What’s the Big Deal About Turmeric?

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Well, it looks like we’ve got a new hot health item–turmeric. Acai berries must have run their course! Often, though, there is actual science to back up the latest health fads, so we decided to see what the deal is with turmeric.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice in the ginger family, used often in Indian cuisine. It contains curcumin. Word on the street is that it’s an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and an adaptogen. Turmeric helps enzymes be more efficient, and it feeds on free radicals–which damage DNA, cause cancer, and are a factor in heart disease.

What can turmeric help with?

Turmeric has a wide range of applications. According to WebMD, the spice is “possibly” effective for treating high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, and itching. Research has shown that turmeric can reduce total cholesterol, LDLs, and triglycerides in overweight people with high cholesterol. Some research supports the use of turmeric to treat osteoarthritis–it seems to work as well as ibuprofen. And, in people with long-term kidney disease, curcumin and black pepper taken together have been shown to reduce itching.

Turmeric may also have antacid properties, but it does not appear as effective as taking a regular antacid. And it might prevent the onset of Type II diabetes in people who are pre-diabetic.

Are there any unfounded claims about turmeric?

Perhaps that better question is to ask if there’s any research to back up some of the many claims being made about turmeric. The spice is being touted as a bit of a wonder cure, but many claims have not yet been backed up by enough evidence, so be careful what you believe. These include claims that turmeric can help with:

  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Joint Pain
  • Lupus
  • Tuberculosis
  • Gum Disease
  • Surgery Recovery
  • Liver and Gallbladder Issues
  • Bruising

And the list goes on. But just because researchers don’t think there’s sufficient evidence doesn’t mean turmeric doesn’t help. In many cases the spice has been used as a folk remedy for centuries, or there is some evidence, but nothing conclusive. And the good news is that turmeric doesn’t really have negative side effects (assuming you’re not snorting a barrel full!).