Updated: Dec 19, 2022
I’m sure you’ve heard about Turmeric, but I wonder if you know that it has many different potential benefits for your health?
Turmeric – more than just a spice cupboard essential!
We often think of Turmeric (botanical name: Curcuma Longa) as a vibrant spice that we add to our curries and perhaps accidently stain our chopping boards with! Turmeric has also made quite an appearance as a so called “super food” in the health sphere in recent years.
The truth is that Turmeric has been turned to for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, for example, did you know that Turmeric has been widely used in Ind. Turmeric is the “rhizome” (root), of the Turmeric plant, which has beautiful yelrious different skin conditions, and even applied to the skin as part of an Indian pre-wedding preparation to impart a glow on the skin.:
What makes Turmeric so special?
In case you didn’t know, Turmeric actually belongs to the ginger family, and a specific component of Turmeric, called Curcumin gives Turmeric its bright yellow colour. Turmeric is the “rhizome” (root), of the Turmeric plant, which has beautiful yellow flowers:
Turmeric has many health benefiting components, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, fibre, iron, potassium, zinc to name but a few, but it is most widely known for the compound Curcumin, which is certainly the star of the show!
Curcumin is a polyphenol (polyphenols are compounds that are found naturally in plants, found to support human health) and has been shown to have various health benefits.
Read on to find out more information about Turmeric and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as delving into some of its reported benefits, such as improving metabolic health, digestive health, as well as helping to maximise sleep and recovery.
1) Turmeric Can Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation itself is not necessarily a bad thing – it’s something that happens naturally in the body as a way to repair damage from injury, or fight off nasties, such as viruses and bacteria. In the modern world, the concern lies with chronic inflammation – meaning that the body hasn’t been able to “turn off” an inflammatory response successfully, and it lingers in the human body, and is linked to all kinds of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Turmeric is known as a "natural" anti-inflammatory.
2) Turmeric Has Antioxidant Properties
Oxidative stress and damage have been linked to many different chronic diseases. Oxidative stress is the result of an imbalance between free radical production (free radicals are unstable atoms that can be damaging to the body) and our antioxidant defences (the way that our bodies counteract free radical damage).
Oxidative damage can be caused by a variety of things, such as dietary and lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures, such as pollution! We can help support our antioxidant defences through diet and lifestyle – for example, antioxidants are abundant in fruit and vegetables, particularly those brightly coloured ones.
Curcumin, the active compound found in Turmeric, is known specifically for its anti-oxidant properties, which can protect us from oxidative damage.
As you can see, this brightly coloured root packs quite the punch!
3) Turmeric Might Help Support Metabolic Health
Metabolic health is important for so many reasons. As most of us know, the food that we eat changes our blood sugar levels. We’re all familiar with that feeling when we’ve eaten something sugary, where we feel alert for a brief period and then our energy rapidly declines thereafter – this is linked to fluctuations in our blood sugar levels and it impacts directly on our energy levels.
Every time we eat, a response involving a hormone called insulin is activated, which helps to make sure that glucose can be made available to our cells in order for them to function correctly and efficiently.
Unfortunately, a typical western diet is known to encourage the development of something called “insulin resistance”, whereby glucose is no longer able to enter our cells successfully to be metabolised, and instead remains in our blood stream, causing damage which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2 and essentially, our cells become less metabolically efficient.
Luckily, we can support our metabolic health through diet and exercise, and Turmeric has been studied specifically in relation to metabolic health, such as its influence on those with diabetes type 2 – a chronic disease where blood glucose levels are elevated unnaturally.
A 2021 review looking the use of Curcumin supplementation on participants with diabetes type 2, concluded that Curcumin might be a useful tool in improving insulin resistance and blood sugar control, and even help with lowering triglycerides and cholesterol (types of fat found in the blood, which can be damaging in high levels) .
Balancing blood sugar levels throughout the day is not only good for us metabolically, it will also help to ensure that we keep consistent energy levels, and experience less of those afternoon slumps.
