Do you know turmeric from advertising or from the menu of your favorite restaurant? You’ve heard that yellow spice can have positive effects on digestion or skin health? But your half-knowledge ends with the difference between turmeric and saffron. Yet both spices look so similar.
In our article on the effects of turmeric, we explain to you exactly what turmeric actually is. You will get all the important information about the mode of action and the current state of research. So you can use the slightly bitter spice for your next curry without hesitation.
The most important facts in brief
- Turmeric is a plant similar to ginger. Its roots form tubers, which have an intense yellow-orange color. The substance curcumin is responsible for this color, which is also sold in isolated form as a dietary supplement.
- Curcumin is said to promote digestion by stimulating the liver to produce bile acid. Many other effects of the turmeric plant are still under investigation.
- Especially in the area of anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin is being researched in cancer treatment. Despite a positive direction, research into the effects of turmeric is still in its infancy.
Glossary entry: The term turmeric explained in detail
So that you are fully informed, we have taken up the most important questions about the effect of turmeric for you in the following sections. So you know what you can use the ginger plant for and what you should pay attention to.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant similar to ginger. Its roots form tubers at the end, which are intensely yellow. This is why turmeric is also known as turmeric. The yellow tubes can be processed fresh or dried and are mostly known to us as a spice or dietary supplement.
Originally, the turmeric plant comes from the tropical regions of Asia and has been used there for many thousands of years as a medicinal plant. The height of growth can reach up to one meter. The flowering period is a little August to September.
The fresh taste of turmeric is slightly resinous and burning. Dried and ground, as it is more commonly used in European countries, the taste is mildly spicy and slightly bitter. Thanks to its yellowish color, turmeric is mainly used in curry powder.
Despite its similar color, turmeric should not be confused with saffron.
In addition to its use as a spice, turmeric is used as a digestive aid. By releasing enzymes from the liver, turmeric is thus said to help against bloating and flatulence. Other anti-inflammatory effects are rather critical.
The curcumin contained in the turmeric tuber can be purchased in isolated form as a supplement. In the form of capsules or powder, curcumin is offered as a dietary supplement, which promises, for example, improved regeneration.
What are the ingredients of turmeric?
The part of the turmeric plant used as a medicine is called the rhizome and is the rootstock. It contains the yellowish pigment curcumin, which gives turmeric its typical color. In addition to other curcuminoids, turmeric contains essential oils, resins, proteins, and sugar compounds.
|Ingredient||Content per 100 gram|
|Vitamin C||26 mg|
|Vitamin B1||150 microgram|
|Vitamin B2||230 micrograms|
In dietary supplements, either pure turmeric powder is used or turmeric extracts. These are not precisely defined and can thus only make up a small part of the supplement. Often vitamins or vitamin-like substances are also mixed in so that a clear statement about the ingredients varies from product to product.
In which health areas is turmeric used?
Turmeric currently has no approval as a drug in the USA. Sufficient research results are still lacking in many areas. However, turmeric is said to have many health benefits. At the top of the list is the digestive effect.
However, the bioavailability of turmeric is very low. This means that only a very small part of the ingredients passes into the blood. To increase this absorption, piperine is often used. This pepper extract inhibits the rapid excretion of turmeric via the liver. In conjunction with other medications, however, this can lead to interactions.
Since turmeric is hardly soluble in water, taking turmeric tea does not lead to any health effects.
The only really proven effect of turmeric is its positive effect on digestion. The curcumin contained in turmeric is said to stimulate the liver to produce more bile acid. By binding to fats, these should also be split and are therefore easier to digest.
The positive effects are then a reduction of flatulence or bloating. However, even small amounts are sufficient, for example as a spice. It should be noted, however, that turmeric is poorly soluble in water, and thus the absorption of ingredients from the stomach into the blood, and then into the cells, is very low.
Conversely, this should not mean increasing the dosage. This can turn into opposite effects, such as diarrhea or flatulence.
