The 8 Most Impressive Health Benefits of Turmeric

Run, don’t walk, to stock up on turmeric.

In recent years, turmeric’s popularity has skyrocketed, thanks to its touted health benefits. “Turmeric is a vibrant yellow spice native to India and Southeast Asia that has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties,” says Amy Davis, RD, LDN Registered Dietitian at FRESH Communications.

This beautiful root from the Curcuma longa plant can be enjoyed ground, juiced, or in its natural root form in both sweet and savory dishes. But what does current-day research tell us about the health benefits of turmeric? And what are the best ways to use it at home? We’ve got you covered with the answers to these questions and more in this turmeric tell-all.

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The Nutritional Profile of Turmeric

“Historically, turmeric has been used in traditional Indian medical systems, as a common spice, and as a food coloring,” explains Davis. But when it comes to health benefits, you won’t find significant amounts of macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein, or fat in this spice. Rather, turmeric is an excellent source of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds, and this is where most of its health benefits spawn from.

In terms of vitamins and minerals, turmeric contains impressive amounts of manganese, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. “But turmeric also contains compounds called curcuminoids – with curcumin being the most prominent and well-researched,” says Davis. “These compounds belong to a class of polyphenols and have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.” In fact, curcumin is largely to thank for many of the benefits turmeric boasts. Its antioxidant properties positively affect nearly every body system.

<p>Kolesnikovserg/Getty Image</p>

Kolesnikovserg/Getty Image

The Top 8 Health Benefits of Turmeric

So, what are those benefits? “Ancient Chinese medicine typically used turmeric for skin, joint, and digestive treatments,” Davis adds. Let’s see how these claims stack up to the latest research, with the top eight evidence-based benefits of turmeric:

Turmeric Boosts Immune Health

As a rich source of vitamin C and plant compounds (also known as polyphenols) like curcumin, turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects boost overall immune health. This is partly because antioxidants search out and eradicate free radical molecules that are at the root of many chronic and acute illnesses. In fact, a 2019 Nutrients article even found curcumin to be effective against cancer.

Turmeric Champions Heart Health

Another chronic illness that free radicals contribute to is heart disease, making turmeric a powerful preventative measure. Research has found the curcumin in turmeric to be protective against both atherosclerosis—plaque build-up on the arteries and veins that can lead to the development of heart disease—and overall heart disease risk. This spice may also help to manage high cholesterol levels in the blood, which can further contribute to atherosclerosis. The magnesium, potassium, and iron found in turmeric also supports healthy heart rhythms and blood health.

Turmeric Aids Metabolic Health

For those with metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes (or those looking to prevent them), turmeric is also a great addition. This is thanks to the fact that the spice has been found to aid in the regulation of blood sugars and the inflammatory response, helping to treat or prevent these conditions.

Related: The 9 Best Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Immune System, According to RDNs

Turmeric Helps to Improve Mental Health

Interestingly, turmeric is often turned to for mental health aid – and we have the evidence to support this practice. This benefit is due, in part, to curcumin’s ability to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF plays an important role in behavior, learning, cognition, and memory, which bodes well for mood disorders like anxiety and depression. In fact, several studies have found this bioactive compound in turmeric to be effective in treating both conditions.

Turmeric Encourages Overall Brain Health

Speaking of brain health, turmeric may also help to ward off neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Curcumin’s ability to increase BDNF levels certainly has a hand in this benefit, but there’s also plenty of research to back these claims. One 2018 study found daily curcumin administration to be linked to improved memory, attention, and mood in older adults, thanks to decreases in amyloid and tau accumulation in the brain. Amyloid and tau are proteins that can build up in the brain and disrupt communication between brain cells, potentially leading to neurodegenerative conditions. Further research has also found a positive correlation between curcumin and Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

Turmeric Promotes Joint Health

The anti-inflammatory nature of turmeric benefits joint health, too – especially for those dealing with concerns like arthritis. One 2021 study found turmeric supplementation to be nearly as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for individuals with osteoarthritis in the knees. Additionally, a 2022 paper found curcumin to be effective in treating osteoarthritis pain across the body.

Turmeric Supports Gentle Aging

Curcumin’s (and thus turmeric’s) antioxidant properties are also effective against signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. This has been shown in several studies, including this 2021 review of the evidence available at the time of publishing.

Turmeric Improves Gut Health

And finally, turmeric may also support a healthy gut. This is thanks to its positive influence on the gut microbiome, helping to regulate and support this important system. The gut microbiome is a colony of trillions of microorganisms found largely in the colon that supports immune, brain, and digestive health (among many other impressive benefits).

How Much Turmeric Should You Have Everyday?

So, with all these exciting health perks of turmeric, you may be jumping at the chance to start including more of this spice in your meals and snacks. But how much should you be aiming for on a daily basis?

From what we know so far, you’ll reap the most benefits by consuming no more than 12 grams of turmeric per day—equivalent to about 2.5 teaspoons. “Overdoing it with turmeric may cause diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting, and excessive turmeric supplementation may interfere with certain medications,” says Davis. Considering this, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before significantly increasing your turmeric intake if you have any pre-existing conditions.

Related: True Cinnamon Boasts Some Sweet Benefits—Here's How to Tell if You're Eating the Real Deal

Ways to Use Turmeric At Home

There are so many delicious dishes that can help you add more turmeric into your routine. Its sweet, peppery flavor and brilliant yellow-orange color pairs perfectly in curries, stir fries, casseroles, soups, stews, pastas, lattes, smoothies, homemade health shots, and even spiced baked goods! Some delicious and healthy prepared foods highlight this ingredient as well.

“Though, it’s important to note that turmeric is fat-soluble and poorly absorbed alone. Therefore, it should be consumed with a source of fat and piperine (an active component of black pepper) to enhance absorption,” Davis notes. These prerequisites are pretty easy to achieve in all of the dishes we’ve mentioned here.

The Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, there’s no denying that turmeric is a bonafide superfood. This is thanks to the plethora of micronutrients found in this spice, especially the bioactive compound curcumin. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nature of these nutrients support so many angles of health, from metabolism and heart health, to immunity and brain function. It’s just an added bonus that this popular spice brings a beautiful color and flavor to any dish it’s added to.

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