Turmeric - Anti-Aging Miracle Spice?

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric in a bowl with a spoon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Turmeric is perhaps the most legitimate of the so-called superfoods. It has been extensively studied and researched; and, unlike noni juice or goji berries, turmeric has been around for centuries and doesn’t have a marketing campaign behind it. Basically, turmeric is just a spice that researchers are studying and discovering the health benefits in it and learning how turmeric may help with common anti-aging conditions.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a ginger-like plant whose roots are gathered, dried and made into a spice for its flavor and health benefits. The scientific name of turmeric is Curcuma longa. It is a popular spice in many Indian and Asian dishes and a critical ingredient of curry. The turmeric spice found in grocery stores is the boiled, dried and powdered root of the turmeric plant (picture the ginger you see in the grocery store). Turmeric has a distinct yellow color and can stain clothes (sometimes it is even used as a dye or as food coloring).

Personally, I love the way it tastes, especially on well-prepared Indian food (but be careful, some of that delicious food can be high fat). If you are eating more turmeric because of the health claims being reported, be sure that you are using real turmeric in your cooking and not a curry mix. Most of those mixes do not contain enough turmeric.

Nutritional Properties of Turmeric

The most interesting nutrient in turmeric is curcumin. This is the nutrient that has received attention in the media because researchers are interested in curcumin’s possibilities in fighting cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

The curcumin in turmeric is thought to work because it is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. There is also clinical evidence suggesting other benefits, including its potential as an anti-microbial agent and as an antioxidant. It may also have the potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The bioavailability of curcumin is low. But absorption in the GI tract can be enhanced by adding ginger, black pepper of fenugreek (ingredients of curry). High quality supplements will include one of those ingredients to assure the curcumin is getting absorbed.

Apart from curcumin, turmeric contains high levels of iron and manganese and moderate levels of vitamin B6 and potassium—all vitamins and minerals that are part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Turmeric Supplements

You might find turmeric in health food stores. I have seen turmeric tea (whose label claims it is popular in Okinawa where the people live longer than anywhere else in the world). You might also find turmeric pills as a health enhancer.

Turmeric Health Claims

A long list of health conditions are claimed to be helped by turmeric. Many of these are currently under research and conclusions have not been drawn yet. Here is a brief list of the conditions:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Cancer Growth Restriction
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Prevent Heart Disease
  • Lowers cholesterol

Keep in mind that in the studies behind these claims, participants weren’t simply eating a lot of curry with turmeric in it. They were given high doses of curcumin (the key nutrient in turmeric) and closely monitored by researchers. For example, in a study on cystic fibrosis, each patient received almost 500 mg of curcumin. They would have to eat almost a full gram of turmeric a day to get that much (that’s a lot of curry!). Many of the studies also look at a combination of high doses of curcumin along with other substances. Basically, this research isn’t nutritional research looking for a new guideline, but pharmaceutical research seeking to produce new drugs based on curcumin.

Should I Eat More Turmeric?

Sure, it is a delicious spice used in much of the world’s cooking. Eaten regularly, it is possible that you will get enough curcumin to lower your risk of some age-related illnesses. Be sure that your food is prepared in a healthy way and that there is plenty of turmeric used in the preparation.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dulbecco P, Savarino V. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in digestive diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(48):9256-9270. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i48.9256

Additional Reading
  • World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric. George Mateljan Foundation.

By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, Ph.D., FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.