Turmeric: An Ancient Remedy Proven by Modern Research

Modern medicine is turning to ancient remedies to treat more and more conditions. These ancient remedies mostly include natural, herbal products. As natural products, they are often cheaper and easier to access than pharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, they offer a lower risk of side effects. 

However, natural remedies do need to prove themselves effective by modern standards before we turn to them for treatment. One such natural product that has held up to numerous studies is turmeric.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a plant, related to ginger, used for various reasons, including adding spice to food and dying clothes. The powder of turmeric root has been a useful tool for humans for thousands of years. You may be most familiar with it as the key ingredient of curry powder. However, turmeric has also been used as a natural medicinal product in many cultures[1]. Recently, modern medicine has taken notice of this use and looked for evidence of its health benefits.

Researchers are interested in studying turmeric for a variety of health conditions: cancer, dermatitis, heart disease, and diabetes to name a few[2]. There is a simple reason turmeric has so many possible applications to medicine. It affects a process common to many health conditions—inflammation[3].

Turmeric and Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process our immune systems use to fight disease and repair tissue. Unfortunately, it isn’t a perfect process. The immune system can become overactive, causing both short-term and long-term damage. 

Here are three key ways turmeric works to modify the inflammatory response.

  1. Fighting infection. Turmeric has long been used to treat wounds and modern research is proving its usefulness. Turmeric is both harmful to bacteria[4] and beneficial to our immune cells[5]. Following surgery, turmeric has shown promise at keeping wounds clear of infection and allowing the surgical site to heal faster.
  2. Preventing damaging inflammation. The immune system isn’t perfect. Sometimes it makes a mistake and attacks healthy tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is one common example of this. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks joints causing damage and pain in the joint. Turmeric is helpful in calming damaging inflammation and allowing the affected tissue to heal[6].
  3. Balancing the immune system. Wound healing is a complex process, and inflammation is a normal part of it. Immune cells need to move into the wound, clear the damaged tissue, prevent infection and help with the healing process[7]. However, not all immune cells behave the same way. Some are overactive and create too much inflammation. Turmeric appears to balance the inflammatory response by regulating which cells are more active at the site of a wound[5]. 

Turmeric is Absent in Most Western Diets

Turmeric is a spice commonly used in dishes in the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. However, it is not very common in western diets.  Turmeric can be added to teas, smoothies or found in nutritional supplements. At MEND, we include turmeric in our Orthopedic supplement to keep inflammation in check and help with the healing process.

[1] Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications

[2] Turmeric: Uses and Effectiveness

[3] Curcumin‐free turmeric exhibits anti‐inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric

[4] Antibacterial Activity of Turmeric Oil:  A Byproduct from Curcumin Manufacture

[5] Anti-inflammatory properties of a wound dressing combination of zinc oxide and turmeric extract

[6] Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials

[7] Reduced Il17a Expression Distinguishes a Ly6cloMHCIIhi Macrophage Population Promoting Wound Healing

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