin supplement in the past. So, whether you’ve tried TC or not, now is the perfect moment to include this wonder-spice into your diet.

Consult with a healthcare practitioner before taking TC supplements.

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