Turmeric and its health benefits. Is it risky in pregnancy?

Turmeric and its health benefits. Is it risky in pregnancy?
Photo source: Getty images

Almost everyone knows turmeric in the form of yellow-orange powder. It is known for its specific taste and beneficial effects on human health. What is turmeric and what does it contain? What are its health benefits?


Turmeric has been used in Asia for thousands of years. It grows mainly in India and Indonesia. It is related to ginger and is popular for its anti-inflammatory properties.

It is used in various cultures as a kitchen ingredient, spice, flavoring, natural dye and natural medicine.

You can read about turmeric, curcumin content, effects, risks, weight loss, consumption in pregnancy and many other interesting information in the article.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a tropical plant from the dicotyledonous (ginger) family. It is also called Indian saffron, golden spice or yellow ginger. It is technically called Curcuma longa and the plant has many different species.

It is the rhizome of the plant that contains many health benefits.

Turmeric is extracted from the roots of the plant, which go through a process of boiling, drying and grinding to produce the familiar deep yellow-orange powder.

The most important component of turmeric is an antioxidant called curcumin. The active ingredient, curcumin, has an earthy, bitter and spicy taste. To some, it may slightly remind them of the taste of mustard and black pepper.

As a spice, it is most commonly used in Indian and Thai cuisine.

Forms of turmeric processing:

  • Whole rhizomes
  • Ground powder (spice)
  • Extract in capsules
  • Extract in liquid form

What does turmeric contain?

The main ingredient in turmeric is the antioxidant curcumin, which is found in many dietary supplements. Curcumin has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is both antibacterial and antiseptic.

It supports the immune system, the body's defences and has a beneficial effect on many of the body's internal systems.

In addition to curcumin, the turmeric plant contains antioxidants, dietary fibre, organic acids, capsaicin, carotenoids, minerals and vitamins of groups C, B and E. Among the minerals we can mention iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus or manganese.

Rhizomes (roots) of Curcuma longa
The rhizomes (roots) of the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa). Source: Getty Images

Internal use

What are its effects, you ask?

What are the health benefits of turmeric?

What are the health benefits of turmeric?

Anti-inflammatory effects (immunity support)

One of the main benefits and effects of turmeric is that it is effective in fighting inflammation. According to various studies, the substance curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory natural remedy for acute and chronic conditions of various body systems.

Studies have shown a reduction in CRP (reactive protein, as a major indicator of inflammation) levels in the blood as a result of consuming curcumin.

Curcumin can help in preventing inflammatory processes, chronic inflammation and acute conditions. It also helps in wound healing.

Respiratory diseases

Due to its strong anti-inflammatory effect, the potency of curcumin is also being investigated in respiratory diseases and inflammation of the airways. The anti-asthmatic effect of curcumin has been tested with positive results in reducing constriction (narrowing) and hyperactivity of the airways.

Infiltration of macrophages in the lung tissue of patients was also observed when higher doses of curcumin were consumed.

Musculoskeletal support

Turmeric supports the health and condition of bones, joints and cartilage. This effect is due to its anti-inflammatory effect, even in chronic inflammations such as arthritis.

It has been shown in studies that there is some reduction in inflammation, swelling and joint stiffness when turmeric is consumed. Therefore, turmeric is also recommended as an adjunctive supportive treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Digestive support

Turmeric supports the physiological function of the stomach and the production of bile, thereby facilitating digestion. Turmeric is therefore commonly used as a spice and flavouring agent in various dishes.

Curcumin has also been tested against stomach bacteria Helicobacter pyloriIt has been shown to reduce inflammation of the cells of the mucosa.

Some research suggests that curcumin affects the gut microbiome, regulates intestinal permeability and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the digestive tract. It therefore has a beneficial effect on bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections of the digestive system.

Cardiovascular and nervous system

Regular administration of low doses of turmeric reduces levels of undesirable LDL cholesterol and lipids (fats).

Together with the effect of curcumin on reducing blood clotting and preventing blood clots, turmeric is one of the plants that eliminate the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack or venous thrombosis.

The anticoagulant effects of turmeric reduce the production of a clotting factor called fibrinogen.

Neurons in the brain form connections called synapses. It is thought that curcumin supports this neurological process and increases the number of connections.

It supports memory, learning and brain function. It is therefore the subject of research into the prevention of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Supporting liver function

Curcumin neutralises free radicals and prevents liver damage from pathological toxins. Due to its antibacterial effect, curcumin is considered an effective natural hepatoprotective substance (protects the liver).

Expert treatment with high doses of curcumin has also reduced histological damage to the pancreatic organ.

Potential in the fight against cancer

Curcumin has been reported in various studies as a supportive agent in the treatment and prevention of cancer.

Some studies have investigated that curcumin helps to destroy pathological cancer cells and prevents their spread (metastasis). However, this is particularly the case for cancers of the digestive tract.

This question is still not closed and these are studies with potential in the natural fight against cancer.

External use

Turmeric and the effect on the skin

Since turmeric is primarily anti-inflammatory, the results are also reflected in the condition of the skin and complexion. Curcumin tightens pores, reduces redness, regulates excessive sebum production, and thus contributes to the treatment of acne.

Nowadays, external application in the form of special masks or creams is also possible. Due to the content of natural dyes in turmeric, it is necessary to read the manufacturer's exact instructions for use.

