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Turmeric: uses, dosage & background

Siski Green / 14 January 2021

Turmeric is a bright orange member of the ginger family, and it contains around 3% curcumin - which is responsible for the many health benefits of turmeric..

Ground and root turmeric
Turmeric is a powerful anti-oxidant, is highly beneficial for intestinal problems and inflammation and is anti-bacterial

If you’re not familiar with turmeric by name, in all likelihood you’ll have come across it if you’ve eaten Indian or other South Asian dishes, as it’s a key ingredient in many Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisines.

What is turmeric used for?

While turmeric is mainly known for its culinary uses, giving a unique aroma and flavour to savoury dishes and also desserts, in recent years research has focused on curcumin, which comes from turmeric, as it may provide benefits such as reducing inflammation, easting symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as pain associated with osteoarthritis.

What’s the history of turmeric as a remedy?

As with many spices from Asia turmeric has a long and ancient history of use – not just for adding to dishes, but as part of traditional medicine and also used for decorative purposes – using it to dye clothing such as monk’s robes, for example, utensils as well as using it to paint the body. The yellow colour comes from curcumin, one of the substances it contains and the one of most interest, from a health perspective.

What’s the best way to take turmeric?

The most delicious way to eat turmeric is obviously via food, and there are a huge variety of dishes to choose from as the spice is used widely in Asia as well as the Middle East. If, however, you’re looking to increase the benefits it might provide you’d be better off looking at a supplement.

Turmeric itself only contains around 3% curcumin, which is the part with anti-inflammatory effects. There’s another issue and that is that curcumin isn’t easily absorbed by your body – if you take it with piperine (found in black pepper), however, absorption is increased. For this reason many supplements contain a combination of black pepper extracts along with the curcumin. A recommended amount is up to 8g of curcumin per day, used up to 2 months. Check with your GP if you want to take it for longer.

Does turmeric really work?

Research has shown that turmeric does have anti-inflammatory properties but as yet there haven’t been long-term large-scale controlled studies to ascertain how much is necessary and in what form to be effective for specific issues. At the time of writing, research suggests that it eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety, helps reduce inflammation and provides antioxidant effects.

Where can I get turmeric?

You can buy the spice itself in supermarkets, and supplements are available online as well as in healthfood stores.

How long does turmeric take to work?

As there haven’t been long-term extensive studies on turmeric and its effects on inflammation, anxiety or depression, it’s not possible to say how long it might take before you see effects yourself. As with most foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties, however, the effects aren’t immediate (as they would be if you took an anti-infllammatory medication such as ibuprofen for example), so expect to take supplements on a long-term basis to see results, however it’s also recommended that you don’t take turmeric supplements for longer than two months at a time.

What are the side effects of taking turmeric?

You may notice mild side effects such as stomach upset, or nausea but these are only likely at higher doses.

Are there any contraindications when taking turmeric?

If you have a digestive disorder, check with your GP before taking a supplement. Similarly, if you’re taking anti-coagulants, or hormone treatment, check with your GP, as curcumin may interfere with related medications.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.