Food as Medicine – Turmeric

I hope to do a series of posts on food as medicine so what better way to kick off with the wonder that is Turmeric.

When I say turmeric, what I really mean is curcumin the main active ingredient that gives this spice its yellow colour. 

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Currently, there are over 12,500 peer-reviewed articles published demonstrating the benefits of curcumin.  Am impressive number making turmeric probably the most researched herb of all time.

Mostly known for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, it’s also a powerful antioxidant, demonstrates many positive outcomes on the gastrointestinal tract as a whole and has also been studied in relation to depression and Alzheimers disease amongst others.


Before you think, ‘oh that’s great, I’ll throw an extra spoonful of turmeric in when I’m making a curry and try one of those turmeric lattes and reap the health benefits’ read on.

It’s very difficult to reach really therapeutic levels using it in food alone. Most of the data is for dosages of curcumin at 1000mg which can only be achieved in supplement form.  That said, I still advise increasing usage of turmeric in food form for some clients particularly where gut health is concerned.  Some ideas on how to do this below.

Another known issue is bioavailability which is how well it is absorbed by the body, even in supplement form.  This is overcome in many ways such as the addition of piperine (the component in black pepper) and the usage of phospholipids and liposomes being others.

So what are the benefits?

  • Anti-Inflammatory – short term inflammation is a good thing.  Chronic inflammation however is a different story.  Curcumin has been shown in several studies to have positive effects of the pain and inflammation associated with both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Has also been shown to decrease exercise induced inflammation and muscle soreness. 

  • Antioxidant – acts as a powerful antioxidant.  We need antioxidants to counter the effects of free radicals which are one of the mechanisms involved in aging and cardiovascular disease for example.  Free radical accumulation is inevitable so it’s important to have enough antioxidants to counteract them.
  • Gut Health – stimulates bile production for digestion and absorption of fat soluble nutrients, has shown very promising outcomes in studies carried out with IBD (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis).  More recent studies demonstrate that it can increase intestinal immune function, increase bacterial species diversity so overall a big thumbs up for turmeric and digestive health.

How to increase turmeric in your diet

  • Try ‘golden milk’ or turmeric tea.
  • Add fresh turmeric root or the powder in a smoothie. I will post a recipe tomorrow.
  • Mix a teaspoon with a little olive oil and a twist of black pepper and eat off the spoon.
  • Use liberally in soups, curries, marinades.  On roasted veg or sweet potato and egg dishes

What about supplements?

If supplementation is needed, make sure the dosage is adequate, that the product has good bioavailability.  Importantly, carefully check contraindications with any medication that you are taking and don’t take if you are pregnant.   Better still, consult a NTOI registered nutritional therapist who will advise and guide you.

Overall – natural, safe and effective.  Food truly is medicine.

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  1. Ciara, is it OK to take turmeric with heart meds-statins and blood pressure. Thanks

    • Hi Maureen,

      It’s absolutely fine with statins. It’s not advised with blood thinners (Warfarin, Heparin, Aspirin, Plavix) as turmeric itself can thin the blood.
      Turmeric can lower blood pressure also so high doses in supplement form would be contraindicated with BP meds. Fine in food form though.

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