Harvesting and storage

Turmeric and home growing

Unlike most other herbs that are grown for their leaf harvest, turmeric is grown only for its roots.

It is best to get good quality turmeric from an organic grocery store or directly from a farmers' market. It is recommended to start planting especially in late winter to early spring. Turmeric needs about 6 to 9 months from planting to actual harvest.

The process of growing turmeric begins with planting the root or rhizome in the soil. Bury the pieces of the shoot about five centimetres below the soil surface with the buds pointing upwards. The width and height of the pot should be at least 30-40 cm for proper growth.

The plant thrives in conditions between 20 °C and 30 °C, in partial shade, in dappled light but not in direct sunlight. Indoor growing is therefore suitable for turmeric in temperate climates.

Turmeric is grown in lighter, moist loam soil, which is particularly rich in organic matter. During the growing season, it is misted regularly with a sprayer to keep the substrate slightly moist. Compost can only help.

When harvested, the turmeric root is first boiled for about 45 minutes and then dried. After proper drying, the turmeric is ground into a familiar yellow-orange powder. The ground powder should have a distinctly earthy, bitter and slightly mustardy taste.

Let's summarize the main benefits of consuming turmeric...

Below are the main benefits of consuming this plant.

A summary of the possible effects of turmeric:

  • Supporting the immune system and immunity
  • Overall anti-inflammatory effect
  • Antioxidant effect
  • Supporting digestive health
  • Supporting liver and pancreatic health
  • Support wound healing
  • Helps reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Supports musculoskeletal health
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and lipids
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease
  • Support brain function and memory
  • Support mental health and depression
  • Support acne treatment and skin health

Who should avoid turmeric?

Despite the many beneficial natural effects of the turmeric plant, there are some individuals who should be wary when consuming it.

There are no known adverse effects of low doses of curcumin in healthy individuals. However, higher doses of curcumin could, on the contrary, worsen the health condition in some diseases.

Caution should be exercised when consuming turmeric for bleeding conditions and blood clotting problems. Turmeric may reduce blood clotting by its anti-clotting effect.

Individuals with diabetes mellitus should be vigilant. Curcumin can lower blood sugar levels.

If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, turmeric may be irritating to the digestive tract. Turmeric should also be avoided if you have gallbladder problems and gallstones.

In higher doses, turmeric could accentuate the discomfort due to increased bile secretion.

Pregnant women should beware

Despite the positive effects of this yellow spice, care should be taken during pregnancy. During pregnancy, there is still a safe amount of turmeric commonly found in foods.

However, its use in higher or 'therapeutic' doses can cause excessive uterine contractions, increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

Turmeric in higher doses can therefore be dangerous. It contains substances that stimulate uterine muscle contractility.

There is insufficient data and research to confirm or refute the safety of consuming turmeric during breastfeeding.

A gynaecologist should always be consulted.

Turmeric eliminates inflammation and combats swelling and joint pain. It can thus support the physical and psychological well-being of a pregnant woman. It also supports her immune system and the body's defences. Again, a gynaecologist should be consulted about quantities and doses.

Turmeric as a weight loss aid: does it work?

Various studies have confirmed that turmeric stimulates energy metabolism and prevents fat storage. It aids digestion and the health of the intestinal wall. According to some sources, it prevents the growth of fat cells and is used as a supportive treatment and prevention of obesity.

However, without dietary modification and a calorie deficit, turmeric will not work miracles with excess kilograms.

You can use turmeric for weight loss to support your immunity, energy metabolism and digestive tract. But without a basic lifestyle change, there is no change or weight loss.

How to incorporate turmeric into your diet?

Turmeric is an essential spice that is used to flavour and colour foods. It is ideal to add the ground powder to something liquid, such as soup, sauce or even the water you cook pasta or rice in.

This golden spice is often used as part of a marinade for meat. It is also useful as a fine sprinkling in salads and ready-made main dishes.

It is also often consumed in the form of turmeric tea. Ground turmeric, hot water, lemon, honey, ginger, cinnamon and various other ingredients to taste. Together they make an intense anti-inflammatory tea to support overall health and immunity.

Also known as 'golden milk', it is a combination of hot milk, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla extract. These ingredients combine to create a warm, soothing and healing drink.

One teaspoon of turmeric powder can be mixed with apple cider vinegar, spices, lemon juice and honey for an intense anti-inflammatory effect. One teaspoon a day of this combination is a popular method of preventing health and inflammation.

The recommended daily dose has not been established.

However, for healthy individuals, it is approximately one to two teaspoons per day, especially as a flavoring and seasoning for food or hot drinks.

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Interesting resources

  • MANDŽUKOVÁ, Jarmila. Herbs: the healing power of nature. Prague: Euromedia Group, 2020. ISBN 978-80-7617-918-9
  • solen.cz - Turmeric - medicinal effects and possible interactions. Solen. doc. PharmDr. Lenka Tůmová, CSc. and Mgr. Libuše Zatloukalová
  • solen.cz - Curcumin - what we already know and what is promising. Solen. Helena Nejezchlebová et al.
  • medicalnewstoday.com - Everything you need to know about turmeric. Medical News Today. Megan Ware, RDN, L.D.
  • healthline.com - 10 proven health benefits of turmeric and curcumin. Healthline. Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE - Careers with turmeric.
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