Jan 19, 2019—Have you heard the talk about turmeric? It's purported to have numerous health benefits. If you've heard the buzz, you may have wondered: What is turmeric and what is it supposed to be good for anyway?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. It's best known as a colorful yellow spice used in curry dishes. But in India, turmeric has long been a part of Ayurvedic medicine (one of the oldest medicinal practices in the world).
Turmeric root (technically the rhizome, or underground stems) can be ground up and turned into capsules, tablets, teas or extracts. Turmeric supplements are supposed to help with a wide range of conditions, such as inflammation, skin problems and arthritis.
Has science weighed in?
Clinical trials have been done with turmeric. And there's some early evidence that it may have certain health benefits. For instance, studies show turmeric may be good for some kinds of arthritis pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). In fact, one study found that turmeric controlled osteoarthritis knee pain as well as ibuprofen did.
One key to turmeric's possible benefits? Curcumin. That's the stuff that gives turmeric spice its yellow color. Curcumin seems to help block inflammation—and traditionally, this is one of its most common uses. Inflammation in the body can lead to many problems—like joint pain and swelling.
But more research is needed. So far, claims about turmeric's inflammation-fighting benefits haven't been supported by strong studies, the NIH cautions.
But studies have shown that turmeric may:
- Help with certain digestive disorders.
- Help prevent heart attacks after bypass surgery.
- Reduce skin irritation related to radiation treatment for breast cancer.
Turmeric is still being studied for other possible uses, including cancer prevention. But conclusive studies on the subject are currently lacking, the American Cancer Society reports.
Check with your doctor
Turmeric is generally considered safe, according to the NCCIH. But taking a lot of turmeric or taking it for a long time could upset your stomach.
If you want to try turmeric, it's a good idea to tell your doctor. In fact, you should always tell your doctor about any vitamins, minerals or herbs you plan to take. One reason? Some supplements might interfere with other medicines. For instance, it's not safe to take turmeric along with certain blood thinners.