In the arena of alternative medicine, there’s a lot of snake oil. But turmeric, a golden spice historically used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, is one ingredient that has some real scientific backing to support its use, including for pain reduction.
The touted benefits of turmeric are due primarily to the spice’s active compound, curcumin, which Chopra said is “the most widely researched phytochemical with proven clinical benefits.”
Curcumin affects pathways in the body that enhance immunity, reduce inflammation, and lessen pain — making it one of the most effective superfoods out there, Chopra said.
The health benefits of turmeric
What’s more, turmeric, which you can cook with or take in supplement form, neutralizes harmful free radicals, which can contribute to a plethora of ailments.
The benefits don’t end there, the health guru said. As a complementary therapy, curcumin has the potential to help:
- Improve symptoms of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
- Lessen chemotherapy and radiation side effects in people receiving cancer treatment
- Enhance mood and increase the efficacy of depression treatments
- Lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as liver fat, thereby helping fight obesity and fatty liver disease
- Reduce the need of heart medications, including aspirin and warfarin, thanks to its anticoagulant effects
- Fend off inflammation associated with conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, obesity, alcoholism, and hepatitis B
- Alleviate chronic pain associated with a variety of conditions
How to take turmeric or curcumin
Chopra emphasized the importance of choosing curcumin over turmeric to reap the possible benefits of this spice.
“Turmeric contains 2 to 3 percent curcumin by weight; the remainder of turmeric has little pharmacological value,” Chopra said. “The curcumin is effective, while turmeric itself is not. It is therefore advisable to take curcumin rather than turmeric to achieve an effect on health, or to address a disease.”
Because of the way the body processes turmeric, it’s best absorbed when taken with black pepper (such as when cooking with turmeric) or in a supplement that is nanoformulated, he added.
“Turmeric broadly serves the dietary needs of health and wellness seekers, and addresses numerous health-related pinnacles,” Chopra said.