There are many good reasons to consider increasing the amount of turmeric you consume. Turmeric is beneficial in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation because it contains compounds called curcuminoids that have medicinal properties. The most well-known and extensively studied curcuminoid is curcumin, an anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory compound.
Because of its anti-oxidative properties, turmeric was initially embraced for its potential positive impact on anti-aging. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating that the active ingredient curcumin crosses the blood brain barrier to generate an anti-inflammatory effect that is beneficial to a number of tissues in the body.
Studies have shown that curcumin can have a beneficial impact on the endothelial lining of the blood vessels, potentially assisting with blood pressure regulation and reducing heart disease.
Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells and inhibit tumor growth in colon cancer in laboratory rats. One March 2011 study showed that 4 grams of curcumin had a positive impact on colon cancer in 44 human males. That is a very small study, so its conclusions aren’t definitive. However, it suggests that additional studies would be valuable.
Several studies specifically demonstrate that curcumin is beneficial for pain management in arthritis patients. It has also been found to have a positive effect on depression. In addition, curcumin has been shown to discourage the build up of Amyloid plaques, the disorganized proteins that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
I’ve been asked how much turmeric a person would need to consume to achieve generally positive preventative or mildly anti-inflammatory physiological benefits, and what to look for in a supplement. This is such a practical question! Generally speaking, there are about 200 milligrams of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) in 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. About 500 milligrams daily is considered an optimal wellness dose. That equals 2.5 teaspoons ground turmeric. I personally recommend consuming organic ground turmeric, either as a food or as a capsule, rather than taking curcumin as an isolated constituent.
First of all, we are physiologically designed to consume whole plant matter. Secondly, I am wary of isolated ingredients unless the company can verify the purity of the product with an independent, third-party chemistry report. Isolating one active constituent can be tricky and may involve chemicals that are less than healthful that then become part of the supplement. This is where you have to know the reputation of the company producing the supplement and their safety practices. Most over the counter turmeric and curcumin supplements are likely to be contaminated. It is, therefore, very important to stick with professional grade brands that can verify their sources for raw organic materials, and who conduct third-party testing for product purity.
Turmeric is poorly digested by the intestines, which is part of the reason you need to consume so much of it to create a beneficial physiological response. To potentiate the benefits of turmeric, it is often paired with black pepper to improve absorption. This could potentially upset a sensitive stomach or digestive tract. Also keep in mind that if you are a diabetic and taking diabetes medication, or are on blood thinners, turmeric is contraindicated.
A final note on turmeric. It stains. Like curry, it will stain your clothes, your skin, your nails, and your teeth if you aren’t careful. This is probably why most people would rather take an encapsulated product than prepare a fresh dish with turmeric. Nevertheless, I encourage you to add this wonderful spice to your diet.