Turmeric & Curcumin Benefits on Depression, Anxiety + General Health

Benefits of Turmeric & Curcumin on Depression, Anxiety and General Health

Origin

In order to first understand the benefits of turmeric, we must first analyze the deep medicinal use of turmeric. Natural plants have been used by many different cultures and people since the beginning of time. Multiple medicinal plants- such as turmeric – have evolved alongside animals for millions of years. The oldest recorded use of turmeric dates back 4000 years ago. In Southeast Asia, turmeric was not only used as a medicine to fight infections and disease but also as an ingredient in many religious ceremonies. It was prized as a spice and spread across the continent rapidly. Around 1290, Marco Polo idolized turmeric and compared it closely to saffron. Within southeast Asia, turmeric was used to fight food poisoning; in Europe, they worshipped it as a miracle spice for hundreds of foods. The name turmeric derives from the Latin word Terra Merita (attractive earth) and refers to the yellow pigment of ground turmeric.

Uses

Turmeric is considered to be a digestive and a carminative medicine. Turmeric was best used to relieve flatulence and improve the overall energy of the body. In Chinese cultures, turmeric was used to dispel digestive, parasitic worms (seeing as how many Chinese rituals and cuisine includes raw or undercooked foods). Turmeric is also a fantastic regulator for menstruation and was primarily used by women during pregnancy. Turmeric is still used today for regulating menstruation and pregnancy. Many doctors recommend pregnant mothers to take turmeric as it will relieve many of the symptoms that come with pregnancy.

Turmeric is also high in Tannic acid [1]. Tannic acid is a component that is uncommon in many parts of Asia. Tannic acid is normally collected from oak trees- a rare sight in many Asian countries- and the acid itself is very medicinal. Tannic acid can be consumed safely and has many benefits. Tannic acid can be used as a natural antibiotic and has been used as a form of hand soap. The concentration of Tannic acid in turmeric can be used to dissolve kidney stones safely and relieve stomach pain. Tannic acid is excellent for any stomach related issues- dysentery, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Tannic acid is an astringent, meaning it tightens blood vessels and when consumed it has a vasoconstricting effect- similar to its astringent properties [2]. By tightening the blood veins, it is a fantastic agent in closing and sealing wounds and cuts. It can also be consumed to tighten the veins around the face and help with skin beauty and can lighten the looks of acne related problems.

 

Turmeric can be- and has been – used to treat many serious health issues. Turmeric was also used as an ancient “aspirin,” used  for relieving cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, chest pain, and sinuses.

 

Effects

Turmeric has many benefits, and the main nutritional source is curcumin, which is responsible for most of the health benefits in turmeric. However, curcumin only accounts for less than 5% of the nutritional content in turmeric. The spice also contains high concentrations of protein and fibre, even in small doses. Surprisingly, turmeric also contains a large amount of iron. A single teaspoon of turmeric powder can deliver up to 23% of the daily iron requirement (7 milligrams) for men. In the case of women, who require 18 milligrams of iron daily, it constitutes 9% [3].

Other impressive findings show that there are turmeric benefits in weight loss. In a study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmalogical Sciences, taking daily supplements of a special turmeric formula, designed to be more easily absorbed by the body, helped increase the weight loss percentage of overweight people [4].

To a lesser extent, other research articles have shown that curcumin acts as a natural weight-increase-resistor, by lowering the weight gain from fat-rich eating habits. Curcumin has been found to be an inhibitor for the growth of fatty tissues [5]. All the more reason the try adding in a pinch of turmeric powder to your daily meals.

Is turmeric good for you? The evidence seems to say yes. Turmeric is rich in necessary nutrition, and even assists in weight loss. However, there are some caveats when it comes to using turmeric and curcumin, and the curcumin side effects will be discussed now.

Turmeric does not have major side effects. In fact, most of the general public can enjoy the benefits of turmeric without any issue. However, certain people with allergies might experience stomach-aches, nausea, headaches or diarrhoea [6]. These cases tend to be caused by an excessive intake of turmeric. If any of the symptoms stated above occur, avoid turmeric in large amounts. Slight amounts, such as those used in the seasoning of other dishes, can be used without any issues.

