Turmeric is a bright yellow spice which has been labelled a super food by herbalists worldwide. The “golden spice of life” has been used in India for thousands of years for both culinary and nutritional purposes.
A relative of ginger, turmeric’s make-up is what really makes it pack a punch. It contains compounds called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
This particular compound is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful soothing effects and is a very strong antioxidant which, when combined, can have widespread health, and wider, benefits that we explore in this article…
What is turmeric?
It’s a brightly coloured spice that comes from the turmeric plant. Interestingly, the turmeric plant is related to ginger and originates from India and other parts of Asia and Central America.1
Using turmeric dates all the way back to 4,000 years ago in India.2
Historically, it’s mainly been used in Ayurvedic medicine, primarily in South Asia, for many conditions, including breathing problems, rheumatism, serious pain and fatigue.
Turmeric is perhaps best known for being used as a major ingredient in curry powder, giving it its vibrant colour. It’s the curcuminoids, AKA curcumins, that give turmeric its striking colour, so much so, they’re often used to colour food and cosmetics.1
Turmeric is a spice that’s widely used in Asian cooking, as well as Ayurvedic medicine. It contains one compound in particular called curcumin, which is renowned for its soothing and antioxidant properties.
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Turmeric is a spice that’s widely used in Asian cooking, as well as Ayurvedic medicine. It contains one compound in particular called curcumin, which is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers.
How much turmeric should you take a day?
The ideal dosage is between half a teaspoon to one teaspoon of turmeric powder a day, with food. However, if you’re just getting started with or 2.5 to 5g seems like a bit too much for you, it’s ok to take a smaller dose, around 500 to 2,000mg.3
Aside from turmeric powder, other forms of turmeric include the whole root, extract and tablets or capsules. If you decide on turmeric tablets or capsules, look for ones that contain both turmeric and black pepper.
Curcumin on its own isn't absorbed very efficiently in the body, but taking turmeric with black pepper enhances absorption dramatically.
What’s more, research has found consuming turmeric with a fat source, e.g. olive oil, avocados and nut butter, can also promote absorption.
The recommended dose of turmeric is between 2.5 to 5g a day, but if you prefer a little less, then drop it to 500 to 2,000mg a day. It can be taken in all sorts of forms, ranging from whole root and turmeric extract, to tablets and turmeric capsules.
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10 health benefits of turmeric
If you’re wondering whether you should try adding turmeric to your diet, here are 10 health (and wider) benefits associated with it:
- Adds flavour and colour to food
It’s the main ingredient in most curry powders and it’s also used to give chutneys and pickles (such as piccalilli) their vibrant and highly-distinctive yellow colour.
- Helps with digestion
Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant that stimulates the gallbladder to produce more bile, which helps the body digest fat more easily.
Turmeric’s digestion-boosting qualities have also potentially been linked to helping aid gut sensitivities and gut permeability – these two areas are among the more recent turmeric-health research studies to be carried out.
Turmeric’s also being explored as management for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).4
- Acts as a powerful soothing agent
Can be just as effective as some drugs for people who suffer from IBS, Crohn’s disease and arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends taking 400 to 600mg turmeric tablets up to three times per day for relief.5
Turmeric is also believed to be able to help soothe sprains, settle upset stomachs, stop diarrhea and manage bloating.6
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- May help ease arthritis
Turmeric’s soothing properties have been compared to those of non-steroidal drugs.
Clinical trials have found it to be more effective than a placebo for relieving pain and swelling in people with osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.7
- May reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Some research has found that the antioxidant and soothing effects of curcumin may help reverse some of the phases of heart disease, such as atherosclerosis and atrial arrhythmias.
Curcumin also improves the function of the endothelium, which works by helping to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting, among many other things.7
- Improves liver function
In addition to helping protect your heart, the antioxidant effect of turmeric is reportedly so great, it may prevent your liver from being damaged by toxins.8
- Moisturises dry skin
Turmeric can deeply hydrate and revitalise skin while alleviating symptoms of dryness.
It does this by naturally speeding up the process of removing dead skin cells to reveal healthy and soft skin, while also protecting skin cells from further damage.9
- Makes teeth sparkle
When making homemade toothpaste, believe it or not, turmeric can be added to your mixture!
Despite its colour, it actually happens to be a natural tooth whitener and is also good for reducing toothache and sensitivity.
What’s more, some people choose to add it to their moisturisers because it can help leave skin looking vibrant, clear up breakouts and manage the prominence of dark circles and stretchmarks.9
- Repels insects
Rather than putting down chemical powders to deter insects, it’s perfectly possible to use turmeric as a natural repellent instead. Ants and other insects don’t like it and will retreat.
