Touted for its positive effects in the treatment of arthritis, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, patients are increasingly inquiring how to use turmeric and curcumin
Turmeric is sometimes called the “golden spice” as it helps give curries their yellowish hue, in addition to contributing to their distinctive earthy, peppery taste. But this extract from the Curcuma longa root is also known for its medicinal properties, which is one reason why more patients are asking how to use turmeric (or its active ingredient curcumin) in supplement form.
Trends in turmeric use
The global curcumin market was $19.6 million in 2018 and has continued to increase each year, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 16.1% from 2020 to 2028 according to Grand View Research’s analysis report and segment forecast. A majority of its use is pharmaceutical, followed by using turmeric in food, cosmetics, and other types of products.
Grand View adds that this increase in consumer demand is fueled by an elevated awareness of curcumin’s health and medicinal benefits, along with a shift in consumer trends toward more natural and organic ingredients. Curcumin also appears to have antiviral properties, making it an even more preferred supplement since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Turmeric’s many benefits
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains that turmeric can be difficult to study, in part, because curcumin is unstable, easily changing into other substances. Still, several pieces of research have connected turmeric with a variety of health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. According to a 2020 article in Nutrition Today, turmeric is touted for its positive effects in the treatment of arthritis, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
A 2021 review in the American Journal of Plant Sciences further suggests that turmeric has other beneficial properties, such as being antimutagenic and antimicrobial. When patients ask how to use turmeric, it is often used in herbal treatments designed to help treat gastrointestinal disorders, eye infections, carcinomas, liver diseases, smallpox, and chickenpox.
Demographics that may benefit from turmeric use
A 2021 review published in the FASEB Journal, with FASEB standing for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, reports that turmeric is the top botanical dietary supplement taken by women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. While its effects on this condition are somewhat mixed, the review states that most oncologic trials have found significant physiologic effects.
Another 2021 review, this one published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, reports that oral turmeric supplements appear to offer therapeutic benefits for people with a variety of skin conditions. Among the conditions that it can potentially help treat are psoriasis, pruritus, oral lichen planus, facial redness, and skin-based cancers.
Other researchers suggest that turmeric may offer protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A 2021 article states that this extract has antiviral properties that have made it a popular remedy in Asian communities, where it is often used for everyday coughs, sore throats, and viral respiratory conditions. Since COVID-19 is also a virus, questions regarding how to use turmeric may be beneficial for this as well.
How to use turmeric supplements and the importance of bioavailability
The one issue that turmeric has had as a dietary supplement is its poor bioavailability. This can lessen its therapeutic effects as the body can only use a small portion of the total amount ingested. It also requires supplement manufacturers to find other ways to improve turmeric absorption when developing their products.
One option that has had positive findings in regard to how to use turmeric is to mix curcumin with other substances, also known as “enhancing agents,” that can increase its availability. For instance, research indicates that when combined with piperine, an active component of black pepper, curcumin’s bioavailability increases by 2,000%. Other studies have connected bromelain with improving the absorption of oral curcumin.
Safe turmeric use
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists curcumin as “Generally Recognized as Safe.” The NCCIH agrees, citing that both oral and topical turmeric and curcumin are likely safe when used in recommended amounts.
It is currently unknown whether turmeric is safe during pregnancy or when breastfeeding if consumed in forms other than being used as a spice in foods. Therefore, patients in these demographics should be advised to avoid turmeric supplements.