As we’ve discussed the high iron concentration in turmeric, it is worth noting that turmeric might affect the iron absorption rate in the body [7]. For people experiencing iron deficiency, turmeric should be avoided to prevent worsening of the condition. Similarly, turmeric has been found to slow blood clotting [8]. People who have blood disorders, or recently undergone surgery, should avoid large intakes of turmeric, which could affect the recovery period.

Turmeric also contains oxalates, which can result in gallbladder complications and possibly kidney stones. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that increased gallbladder contractions occur due to an intake of large doses of turmeric [9], and a study also shows that turmeric has a large concentration of water-soluble oxalates, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation in certain individuals [10]. To avoid these issues, people with related should avoid turmeric products in large amounts.

Due to the presence of curcumin in turmeric, people with diabetes should be cautious when ingesting turmeric. Curcumin has the effect of reducing blood sugar [11], so diabetics should monitor their blood sugar levels diligently after taking turmeric, even in slight amounts.

Curcumin has similarities to the hormones of estrogen, as well as a proven lowering of testosterone levels in men. In general, people with hormone-sensitive disorders or conditions should avoid the intake of large amounts of turmeric. In high amounts, men may have reduced fertility due to the decreased sperm movement ability with a lowered testosterone level. Regardless, it is still proven that small or trace amounts of curcumin will not deliver adverse side effects in hormonal disorders [12].

To capitalize on the advantages of turmeric and curcumin, while also sidestepping the adverse effects, you simply need to take turmeric in moderation. A study by Oregon State University has found that the ideal amount of curcumin per day is 8-12 g, depending on personal health [13]. Simply use turmeric as it was intended, as a seasoning or cooking additive, and you’ll have no issues whatsoever.

Benefits

We’ve already covered the high nutritional content included in slight amounts of turmeric, but the benefits of turmeric don’t end there. In Asian countries, turmeric serves not only as a popular spice for flavour but also as a traditional remedy in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine [14]. With time, these ancient treatments have adapted their way into modern western society, with the health benefits of turmeric finding a ton of use in medical sciences.

Turmeric acts as a natural remedy to arthritis, thanks to the presence of curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, and actually prevents joint inflammation, rather than reducing it. By targeting specific molecules or pathways, curcumin blocks the inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, which reduces the chance of pain [15]. A study in 2016 showed that 1000 mg of curcumin tablets were as effective as ibuprofen, another anti-inflammatory drug, and even had reduced side effects on the intestinal system [16]. Note that turmeric only consists of 5% curcumin, so specific supplements are required to maximize the effect.

Curcumin has been tested as a natural antidepressant as well, with early efforts proving the effect in lab rats. In 2014, a special trial on 60 volunteers with diagnosed major depressive disorder showed that patients treated with turmeric curcumin had similar results to those treated with fluoxetine, which is a highly-used synthetic antidepressant [17]. Further studies were done in late 2014 [18] and 2015 [19], using placebo tests compared with curcumin antidepressants. Both tests showed that curcumin had perceivable effects when used, in comparison to the (obviously) non-effective placebos.

Since the cure to cancer has yet to be found, the saying that prevention is better than a cure holds great meaning. Turmeric curcumin has been tested as an anticancer in 2013, which actively seeks out and kills cancer cells, which also preventing further growth. The main issue with curcumin is the difficulty of absorption, which remains a hurdle to be overcome before being a viable treatment option. An in vivo study has also shown curcumin to be a natural inhibitor to cancer cells in pancreatic cancer, enhancing the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy [20]. While not clinically tested, the results are certainly promising.

As previously covered, turmeric affects blood sugar by lowering glucose levels [11] and can be even more potent than common diabetic drugs like metformin in activating the required enzymes. Studies done on lab rats found that curcumin supplements reduced neuropathic pain [21], which could potentially lead to further avenues of research in the future.

Curcumin also reduces obesity by reducing the growth of fat cells [22]. The study also proves that curcumin not only prevents obesity but even assists in reducing the adverse side effects of obesity with its anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, turmeric even helps in detoxification. Your body is constantly exposed to chemical compounds that enter from outside your body, including carcinogens and food additives among others. These are often the cause of  increased amounts of inflammation and risks of cancer. Turmeric actually helps by using curcumin, which is able to metabolize the xenobiotics effectively, helping reduce the negative effects that may occur [23].