Did you know, how we eat during the day can impact on blood sugar levels at night?
Fluctuations in blood sugar during the night can lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels), which can cause awakening in the night.
It’s therefore so important for our body to keep our blood sugar levels stable. If you regularly wake in the night, you could try incorporating a snack that releases energy slowly (such as a handful of nuts) 1-2 hours before bed and sip on a warm mug of caffeine free tea to help you drift off with ease.
4) Turmeric Might Aid Digestion
Although eating can be one of life’s great pleasures, it’s of course an absolutely vital part of maintaining life. We all know that what we eat can have a great impact on how we feel, both mentally and physically. After eating, we often give little thought to what happens next, because our digestive system quite literally takes over and does the hard work for us, breaking own food into nutrients, so that we can absorb them and use them throughout the body, as well as removing waste products.
Poor digestion is linked to uncomfortable digestive symptoms and not absorbing sufficient nutrients and can result in lethargy, fatigue, discomfort, constipation, diarrhoea to name but a few symptoms. It’s therefore important to support good digestion in order to feel our best.
Turmeric has been investigated in studies in terms of potential benefits on the digestive system, specifically those who experience chronic digestive disorders. A study published in 2021 looking at the impact of the administration of Curcumin extract in a group of people experiencing digestive issues found that those taking the extract reported a significant reduction in their digestive symptoms compared to the placebo group .
Further research is likely needed in this area, but it does appear that Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties could make it an ideal way to support your digestive system.
5) Turmeric could be beneficial for Athletes!
We’ve seen that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nature of Turmeric can be beneficial in supporting our everyday health, where it might help to support our digestion, metabolic health, sleep, recovery, reduce inflammation and help fend off those damaging free radicals.
The reported benefits of Turmeric could make it an ideal addition to the diet of any athlete, where we know that we need ensure that we support our body before, during and after exercise.
Turmeric is packed full of health benefiting compounds, it might help to reduce inflammation post-exercise, help support balanced blood sugar levels throughout the night, and as a result aid in recovery, so that athletes can continue to train efficiently as possible.
Lastly, Don’t Forget to Make Sleep A Priority!
Did you know that insufficient sleep and low quality, un-restorative sleep is pro-inflammatory? This makes rest and recovery a vital part of overall wellbeing.
The modern world has made sleep a very low priority – the world quite literally never sleeps, there are always things happening online, social media addictions, just one more episode…, but it’s time that we see that investing time in sleep, and good quality sleep, means that we’re quite literally creating more time to feel our best selves and live life optimally.
Sleep is the time for the body to recharge, both mentally and physically and when we wake feeling refreshed and energised, we can perform at our best too. It’s time to view sleep as a key pilar of health and well-being and it’s an essential part of any active lifestyle.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in nature, and it therefore might help reduce inflammation in the body!
The bioavailability (amount of the active compound that can exert its therapeutic effects) of Turmeric is increased by the addition of a source of fat and black pepper! You could therefore try stirring through a teaspoon of coconut oil and a grind of black pepper when cooking with Turmeric.
If you’re currently experiencing some of the symptoms discussed in this article or want to learn how tailored changes to your nutrition and lifestyle might benefit you, please book yourself in for a FREE twenty minute call with me:
 Zhang, T., He, Q., Liu, Y., Chen, Z. and Hu, H. (2021). Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin Supplement on Improvement of Insulin Resistance in People with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2021, pp.1–19.
 Lopresti, A.L., Smith, S.J., Rea, A. and Michel, S. (2021). Efficacy of a curcumin extract (CurcugenTM) on gastrointestinal symptoms and intestinal microbiota in adults with self-reported digestive complaints: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 21(1).
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Please note that Amy Cottrell Nutrition does not claim to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional conditions. These blog articles are written for educational & informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice.
Do not stop or start taking medication or supplements without first talking to your primary health care provider.