Turmeric: A healthy addition to your diet - NL-039
Turmeric is a well-known spice that has been used in India for thousands of years. It is used both as a culinary spice that adds flavour and colour to curries, as well as a medicinal herb that is highly revered for its role in reducing pain and inflammation. In Ayurveda, it has been extensively used to manage a wide range of health conditions such as cold, upper respiratory tract infections, liver disorders, skin problems, joint pain and digestive issues.
While curcumin is the main bio-active ingredient in turmeric, this golden spice is loaded with many other bioactive compounds that contribute to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nature. Its ability to reduce pain and inflammation is so effective that it has been compared to modern drugs. It has been found that turmeric may be as effective, if not more effective, than many conventional over the counter and prescription drugs in reducing pain and inflammation.
Curcuminoids present in the spice target many enzymes and proteins that are notorious for promoting inflammation and associated symptoms such as pain and swelling. Synthetic painkillers like ibuprofen block the production of both COX1 and COX2 enzymes, where COX2 are the group of enzymes that increase inflammation. What makes turmeric exciting is that it only targets the inflammation triggering COX2 enzymes and does not impact the activity and production of COX1 enzymes that are actually beneficial to the body. Curcumin also blocks the activity and production of other pro-inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines and NF-κB. That is why turmeric supplements are very useful in managing painful symptoms for people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. [1-2]
Other high quality evidence shows that adding turmeric to your diet can be beneficial for your brain, heart and metabolic health. As a powerful antioxidant, curcumin also protects tissues from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It reduces the risk of heart disease as it improves the function of endothelium, the inner lining of your blood vessels. Improved endothelial function helps regulate your blood pressure and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. Turmeric also reduces other heart-related risk factors such as high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Excessively high blood sugar levels damage both large and tiny blood vessels – leading to cardiovascular disease and other complications such as kidney disorders. Curcumin protects beta cells of pancreas from oxidative damage, improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar levels. 
Turmeric is also good for brain health and improves memory, mood and cognitive functions. It has been found helpful in those suffering from depression,  brain fog and anxiety. Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it prevents free-radical induced oxidative damage and reduces inflammation in the brain cells. These are some of the mechanisms through which it helps support brain health and delays age-related cognitive decline. Some early studies also show its benefits in Alzheimer's disease.
- Chin KY et al. The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016
- V Kuptniratsaikul et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014
- Marton et al. The Effects of Curcumin on Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review. Front. Endocrinol. 2021
- Ng QX et al. Clinical Use of Curcumin in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017