1. Curcumin Is an Anti-Inflammatory
One of turmeric’s main claims to fame is that it’s commonly used to fight inflammation, and the bulk of turmeric’s inflammation-fighting powers can be credited to curcumin. In fact, in the right dose, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than common inflammation-fighting medications such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin, according to a past study. (4). This in turn can help with ache and pains associated with joint pain.
2. Curcumin May Protect Against Heart Disease
A past study shows that curcumin may improve endothelial function, or the health of the thin membrane that covers the inside of the heart and blood vessels. This membrane plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. (6) Lower endothelial function is associated with aging and an increased risk of heart disease. Thus, curcumin may help protect against age-related loss of function and reduce your likelihood of developing heart disease.
In one study, researchers compared the effects of an eight-week aerobic exercise program and a curcumin supplement in improving endothelial function in postmenopausal women. Both the exercise and the curcumin group saw equal improvements in endothelial function, whereas the control group saw no changes. (7)
Another study found that curcumin was equally effective at improving endothelial function in people with type 2 diabetes (heart disease is a common comorbidity of type 2) as the drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), a medication commonly prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. (8,9,10)
Still, more research is needed to determine if curcumin is a safe and effective long-term treatment strategy for people with heart disease.
3. Curcumin May Help Ease Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may be a safe and effective long-term treatment option for people with osteoarthritis (OA). In a past study, people with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg/day of Meriva experienced significant improvements in stiffness and physical function after eight months, whereas the control group saw no improvements. Meriva is a proprietary treatment made up of a natural curcuminoid mixture (75 percent curcumin; 15 percent demethoxycurcumin; and 10 percent bisdemethoxycurcumin), phosphatidylcholine (a chemical found in eggs, soybeans, and other foods), and microcrystalline cellulose (a refined wood pulp commonly used by the pharmaceutical and food industries). (12,13,14)
4. Turmeric May Play a Role in Treating Depression
Depression is also associated with lower levels of BDNF. Thanks to turmeric’s ability to boost levels of BDNF, the spice shows promise as an effective antidepressant.
In a study in humans that was published in the April 2014 issue of Phytotherapy Research, researchers randomly assigned 60 patients with major depressive disorder to one of three groups: one group received daily 20 mg of fluoxetine (Prozac is a common brand name), another received 1,000 mg of curcumin, and a third received a combination of the two. By the end of six weeks, the three groups saw comparable improvements, leading researchers to suggest that curcumin may be a safe and effective treatment for major depressive disorder. (26,27)
5. Curcumin May Play a Role in Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Curcumin shows promise as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that commonly affects the joints but may spread to other areas, such as the eyes, lungs, skin, heart, and blood vessels. (29) RA causes a painful swelling of the joints that can cause the bones to erode over time and ultimately lead to deformities and physical disabilities. (29)
In one study, people with RA were given 500 mg of curcumin, 50 mg of diclofenac sodium(a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), or the two in combination. (30) After eight weeks, the curcumin-only group saw significant improvements in joint tenderness and swelling when compared with the other two groups. Researchers note the curcumin treatment was also safe, resulting in no harmful events. (31)
6. Turmeric May Improve Skin Health
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, turmeric may be an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including acne, eczema (atopic dermatitis), photoaging, and psoriasis. Yet robust research is lacking.
One review published in the January 2018 issue of Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences suggests oral curcumin in particular may be an effective and safe treatment option for psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease), but more studies are needed before making recommendations. (32)
7. Turmeric Protects Your Body From Free Radicals
Antioxidants help protect your body against damage caused by free radicals, a class of highly reactive atoms that are generated in our bodies, as well as in environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke and industrial chemicals. (34) Too much exposure to free radicals can mess with the fats, proteins, and even DNA in your body, which may lead to a number of common diseases and health conditions, including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. (34) Therefore, antioxidant-rich spices like turmeric may play a role in protecting you from free radical damage.
Curcumin in particular is able to scavenge different types of free radicals, control enzymes that neutralize free radicals, and prevent certain enzymes from creating specific free radical types, according to a review in the October 2017 issue of Foods. (35)
8. Turmeric May Work As an Anti-Aging Supplement
Currently, there’s no evidence that turmeric or curcumin directly influence longevity, but thanks to their ability to fight inflammation, protect your body against free radicals, and potentially delay brain degeneration and other age-related diseases, turmeric and curcumin may be effective anti-aging supplements, according to past research. (36)