Many of us only associate turmeric as the defining spice in curry. But for thousands of years, it’s been used as a medicine and food. According to Heathline, Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian system of treatment, encourages turmeric for an array of health reasons.
Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, uses turmeric in her practice and recommends a daily dosage of 1,000 milligrams per day. Here are seven benefits of turmeric for your body.
While short-term inflammation helps fight pathogens that harm us, chronic inflammation can harmfully attack the body’s tissues. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, blocks a molecule called NF-kB, which turns on inflammation-related genes in the nuclei of the cell.
One study from K.G. Medical College in Lucknow, India found that patients with chronic anterior uveitis (eye inflammatory disease) who took curcumin regularly had improved their inflammation.
It reduces stress and improves your mood
When we have anxiety, we have high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and low levels of pleasure hormones, like serotonin. A University of Florida study found that curcurmin creates more serotonin receptors in our brain, restoring hormonal balance. Curmin is also linked to create new cells, repairing any cell damage caused by cortisol.
Curcumin may be so effective for stress relief that it rivals prescription drugs. One study by Government Medical College in Gujarat, India found that patients who took curmin in a 12-week trial had a general improved mood, as much as patients who took fluoxetine, or Prozac.
Your immune system grows stronger
According to Healthline, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant. It neutralizes free radicals, or highly reactive molecules, which help cause diseases. Curcumin may also increase the body’s antioxidant enzymes.
It helps you sleep
Since turmeric can reduce inflammation and reduce stress, it’s a perfect combination for helping you fall asleep. In one study by Panjab University in Chandigarh, India, researchers found that curcumin improved the locomotive abilities and stress levels of sleep-deprived mice.
Your heart health improves
Curcumin helps the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of your blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is linked to heart disease, creating an inability to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting.
In one study by Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, coronary artery bypass patients took four grams of curcumin per day before and after their surgery. Patients who took curcumin has a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack, compared to a control group who did not.
Your pain may be relieved
Since turmeric holds many anti-inflammatory qualities, it can be helpful for joint and sore pain. Santos says that she frequently recommends turmeric to patients who complain of sore and achy joints, and even uses it herself to relieve pain from sports and exercise.
One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took curcumin regularly had eased pain and improved function, just as much as those who took ibuprofen.
How to add turmeric to your diet
There are many ways to add turmeric to your diet. Santos recommends taking it in capsules combined with a compound called piperine, which can aid absorption. If you’re feeling stressed, try adding turmeric to your meal or sip a turmeric-based tea. Or to help with sleep, you can make a “golden milk drink” by warming two cups of milk of your choice, 1 ½ tsp of ground turmeric and 1/2 of peeled ginger, 1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup in a small saucepan for a hot golden milk drink.
One more note of warning: experts discourage people who take blood thinners from consuming turmeric. If you’re taking a blood thinner or have any other concerns, talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet.