Over the last few years, turmeric has become THE hot superfood and supplement of the nutrition industry and there seems to be no end to novel uses for it. In clinic and observationally we come across it is as possibly the most commonly self-prescribed supplement.
Turmeric is in fact an age old aromatic spice used in Indian and Asian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine and was being used as far back as 4000 years ago as a remedy to everything from sinuses, diabetic wounds, and respiratory conditions (1).
SO WHAT'S THE CURRENT HYPE ABOUT?
Turmeric is packed with many active compounds thought to exert benefits on our health, but the most studied and the protagonist of all the recent hype encouraging us to eat or supplement with turmeric is Curcumin. Curcumin is proposed to exert anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant effects in the body and has been researched for a wide range of uses. However not all studies come back with conclusive evidence to support its use and role in these. The most promising evidence so far is for its use as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
We know that chronic oxidative stress (caused by highly reactive molecules in the body which aren’t neutralised ) is one of the mechanisms that contributes to diseases, such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and many others. In a study conducted on patients with a blood disorder, curcumin supplementation (by 500mg/day) reduced oxidative stress markers in the blood after one year (2). Similarly, curcumin protected against DNA damage in 286 participants, and normalised the body’s anti-oxidant system (3). Therefore, there is quite significant evidence to show that curcumin is effective as an antioxidant.
It is thought that curcumin can suppress the action of inflammatory compounds that are released by the body in response to conditions driven by chronic inflammation such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular diseases, depression, colitis and more (5) In a review of research trials, it was observed that curcumin supplementation relieved symptoms of osteoarthritis effectively compared to placebo (6). In particular curcumin was noted to reduce pain severity and swelling in the joints
Although more research is needed for concrete evidence the science thus far shows that via anti-inflammatory and anti- oxidant mechanisms turmeric, specifically curcumin, shows therapeutic effects on certain conditions. In particular when used as a complement to treatment of arthritis designed relieve painful symptoms turmeric has been shown to be particularly effective.
The caveat to this is that, to date all trials used doses that are generally only achievable by supplementation (200-1000mg/day) so having a turmeric latte or sprinkling some on your food will not have the same effect..
It is our experience that there are no quick fixes to good health. We also believe that all nutrients and foods work synergistically in the body and you cannot rely on one specific compound, nutrient or food as a panacea for good health. Turmeric when used as a complement to a healthy diet, an appropriate exercise routine and a balanced lifestyle may possibly relieve symptoms of inflammatory diseases. .