In case you didn’t notice, we’ve been going turmeric crazy at 13 Seeds headquarters!
Why are we so excited about turmeric? Well, we just launched our first ever turmeric supplement called 13 Seeds TheraJoint+
13 Seeds TheraJoint+ is one of the highest quality turmeric products on the market, but how exactly does turmeric work? And how does it produce these amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body?
In this blog we’ll explain how turmeric works in the body, the difference between turmeric and curcumin, and 10 reasons why you should consider taking a turmeric supplement.
What’s the difference between turmeric & curcumin?
Let’s start with the basics! Turmeric comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a flowering plant of the ginger family. Turmeric contains many plant substances, but one group, curcuminoids, is responsible for its health-promoting benefits (24, 25).
The three most notable curcuminoids are curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Of these, curcumin is the most active and beneficial curcuminoid for health that can explain turmeric’s powerful anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties (26, 27).
Think of it like this… turmeric is a herbal ingredient, similar to how coffee is a herbal ingredient. The active component in coffee is caffeine, while the active compound in turmeric is curcumin. Think of curcumin in turmeric the same way you think of caffeine in coffee!
1. Turmeric is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory!
Acute inflammation is important as it helps our body to heal, however chronic inflammation has been linked to the progression of a variety of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, asthma, and psoriasis. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric that has powerful anti-inflammatory effects by blocking inflammatory pathways (1, 2).
There have been a large number of number of studies that have examined the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin. Curcumin has shown to inhibit inflammatory chemicals such as arachidonic acid (AA) and exert anti-inflammatory effects via many inflammatory chemicals that include phospholipase, lipo-oxygenase (LOX), COX-2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins (PGs), nitric oxide (NO), collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, IFN-inducible protein, TNF and IL-12 (3, 4).
2. Turmeric is also a potent antioxidant
Antioxidants are molecules in the body that help to fight free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm in the body if their levels become too high resulting in oxidative stress (a type of inflammation) that can lead to multiple conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer (5).
Curcumin exerts its potent antioxidant effects by activating our NrF2 gene, that has an important role in reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. The NrF2 pathway has been referred to as the ‘master antioxidant switch’ and the guardian and gatekeeper for health and longevity (4, 6, 7).
Activation of the NrF2 pathway creates a subsequent production of proteins and antioxidant enzymes that helps to regulate a large network of genes that protect our cells that is critical for the body’s ability to cope with internal and external stressors such as inflammation and oxidative stress. Furthermore, turmeric also enhances the activity of our own antioxidants such as glutathione (3, 8).
3. Turmeric can reduce and relieve mild joint inflammation and arthritis
Curcumin has been traditionally used in Western herbal medicine, ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine to decrease and relieve mild joint inflammation, swelling and mild arthritis (7).
In 2016, a systematic review of randomized clinical trials (gold standard of research) found that 1000mg a day of curcumin reduced osteoarthritis pain and inflammation as effective as common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that included ibuprofen. While another 2016 study suggested that curcumin may help to prevent the breakdown of bone in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (9).
4. Turmeric may help regulate menstruation and relieve menstrual pain
Typically, a healthy menstrual cycle is around 28 days, however this can vary from woman to woman and month to month. It’s important to note that a woman’s menstrual cycle is still considered regular even if the cycle fluctuates between 24 - 38 days. However, menstrual cycles can become heavy, prolonged and irregular that can be caused by a variety of factors that include medical conditions, medications, and hormone imbalances (10, 11, 12).
Turmeric is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to promote the flow of qi (energy) and relieve the pain of menstruation due to blood stasis. While turmeric has also been used in Ayurvedic practices to help regulate menstruation (13).
5. Turmeric may support respiratory conditions
Our body and cells need oxygen to survive. Our respiratory system is primarily responsible for bringing oxygen into the body and removing carbon dioxide out of the body that helps to remove metabolic waste products and balance our pH levels (learn more about pH levels here!).
However, like anything in the body we can also have complications with respiratory system resulting in respiratory conditions. You might know them more commonly as asthma, bronchitis, allergies and even the common cold! In ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for various respiratory conditions that include asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, allergies, runny nose, and the cough (13).
6. Turmeric may support liver disorders
Your liver is a major organ in your body that has a crucial role in detoxification by filtering toxins out of your bloodstream and removing them from the body. It also has an important role in metabolism and energy regulation by digesting food and then converting it into energy for storage, while also providing energy to your body when you need it (14).
There are many different types of liver disorders that include hepatitis and fatty liver disorders. In ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for liver disorders and is also used in Herbal Medicine as a liver protectant (7, 13).
7. Turmeric is comparable with common anti-inflammatory drugs
Common anti-inflammatory drugs can have dangerous side effects. The natural anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin is comparable with steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that include indomethacin, phenylbutazone, diclofenac, and ibuprofen.
Curcumin exerts its anti-inflammatory effect by blocking the same inflammatory chemicals that many of these anti-inflammatory drug’s target that include 5-LOX (LOX) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX) pathways. Considering turmeric is generally safe to consume and has little side effects (*see contradictions/warnings at the bottom) it may be a better alternative treatment for conditions characterised by inflammation such as arthritis and joint pain (9, 3, 15).
8. Curcumin can help to support digestion
Digestive aids have been traditionally used in Western herbal medicine to relive many symptoms of digestive complications that include flatulence, indigestion, discomfort, stomach pain and feelings of fullness.
Curcumin is used in herbal medicine to aid digestion by helping to relieve indigestion, improve bile excretion by the liver, and stimulate contraction of the gallbladder. In ayurvedic practices, turmeric is also used to improve digestion and dissolve gallstones. (3, 7).
9. Turmeric may reduce fatigue and promote longevity
Fatigue is a common complication for many people. One study found that curcumin is valuable treatment option in mice with chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers explain that this may be due to curcumin’s ability to reduce oxidative stress through its immune system effects (16, 17). While another study found that curcumin supplementation may help to improve exercise performance while also preventing fatigue!
A study conducted by the Immunity & Ageing Journal explains how ageing is manifested by decreasing health status and increased probability to acquire age-related disease such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, metabolic disorders and others chronic conditions. Authors believe these conditions are likely caused by low grade inflammation driven by oxidative stress and inflammation. Suggesting that turmeric may be able to improve the health status of older adults due to curcumin’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (18).
Turmeric has been associated with improved brain function. Curcumin has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein in the brain that plays a role in the growth of new neurons (nerves in the brain) that can help to improve learning and memory (19, 20, 21).
There are common brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease that have been linked to lower levels of BDNF, further supporting curcumin’s potential role in reducing these conditions through its ability to increase BDNF.
A small trial found that 1gm of curcumin may be as effective as fluoxetine (a common antidepressant) in treating depression. While most of the other studies have only been done in mice so far, it’s still exciting to think that turmeric may be able to support depression, improve brain function and reduce memory loss (22, 23, 24).
Contraindications & precautions
Turmeric is contraindicated in bile duct obstruction and high doses are probably best avoided in males and females wanting to conceive.
Curcumin is also contraindicated in breast cancer patients treated with cyclophosphamide, which found that curcumin reduced the tumour regression effects of chemotherapy
Due to anti-platelet activity and possible increased risk of bleeding, use of concentrated extracts should be suspended 1 week prior to major surgery; however, usual dietary intakes are likely to be safe.
Speak to your doctor if you have a medical condition or you take anti-platelet drugs, anticoagulants, or cyclophosphamide before supplementing with turmeric (23).
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above.