Turmeric: More Than Just a Spice

Most people will probably know what turmeric is, what it is used for. But do you know that it has medicinal value too?

Turmeric – Curcumin

Turmeric is widely used to add flavor and color to curry dishes. Apart from that, it is also commonly used as coloring agent in mustard and cheese. In fact, for centuries, turmeric has also been used as medicine in India and China. And in the past few decades, curcumin extracted from turmeric, has attracted the interests of researchers to explore its potential therapeutic uses.

So what is so good about curcumin?

Potential benefits of curcumin include but are not limited to:

  • Anti-inflammatory activity – relieve symptoms (the pain, swelling and stiffness) of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Anti-oxidant properties – reduce the oxidative damages caused by free radicals
  • Neuro-protective action – reduce cognitive decline, improve Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anti-cancer activity – curcumin has been shown to stop the growth of certain tumors though more research is needed.

Apart from that, curcumin also appeared to have slight effect in lowering blood pressure and blood sugar.

Before you get all too excited about this rising star, it should be noted that though some of these health claims are made on promising data, more evidence is still required to confirm the health benefits of curcumin.

Side effects

Curcumin is generally safe to take. It may, however, cause bloating, nausea, yellowing of the stools and diarrhea in high doses or after long term uses. Used externally, it can cause skin irritation.

Curcumin supplements could potentially increase the risk of bleeding in people taking blood thinning medications. Apart from that, curcumin supplements are often formulated together with piperine which may affect the efficacy and increase the toxicity of some drugs, for instance, phenytoin, propranolol, carbamazepine, etc. As a consequence, you should always check with your health professionals if curcumin supplement will interact with your current medicines.

As mentioned earlier, curcumin may reduce blood sugar level, therefore, diabetic patients should always talk to your doctor before starting on curcumin supplement.

Tips on supplementation

  • Choose curcumin products that include black pepper extract (piperine) or otherwise optimized for absorption as curcumin by itself is poorly absorbed.
  • Avoid taking it before bedtime as sleep disturbances have been reported.
  • Consult your health professionals before starting curcumin supplement especially if you are taking any other medications or have obstructions of your bile passages.

Remember to check out the following resources if you would like to know more about curcumin: