What is turmeric?
While Turmeric has been shown to have many medicinal properties, it is also important to understand whether turmeric interacts with any medications you may already be taking.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a yellow-orange spice, has its origins in India and is one of the most widely used spices in Asia. Because of its bright yellow color, it’s often called the “Indian Saffron.” Turmeric is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds called curcuminoids.
Turmeric, with its bitter and peppery taste, has been used as a culinary spice in India for at least 4,000 years. It also has several medicinal properties that have long been in use in India and South Asia. It's widely cultivated in many tropical countries. Modern medicine has recognized the importance and benefits of this spice.
India accounts for almost 80% of the turmeric production globally, with countries such as China, Myanmar, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan being other significant producers. Currently, Asian countries account for almost 90% of the turmeric consumption in the world.
Turmeric is mainly eaten as a powder made by drying and grinding the rhizome. Although more than 100 components have been extracted from turmeric, curcuminoids are the main active compounds. Curcumin is the most widely researched curcuminoid that makes up almost 4% of turmeric and is also the one that offers the most extensive health benefits.
What are the health benefits of turmeric?
Rich in antioxidants
Curcumin is an effective antioxidant that prevents cellular damage due to the ill effects of free radicals. This damage can lead to other complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases which harm healthy cells in the central nervous system.
Inflammation is a persistent physiological process caused by many conditions. Research has shown that curcumin reduces inflammation and also helps treat symptoms of inflammatory health conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis, and atherosclerosis, among others.
Lowers the risk of heart attacks
Inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to the onset of cardiovascular diseases. The many benefits of curcumin are believed to have the potential to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by enhancing the activity of the endothelium, a thin membrane inside the heart and blood vessels.
Reinforces neurological health
Many neurodegenerative conditions affect neurons (brain cells) that lead to the death of neurons. Curcumin is also known to help with several neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and multiple sclerosis. Research has shown that curcumin’s anti-protein collecting and anti-inflammatory properties block the substances that lead to inflammation in the brain.
Protects against cancer
Studies have shown that curcumin effectively slows the growth of cancerous cells and enhances the rate of cancer cell death. Curcumin also prevents the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
Many researchers are looking into applications of curcumin in treating several types of cancer, including lung, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Curcumin is also known to modify many side effects due to toxicities caused by chemotherapy.
Side effects of turmeric
Although turmeric is mostly considered safe, it’s always good to watch your dosage to prevent any side effects. When taken as part of your diet, turmeric does not affect your bodily processes but may hinder the actions of some of your current medications.
Research suggests that curcumin may alter drug efficacy, especially antidepressants, anticoagulants, antibiotics, antihistamines, chemotherapeutic, and cardiovascular drugs. The active ingredient in turmeric can inhibit the enzyme and protein components of these drugs, reducing their effectiveness.
- Curcumin is an effective blood thinner and prevents blood clots. This anticoagulation may lead to hemorrhage (extensive blood loss) if you already take blood thinners.
- Turmeric’s active ingredient is also known to aid digestion by increasing the acid levels in the stomach, which enhances metabolism. But if you’ve been prescribed antacids, turmeric could impede the effectiveness of these drugs.
- If you’re undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy for any form of cancer, you should keep in mind that curcumin inhibits the antitumor activity of chemotherapeutic drugs.
- In some cases, curcumin may also cause gallstones. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones or any other form of biliary blockage, check with your doctor before you eat turmeric.
Is turmeric safe if you have high blood pressure?
One of the concerns of health practitioners worldwide is the interaction between herbs and drugs used to treat various conditions. For example, angiotensin, a protein hormone, is an essential part of the physiological function in your body that regulates blood pressure. It causes your blood vessels to become narrower, increasing blood pressure. The protein also increases sodium retention in the kidneys, which also causes a spike in blood pressure.
Turmeric affects the formation of angiotensin and reduces blood pressure. If you’re already on medications to control your blood pressure, this can have an adverse effect.
So, although curcumin has several medical applications, it can still impact drug effectiveness and enzyme functions in your body. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any turmeric supplements, as they would be able to explain possible interactions with existing medications that you are taking.
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Research over the years has proved the favorable effects of turmeric on human health, with doses as high as 12 grams per day for three months considered safe. But some people who have had doses of less than 12 grams per day have reported symptoms, including but not limited to nausea, diarrhea, and headache.
Check with your doctor before taking curcumin supplements, especially if you’re on medications. Also, make sure that you buy good-quality supplements, as sometimes supplements may contain low-quality fillers.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
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If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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