One clinical study, in which essential oil from turmeric rhizome was used, turmeric was found to give 100% protection against mosquitos.
It prevented wild mosquitos from both landing and biting study volunteers for up to 9 hours. It also fully repelled black flies for 9 hours and land leeches for a minimum of 8 hours.10
- Gets rid of dandruff
It’s possible to make a dandruff-fighting hair mixture that contains turmeric.
It’s believed that regularly using a turmeric-infused scalp mask works by rejuvenating dry skin which, in turn, helps manage the number of dandruff flakes over time.9
Try this - Simply combine ½ teaspoon of turmeric with coconut oil or milk and then mix the ingredients all together until they form a smooth paste. Apply the paste to your scalp and leave it to work its magic for around one to two hours. Rinse the mixture off with warm water. Repeat once a week.
The health and wider health benefits of turmeric are widespread. From helping to manage sensitivities, easing arthritis and helping digestion, to giving food an extra hit of flavour, brightening your smile and moisturising your skin.
Hot to take Tumeric
Try blending a handful of ice, frozen spinach chunks, frozen berries, almond milk and a banana, with half a teaspoon of turmeric. The spice can potentially help your body fight sensitivities, which is perfect if you drink your smoothie before or after a workout.
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Unlike a regular latte, you don’t need any coffee to create this natural energy booster. Gently warm a cup of almond or coconut milk in a pan.
Then whisk in 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric, together with some powdered ginger and cinnamon, as well as a teaspoon of coconut oil.
Stir some turmeric powder into scrambled eggs or tofu, dust it over the top of poached eggs, or add it to omelettes.
The mild earthy taste is an ideal partner and the vibrant colour of your eggs is something else!
How about tossing your roasted root vegetables with a little turmeric powder just before serving?
Or maybe you may want to dust your homemade potato wedges or sweet potato chips with the golden powder? It’s quick and easy, give it a go.
Bump up your leafy green veg’s nutritional profile that bit more by stirring a teaspoon of turmeric powder into a dish of steaming hot greens just before serving.
A dash of turmeric powder is the perfect addition to homemade soups, especially if you’re feeling under the weather and need a soothing ingredient to help your body heal.
It gives a lovely mild and creamy taste, with just a subtle hint of spice.
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Turn your white rice golden by adding turmeric powder. Sprinkle some turmeric over your cooked rice before serving or you can add it to the cooking water as your rice is simmering instead.
This delicious snack is full of fibre, which means it can keep you feeling fuller for longer. Eat it on its own or mash it together with some salt and black pepper and enjoy it on some crackers.
Walnuts are already a healthy brain food that taste great when covered in turmeric.
Mix a splash of olive oil in a bowl with a hearty shake of turmeric, sea salt and black pepper, and then stir in a few handfuls of raw walnuts, coating well.
Spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take them out of the oven once they’re lightly toasted.3
Yes, that’s right. Turmeric is available in supplement form. You can take turmeric tablets, capsules or softgels that contain just turmeric.
Or you can take turmeric supplements that have been carefully blended with complementary and results-enhancing ingredients, such as mushrooms, ginger and black pepper.
If you don’t like taking tablets, you also buy turmeric supplements in liquid form.
And finally, if you just want to feel the benefits of curcumin, then it’s possible to just take supplements that contain just curcumin.
Seasoning’s always good, regardless of what type of fish you’re cooking.
Next time you’ve got some fish cooking and reach out for your salt and pepper, also grab some turmeric too. You can sprinkle some of it before or after baking, grilling or pan-frying your fish to give it that extra turmeric twist.3
Bone broth’s already renowned for its soothing qualities, which you can amplify by adding a couple of teaspoons of turmeric to your recipe.
Combine 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk, with 1 cup of bone broth, 2 teaspoons of turmeric, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper, 1 teaspoon raw honey, and ¼ teaspoon ginger powder in a blender.
Heat the mixture in a saucepan over a medium heat for three to five minutes, then drink it warm.3
There are so many ways you can add turmeric to your life! They include sipping away on turmeric tea, sprinkling it on your fish, nuts and avocado, as well as stirring it into your bone broth and soup, it’s incredibly versatile!
The final say
There’s a lot (of good stuff) to take in about turmeric, isn’t there? Aside from potentially delivering several health and wider benefits, there are even more ways you can incorporate it into your life.
Curcumin’s pretty powerful stuff though, so make sure you stick to the recommended doses and if you have any health concerns, speak to your GP first before you start experimenting with the list of 12 ways you can take turmeric listed above.
Did you know it’s also possible to zing up your morning oats with turmeric? If you like the sound of this, check out the recipe in this article, ‘Turmeric, Manuka Honey & Ginger Overnight Oats.’
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 9 September 2022