fbpx Skip to main content

Long before we could head to the doctor’s office or a pharmacy for medication, our ancestors turned to nature for healing. They relied on plants, like turmeric, to stay healthy and recover from illness. Today, science has begun to explore what our ancestors already knew, and many studies have looked into the valuable medicinal properties of this yellow root. Find out their latest discoveries and the surprising health benefits of turmeric.

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric or curcumin: that is the question.

You may recognize turmeric by the name curcumin. So what’s the difference between curcumin vs turmeric?

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a flowering root plant in the ginger family native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Curcumin (C21H20O6) is a chemical produced in the rootstalk of turmeric plants. (Turmeric’s health benefits mostly come from curcumin.)

Because turmeric comes from places like India and Nepal, these cultures have always eaten a lot of it, and the history of turmeric goes way back.

Archeologists uncovered ancient pots in New Delhi, India with remnants of turmeric dating back to 2500 BC! Ancient Indians used the spice as an important healing ingredient in Ayurveda, a traditional medicine still practiced today.

Turmeric is so important to this region of the world that it has at least 53 different names in Sanskrit, including jawarantika (which cures fevers), kashpa (killer of worms), varna datri (enhancer of body complexion), and vishagni (killer of poison). You can probably guess some of turmeric’s traditional uses in medicine.

What Are the Health Benefits of Turmeric?

We’ve got good news if you like Indian food. Adults in Southeast Asia—places that eat foods with turmeric—have lower rates of specific illnesses. Scientists decided to explore the link between turmeric and good health. So what did they discover? Find out all the surprising health benefits of turmeric backed by science.

1. It improves memory

Turmeric improves memory. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study observed the effects of curcumin in adults between the ages of 50 to 90. After 18 months, the people who took curcumin improved their memory by 28%!

Why? Turmeric helps memory in many ways: it reduces inflammation, keeps neurons strong and healthy, and detoxifies the brain from damaging free radicals.

2. It may prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Adults in Southeast Asia have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease, a region that eats lots of curries containing turmeric. Scientists decided to take a closer look at the link between curry consumption and brain health.

A study observed adults between 60 to 90, ages more prone to Alzheimer’s. They found those who ate curry more than once a month performed better on cognitive tests.

Curcumin clears blockages between nerve cells in the brain—known as beta-amyloid plaques—found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This shows could point to a potential treatment of turmeric for Alzheimer’s.

3. It reduces inflammation

To fight off infection, the body sends white blood cells to defend against outside invaders, like viruses or bacteria. It’s a process known as inflammation.

But, sometimes the body’s immune system triggers inflammation when it doesn’t need to fight off anything. Instead, the body attacks and damages healthy tissue. Over time, this type of long-term inflammation can cause health problems, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer’s.

Turmeric’s main active component curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties. It can reduce symptoms of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, or heartburn.

Inflammation can also impact the brain. A study found that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties may protect the brain from neurodegeneration. In addition, taking curcumin supplements can help improve memory and attention.

4. It balances mood

The World Health Organization estimates that over 300 million people in the world have depression, a mood disorder that causes feelings of worthlessness, low energy levels, lack of motivation, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. Studies show the potential of turmeric for depression treatment.

Curcumin Benefits for Depression

  • Curcumin promotes healthy levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, often deficient in patients with depression.
  • Curcumin reduces inflammation commonly linked to depression.
  • Curcumin promotes healthy insulin resistance in the brain—the way your brain processes glucose for energy (studies show that adults with high insulin resistance are more prone to depression).

5. It detoxifies

When the body breaks down foods or reacts to the environment, its cells produce waste particles called free radicals. These unstable, reactive molecules cause oxidative stress which can damage cells if not eliminated.

That’s where turmeric can step in and help. Studies found turmeric does a great job at removing free radicals from your system, thanks to its antioxidant effects.

So what does that mean for your health? Turmeric protects against free radical damage, and therefore, helps prevent a host of health conditions, including heart disease, dementia, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

How to Use Turmeric

When ground up and turned into a powder, turmeric gives foods a deep-orange or yellowish hue (hence, the nickname “the golden spice”). You’ll recognize turmeric’s chalky, peppery flavor in curries and rice dishes of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Try a few of our favorite ways to get your regular dose of turmeric:

  • Make a golden tea, steeping turmeric with warm milk and honey.
  • Start your day with a healthy morning meal, like this Chai Turmeric Overnight Breakfast Bowl.
  • Add turmeric powder to your favorite meat recipe, like our favorite healthy Chicken Kofta (get the recipe below).
  • Add a dash or two of turmeric to add color and flavor to white rice as it cooks.
  • Flavor soups and stews, like a Thai yellow curry.

Turmeric isn’t just for foods. It also provides a great topical treatment. Try mixing it with honey and yogurt for a DIY face mask for glowing skin.

Doctors recommend between 500 to 1,000 milligrams, depending on the individual. If your regular eating habits don’t match up with the taste of turmeric, try taking supplements.

“Let food be thy medicine!” This ancient saying has become more and more true as science takes a closer look at the foods we eat. Make sure to prioritize turmeric in your diet for its many health benefits for the brain and body.

Want more healthy foods and recipe ideas? Check out our new ebook: Food for Thought: Recipes for a Healthier Brain.

Check out our new recipe eBook and learn more about Dr. Bredesen's recommendations!

Get Your FREE Copy!

Name