Does Turmeric Really Do Anything?

Testimonies on social media suggest that even DIY turmeric masks can lead to glowing skin, or work alongside activated charcoal and apple cider vinegar to clear zits/unclog pores. Herbal medicine advocates include turmeric on lists of immune system boosters. But given social media’s notoriety when it comes to misinformation, you may still be wondering if turmeric really does anything. Is it a beauty and wellness hack, or does this Silk Road lead to nowhere?

Our roundup of the bullet points on public and private health information websites suggests that turmeric could be reasonably placed in either a spices or medicine cabinet, though obviously medicine should also be in your medicine cabinet and you should talk with your healthcare provider!

Healthline showers so much praise on turmeric that you may be tempted to shower in turmeric, which might not be as ridiculous as it sounds because compounds of turmeric have proven useful in the flavor and fragrance industries. Healthline extolled the traditional Indian spice and its main active ingredient, curcumin, as something that “may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence.”

Their reasoning lies in turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which could matter for health: chronic low-level inflammation can play a role in the development of some pretty serious health conditions and diseases, while “oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases.” They also cite research that has been “renewing optimism concerning curcumin-based therapy” for neuroprotective and cognitive purposes.

In addition, Healthline pointed to turmeric’s potential usefulness in heart health and cancer treatment. But let’s sprinkle a little caution on this: the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center warns that turmeric supplements could lessen the effects of certain over-the-counter or prescribed medications, including chemotherapy medications.

Healthline also brings up the possible role of turmeric in longevity. Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, a naturopathic doctor whose anti-aging book “Younger You” was reviewed on LittlePinkTop, suggests adding turmeric to scrambled eggs in the morning. Maybe by starting your day right, you’ll have many more days ahead!

While it sounds like curcumin might also help to keep you from getting confused, it shouldn’t be confused with Javanese turmeric root or tree turmeric, according to WebMD. They added: “Also, don’t confuse it with zedoary or goldenseal, which are unrelated plants that are sometimes called turmeric.”

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Let’s look at some other sources. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health more cautiously observes that the health effects of substances derived from turmeric remain uncertain. Their “no clear conclusions have been reached” assessment reminds LittlePinkTop of Pete Davidson, while Healthline’s excitement around what could be “the most effective nutritional supplement in existence” sounds a little more like Kanye, to invoke a celebrity feud.

According to the NCCIH, pregnant or breastfeeding women might be well-advised to sprinkle turmeric on food in normal amounts because the safety of using greater amounts than those commonly found in food isn’t known. Why would anyone be swallowing large quantities of this yellow-colored spice, described by foodies as “overwhelmingly earthy and bitter,” in the first place, you might ask? Well, as the NCCIH also notes, one of the challenges with using curcumin for health-related reasons is that not much of it reaches the bloodstream when it’s taken orally. This is known as low bioavailability. That being said, “efforts have been made to develop curcumin products with increased bioavailability, and many modified products are already on the market.” However, we might have to take the good with the bad: “Improving bioavailability might lead to increases in harmful effects as well as desirable ones.”

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