For those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, curcumin might be an answer. Research is being done to identify the properties of curcumin to regulate ulcerative colitis, which is a form of irritable bowel syndrome [24]. Once the potential is harnessed, patients can benefit from simply taking the turmeric based products to maintain remission of the disease. Further studies have also shown that patients with irritable bowel syndrome showed improvements within 2 months, though this can certainly be improved with further advancements in understanding [25].

For the health conscious, cholesterol regulation is key. A study hypothesized that curcumin had capabilities to serve as a viable natural replacement to oxidative regulatory drugs, and can be used to treat cases of high cholesterol in humans [26]. While further studies have found similar results, it does seem that it differs on a person to person basis, with certain test subjects (both human and animal) requiring different lengths of time to see the effect.

While we’ve covered the benefits of turmeric and curcumin intake, you might be surprised to know that turmeric serves as an excellent natural skin care product. Studies have shown turmeric to assist in anti-inflammation even when applied externally, thanks to the presence of curcumin. Not only that, applying specially tailored curcumin salves can even help speed up wound healing [27]. People with acne can also benefit from the use of facewash with high curcumin content. A study from the Medical and Cancer Research and Treatment Centre in India has even shown that turmeric paste can cure up to 97% of scabies cases within 15 days, with possibilities of recovery within 3 days being documented as well [28].

Turmeric powder and curcumin can also act as a natural pain reliever. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, it serves well as a healing reagent. You might be surprised to know that curcumin can also be applied directly to external injuries as well. Studies have shown that wound healing, arthritic pain, and orofacial pain can be remedied using curcumin-based products. We’ve already covered the help in dealing with arthritis, but certain studies have shown potential in the recovery of patients undergoing post-operative pain, neuropathic pain, and sciatic nerve pains. With further advancements, we might have access to a new, completely natural pain reliever that can serve as a substitute for specific cases.

Turmeric and curcumin provide a multitude of impressive health benefits. However, it should be reiterated that these benefits are clinically tested with specifically assigned intake amounts. If you intend on using curcumin for medicinal purposes, a doctor should be consulted.

 

Anecdotal Reviews

Almost every customer who purchased turmeric and curcumin capsules have made huge strides in arthritis and joint pain recovery. Many come into contact with turmeric capsules via their doctors’ prescriptions. Remember that even the American Arthritis Foundation cites turmeric as a viable remedy with anti-inflammatory properties. Many customers even claim that turmeric capsules provide good pain relief and that the pain returns upon stopping the prescriptions. Customers have seen huge improvements in their recovery, being able to walk and cycle with the pain relief that comes with turmeric capsules.

Some users of turmeric capsules have also noted increases in their daily energy in comparison to their previous prescriptions, which were based on synthetic pharmaceuticals. This does match the studies discussed above, where curcumin is found to be as effective as ibuprofen, with less of a physical impact. Common improvements include relief of back and leg pains, as well as being able to walk without consistent cramps and aches.

Most customers see an improvement within 2-3 weeks after their purchases, but some customer reviews do show improvement within 7 days after beginning the prescription.

Turmeric does come in powder form, and many who suffer from arthritis have found success with the milder doses that come in the powder form-factor. Certain customers prefer to use the powder as an additive in their food and beverages. People who like ginger tea can add a teaspoon of turmeric powder for a similar, yet different taste, while people who enjoy a bit of spice in their meals can easily add a teaspoon of turmeric powder for both the taste and health benefits. Since turmeric is a standard ingredient in Asian curries, there’s no surprise that it finds use in many well-known recipes.

If you’re wondering about popular turmeric-based recipes, the most popular example amongst customers is turmeric tea, sometimes known with the name “golden milk.” Turmeric tea combines the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin with the easily digestible and enjoyable form factor of tea. Well, designed turmeric tea drinks can have just as much health benefits as fresh turmeric roots.

Other buyers are partial to turmeric eggs, curried carrot soup and simply using turmeric powder as a slight seasoning. This is how turmeric was used since ancient times in India, and it’s not hard to see why. The slight spice and fragrance can be hard to resist. For the best turmeric curries, use coconut milk as the main basis for the broth, and add in further spices to suit your tastes. There’s no shortage of online recipes, with the classic Indian and Asian-style curries being among the most popular.

