Turmeric is a spice that has long been recognized for its medicinal properties. Over recent years it has received interest from both the medical world and from culinary enthusiasts, as it is the major source of the polyphenol curcumin. There is an increasing body of evidence to show that curcumin has many effects on health. These include benefits to:
• The brain and nervous system
• The endocrine system
• Cardiovascular health
• Skin health
• Digestive health.
Additionally it has been shown to aid the management of:
• Oxidative and inflammatory conditions
• Metabolic syndrome
• Exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and performance in active people.
• Cancer – due to its anti-apoptotic properties
Curcumin has an excellent safety profile even at doses of 12g a day. That said, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions. Most of these benefits can be attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (1,2).
Even though curcumin has all these wonderful properties, ingesting it by itself may not lead to the associated health benefits due to its poor bio availability as it is poorly absorbed and rapidly metabolised and eliminated. Thankfully there are several components that can increase bio availability. For example, piperine is the major active component of black pepper and, when combined in a complex with curcumin, has been shown to increase bioavailability by a whopping 2000% (1,2). Consuming turmeric with oil may also increase the bioavailability of curcumin.
The microbiome is currently the hottest topic in the field of health. The gut microbiome refers to all the organisms in the gut. Research suggests that the greater the diversity of species in the microbiome of any individual the better their health is likely to be. Conversely, a loss in species diversity is a common finding in several disease states. Again, turmeric can help here as taking supplements containing turmeric with piperine appears to increase the range of species in the microbiome in healthy humans although responses vary from person to person (Peterson).