Turmeric supplements are quickly gaining popularity thanks to this colourful root’s well-known health benefits.
In fact, turmeric may be one of the most effective dietary supplements out there, as it has major benefits for your health and few known side effects.
But not all turmeric supplements are created equal, so we’re focussing on turmeric pills, which are an ideal way to get effective doses of turmeric for all lifestyles.
Although turmeric is often used as a spice to add color and flavor to dishes, it has some powerful health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Historically, turmeric has been used in traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine and religious festivals, but modern scientists have discovered that this colorful root is an effective dietary supplement.
In recent years, turmeric has seen a resurgence in popularity because of its health benefits, and you can find it in everything from turmeric lattes to dietary supplements. However, there are still arguments over whether you should take turmeric in its natural form or in concentrated turmeric pills for the best results, so let’s discuss the pros and cons, starting at the beginning.
Turmeric (AKA Curcuma longa) is a flowering plant related to ginger, which is widely used in food, drink and dietary supplements, as well as traditional medicine. Recent studies have found that turmeric is rich in compounds with medicinal benefits known as curcuminoids, and the most important one is curcumin.
Curcumin has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and is the most widely studied curcuminoid, meaning it is widely regarded as turmeric’s most important active ingredient. Some supplements contain pure curcumin –believed to have more powerful health benefits – though most turmeric pills contain turmeric powder in its natural form.
Much of the research into turmeric and curcumin has focused on their antioxidant properties and ability to reduce inflammation, providing various health benefits, notably for chronic inflammation like osteoarthritis and IBS. Based on existing medical research, turmeric supplements can support general health, reduce your chances of developing many chronic diseases and even reduce pain levels.
However, most of these studies used high doses of turmeric that would be difficult to add to your daily routine, making dietary supplements a much more convenient and reliable way of enjoying the health benefits of turmeric. For these reasons, we recommend supplementing with turmeric pills, as they allow you to make the most of turmeric’s many health benefits in an easy-to-consume package.
Many studies on turmeric focus on curcumin, but it only makes up around 3% of turmeric by weight, meaning you’d need to take multiple teaspoons a day to get the same doses in the tests. Furthermore, curcumin is poorly absorbed into your bloodstream, so your body will struggle to use many of the active ingredients in the turmeric you eat.
However, taking turmeric with black pepper (which contains piperine) can improve the absorption of turmeric by around 2,000%, and many of the best turmeric supplements contain added piperine for this reason. In short, if you plan on supplementing with turmeric for health benefits, we strongly recommend you use turmeric pills with added piperine or find a palatable way to take turmeric and black pepper to get an effective dose.
Curcumin is easily the most widely studied component of turmeric, but it is just one of many curcuminoids present in the turmeric plant. Many scientists have theorised that taking whole turmeric provides more holistic health benefits, though there isn’t enough evidence on the effects of the other active ingredients in turmeric to prove this.
So, while it is unclear whether whole turmeric pills could be more beneficial than pure curcumin, we go over all the potential pros and cons of both in our turmeric vs curcumin article. In short, available studies show that supplementing with curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects but lacks the benefits that the other compounds in turmeric may offer.
Supplementing with turmeric has been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits, helping manage symptoms of chronic diseases and reducing inflammation, contributing to improved overall health even in otherwise healthy people.
Supporters of turmeric supplements are eager to point out the holistic benefits of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, but turmeric has several more targeted benefits, including:
Heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide, so any supplements that can help prevent your chances of heart disease are well worth your attention. Curcumin may help to prevent or reverse many steps in the progression of heart disease, notably by improving the function of your endothelium – the lining of your blood vessels.
Your endothelium helps to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting, so keeping it in good working order is crucial for overall heart health. Additionally, studies on the effects of turmeric pills found that curcumin was as effective as exercise for improving heart health in menopausal women, and it can reduce inflammation and oxidation in your heart tissue.
Although research is limited, supplementing with turmeric may help to treat depression: A controlled trial of 60 people with depression who took Prozac, curcumin or both found that curcumin supplements were similarly effective as Prozac, and the group who took both saw the biggest improvements.
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Furthermore, there’s some evidence that supplementing with turmeric pills can boost your levels of serotonin, dopamine and BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters essential for regulating mood, and BDNF helps maintain brain health, meaning turmeric may support your mental well-being and health.
Because turmeric is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds like curcumin, it helps support healthy, glowing skin by reducing inflammation and promoting quick healing. Studies show that applying turmeric to your skin helps heal skin wounds like scratches or rashes and control flare-ups of skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.
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While there have not been as many studies on the effects of oral turmeric supplements on skin health, it stands to reason that increasing the amount of antioxidants in your body should provide holistic benefits for skin health. So, whether you supplement with turmeric pills or use topical applications like turmeric face masks, studies show that it supports skin health and can help reduce the appearance of blemishes, rashes and scratches on your skin.
Studies show that turmeric may promote healthy weight loss by suppressing inflammatory markers and regulating hormones that play a role in obesity. Although it’s unclear exactly how turmeric affects weight loss, studies show that it may reduce fat tissue growth, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase adiponectin levels, which help regulate your metabolism.
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Furthermore, one study found that supplementing with curcumin and piperine led to significant weight loss and reductions in waist and hip circumference in people who were previously unable to lose weight. However, more human studies are needed to prove that turmeric pills cause weight loss, as much of the existing research relies on test-tube or animal studies.
Inflammation is an important defence mechanism, as it helps fight invading pathogens and repair physical damage, but chronic, low-level inflammation can cause chronic diseases. Fortunately, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects may help prevent or manage various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, arthritis and cancer.
Additionally, oxidative damage caused by free radicals (highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons is believed to be a major factor in age-related degeneration and many diseases. Because antioxidants like turmeric block the action of free radicals and stimulate other antioxidants in your body, supplementing with turmeric pills may help to prevent chronic diseases caused by inflammation or oxidative damage.
Turmeric is a powerful herbal supplement with many scientifically proven health benefits, such as the potential to improve symptoms of depression and heart health, as well as prevent against chronic diseases. However, curcumin – arguably the most important active ingredient in turmeric – has poor bioavailability, so your body may be unable to absorb and use effective doses of turmeric.
Fortunately, piperine can increase curcumin absorption by 2,000%, so we recommend searching for turmeric pills with added piperine to make the most of turmeric’s many health benefits. Lastly, you should ask your doctor if turmeric supplements are right for you, especially if you’re dealing with a chronic illness or mental health issue, as while turmeric is generally safe to use, it should not be used instead of traditional medicine.