If you’re simply after the health benefits of curcumin, the low concentration of curcumin in turmeric might leave you searching for an alternative. Curcumin powder does exist, and you can easily use it to sprinkle onto your cooking and meals for added health benefits. Remember to do this in moderation unless otherwise specified by your main physician. For specific needs and amounts, turmeric pills with high curcumin concentration can be an alternative, as these come with the benefits of being easily monitored.

Most customers claim that the best turmeric supplements contain black pepper, as these combine to increase absorbability to a maximum. A product which many find success with is fermented pill capsules, as these assist absorption by easing the pre-digestion process. With regards to other ingredients in the supplements, most customers prefer to leave things completely natural, avoiding GMOs and potential additives, and preferring natural ingredients such as peppermint, milk thistle, and dandelion.

When it comes to the time to take turmeric supplements, we still recommend referring to your doctor, but almost every customer says that their doctor recommends that they take their antioxidant supplements, which include turmeric and curcumin, before bedtime for the best effect.

Where to Buy It

If you’re wondering where to get turmeric, there is a large selection of available choices online, with tons of customer reviews for you to make an educated buy. Turmeric and curcumin come in many forms, such as curcumin powder, turmeric capsules, turmeric drinks, turmeric pills and so on. It’s important to remember that turmeric and curcumin are things that should be taken in moderation, and not large medicinal amounts. This is particularly true for curcumin supplements.

While there certainly are a myriad of benefits for turmeric and curcumin, you could use them to add flavour to  meals but this will not yield the same results as larger doses taken as a supplement. However, if you do decide to use them as a supplement, have a chat with your doctor or physician to know the right amounts to take.

If you’ve made up your mind about buying some turmeric or curcumin products, you can purchase them from websites such as Amazon.com and iHerb.com. These websites offer hundreds of products containing turmeric and curcumin, and all are designed to give you the best experience. These range from extracts to supplement tablets, each of which is tailored specifically to give you the ideal benefits as discussed in the above sections.  For the best experience, you can refer to reviews and customer feedback to obtain as much information as possible to make an informed purchase.

 

Research

[1] M. N. Tüzmen, N. C. Yücel, T. Kalburcu, and N. Demiryas, “Effects of curcumin and tannic acid on the aluminum- and lead-induced oxidative neurotoxicity and alterations in NMDA receptors,” Toxicol. Mech. Methods, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 120–127, Feb. 2015.

[2] P. Ashok and K. Upadhyaya, “Tannins are Astringent,” 2013.

[3] “Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron.” [Online]. Available: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/. [Accessed: 18-Mar-2019].

[4] “Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics for weight loss and metabolic syndrome in the microbiome era,” European Review, 14-Nov-2018.

[5] F. Di Pierro, A. Bressan, D. Ranaldi, G. Rapacioli, L. Giacomelli, and A. Bertuccioli, “Potential role of bioavailable curcumin in weight loss and omental adipose tissue decrease: preliminary data of a randomized, controlled trial in overweight people with metabolic syndrome. Preliminary study,” Eur. Rev. Med. Pharmacol. Sci., vol. 19, no. 21, pp. 4195–4202, Nov. 2015.

[6] L. Clark, “Stomach pain for hours? Symptom could be caused by THIS trendy spice,” Express.co.uk, 27-Sep-2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/859328/stomach-pain-symptoms-turmeric-gallstones. [Accessed: 18-Mar-2019].

[7] Y. Jiao et al., “Curcumin, a cancer chemopreventive, and chemotherapeutic agent, is a biologically active iron chelator,” Blood, vol. 113, no. 2, pp. 462–469, Jan. 2009.

[8] D.-C. Kim, S.-K. Ku, and J.-S. Bae, “Anticoagulant activities of curcumin and its derivative,” BMB Rep., vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 221–226, Apr. 2012.

[9] J. Ghodasara, A. Pawar, C. Deshmukh, and B. Kuchekar, “Inhibitory effect of rutin and curcumin on experimentally-induced calcium oxalate urolithiasis in rats,” Pharmacogn. Res., vol. 2, no. 6, pp. 388–392, 2010.