Advertising slogans such as “anti-inflammatory turmeric” increases the belief that the turmeric root can be used for anti-inflammatory treatment. (Source).
Did you know that the bioavailability of turmeric is very low?
Therefore, turmeric is often mixed with pepper. The piperine contained in the pepper extract improves the absorption of the ingredients from the turmeric powder. A substance that has only a low bioavailability cannot be absorbed so well into the cells and thus be used.
Thus, no clear statement on the effect of turmeric in the area of pain relief in osteoarthritis is possible here either. Since none of the studies showed side effects, turmeric can certainly be used. However, whether an improvement occurs remains questionable.
Especially in cancer treatment, research is being done in many different areas. One of them is the therapy with natural means, as is the case with turmeric. Curcumin is supposed to inhibit the formation of metastases and thus reduce the spread of tumor cells.
Alzheimer’s disease is a slowly progressive brain disease. This is accompanied by a loss of memory and behavioral disorders. Turmeric is supposed to inhibit this progress by reducing the deposition of proteins in the brain. The studies indicate a positive direction here.
What parts of the turmeric plant are used?
The yellowish spice is made from the roots of the turmeric plant. For this purpose, the tuber is dried and grated small. In some countries, such as Thailand, fresh tuber is used.
The rhizome is actually a rhizome and not a root at all.
No other ingredient is taken from the leaves or flowers, so the plant can be used as a decoration. The garden plant can be enjoyed especially in July and August when it blooms. In winter, the tuber can be dug up and processed.
Can take turmeric cause side effects?
In small amounts as a spice, turmeric does not cause side effects. However, some people do not tolerate higher dosages. Therefore, especially when taken as a dietary supplement, caution is advised. The result is then usually stomach pain.
Other side effects can be the following:
Although turmeric has digestive benefits, these side effects can occur with about 180 milligrams of curcumin. The reason for these complaints is that turmeric stimulates gastric juice production, among other things. Thus, the increased bile production can lead to heartburn or stomach upset.
Anyone who also suffers from gallstones or liver disease should take turmeric in small amounts at most, for example as a spice. Since the plant substance is excreted quite quickly via the liver, high doses can lead to damage here.
What are the studies on the effect of turmeric?
In general, there is still a lack of studies in the field of turmeric effect, which investigate the long-term effects. However, many of the existing studies describe a positive effect of turmeric on the body. Especially in the anti-inflammatory and digestive area, there are some reviews.
It is important to note, however, that most of the results come almost exclusively from laboratory experiments. Here, confounding factors can be eliminated and exact verification of the dose can take place. This often cannot be compared with a normal intake in humans.
Therefore, caution is always advised when making definite statements about the effects of turmeric.
Many studies have also tested the turmeric effect on animals. This means that there must be no inevitable transfer to humans. Furthermore, many studies have shortcomings. This may be a very small number of subjects or the lack of a control group.
What are other names for turmeric?
Besides the most familiar spelling with “C”, turmeric is also known as Curcuma or Curcume. The scientific name of the ginger-like plant is Curcuma longa.
- Jaundice root.
- Yellow Ginger.
- Miller’s ginger.
- Babylonian / Indian Saffron.
- Tumeric / Turmeric.
Turmeric is also used as a food coloring due to its color. The name for this is E100 and stands for curcumin. This is the same ingredient found in the turmeric root.
In addition to its use as a spice, there are dietary supplements that are designed to enhance the positive effects on our body.
The curcumin contained in the turmeric root is the pigment that gives the powder its yellow color. This ingredient aids digestion, reducing flatulence or the feeling of fullness.
However, other effects such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, or osteoarthritis alleviating effects are hardly proven in scientific studies. Since ingestion in small quantities does not lead to any known side effects, turmeric can be used as a spice without hesitation. For higher dosages or as a dietary supplement, however, a doctor should be consulted beforehand.