[10] M. Tang, D. E. Larson-Meyer, and M. Liebman, “Effect of cinnamon and turmeric on urinary oxalate excretion, plasma lipids, and plasma glucose in healthy subjects,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr., vol. 87, no. 5, pp. 1262–1267, May 2008.

[11] T. Kim, J. Davis, A. J. Zhang, X. He, and S. T. Mathews, “Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells,” Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., vol. 388, no. 2, pp. 377–382, Oct. 2009.

[12] K. Hallman et al., “The effects of turmeric (curcumin) on tumor suppressor protein (p53) and estrogen receptor (ERα) in breast cancer cells,” Breast Cancer Targets Ther., vol. 9, pp. 153–161, Mar. 2017.

[13] S. C. Gupta, S. Patchva, and B. B. Aggarwal, “Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials,” AAPS J., vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 195–218, Nov. 2012.

[14] S. Prasad and B. B. Aggarwal, “Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine,” in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd ed., I. F. F. Benzie and S. Wachtel-Galor, Eds. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.

[15] H.-Y. Lee et al., “Turmeric extract and its active compound, curcumin, protect against chronic CCl4-induced liver damage by enhancing antioxidation,” BMC Complement. Altern. Med., vol. 16, no. 1, p. 316, Aug. 2016.

[16] V. Kuptniratsaikul, S. Thanakhumtorn, P. Chinswangwatanakul, L. Wattanamongkonsil, and V. Thamlikitkul, “Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis,” J. Altern. Complement. Med. N. Y. N. Vol. 15, no. 8, pp. 891–897, Aug. 2009.

[17] A. L. Lopresti, M. Maes, G. L. Maker, S. D. Hood, and P. D. Drummond, “Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study,” J. Affect. Disord., vol. 167, pp. 368–375, 2014.

[18] J. Sanmukhani et al., “Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial,” Phytother. Res. PTR, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 579–585, Apr. 2014.

[19] J.-J. Yu, L.-B. Pei, Y. Zhang, Z.-Y. Wen, and J.-L. Yang, “Chronic Supplementation of Curcumin Enhances the Efficacy of Antidepressants in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study,” J. Clin. Psychopharmacol., vol. 35, no. 4, p. 406, Aug. 2015.

[20] K. Yoshida, S. Toden, P. Ravindranathan, H. Han, and A. Goel, “Curcumin sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine by attenuating PRC2 subunit EZH2, and the lncRNA PVT1 expression,” Carcinogenesis, vol. 38, no. 10, pp. 1036–1046, Oct. 2017.

[21] H. R. Banafshe, G. A. Hamidi, M. Noureddini, S. M. Mirhashemi, R. Mokhtari, and M. Shoferpour, “Effect of curcumin on diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain: possible involvement of opioid system,” Eur. J. Pharmacol., vol. 723, pp. 202–206, Jan. 2014.

[22] P. G. Bradford, “Curcumin and obesity,” BioFactors Oxf. Engl., vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 78–87, Feb. 2013.

[23] V. K. Goud, K. Polasa, and K. Krishnaswamy, “Effect of turmeric on xenobiotic metabolising enzymes,” Plant Foods Hum. Nutr., vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 87–92, Jul. 1993.

[24] S. C. Ng and M. A. Kamm, “Therapeutic Strategies for the Management of Ulcerative Colitis,” Inflamm. Bowel Dis., vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 935–950, Jun. 2009.

[25] P. R. Holt, S. Katz, and R. Kirshoff, “Curcumin Therapy in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Pilot Study,” Dig. Dis. Sci., vol. 50, no. 11, pp. 2191–2193, Nov. 2005.

[26] P. Usharani, A. A. Mateen, M. U. R. Naidu, Y. S. N. Raju, and N. Chandra, “Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin, and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study,” Drugs RD, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 243–250, 2008.

[27] D. Akbik, M. Ghadiri, W. Chrzanowski, and R. Rohanizadeh, “Curcumin as a wound healing agent,” Life Sci., vol. 116, no. 1, pp. 1–7, Oct. 2014.

[28] V. Charles and S. X. Charles, “The use and efficacy of Azadirachta indica ADR (‘Neem’) and Curcuma longa (‘Turmeric’) in scabies. A pilot study.,” Trop. Geogr. Med., vol. 44, no. 1–2, pp. 178–181, Jan. 1992.