You may have heard the buzz about curcumin and turmeric, but aren’t quite sure how they belong together? I also didn’t, so I looked into it.
Turmeric is a flowering plant related to the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Native to the Indian subcontinent and South Asia, it is known to be one of the main ingredients in curry. The roots – which you could describe as rhizomes that look like worms – are used for cooking (I’ll discuss the culinary uses a little further down). Turmeric has been providing the world with countless uses and immense health benefits for thousands of years. It is an element of holistic medicine, an offering in religious ceremonies and even a coloring in cosmetics.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, a phytonutrient that turns acidic food yellow and alkali food red.
Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement for your brain and body in existence. For your brain health these are the most important benefits:
- Depression: In the last years we’ve been seeing a growing body of evidence showing that turmeric is just as effective in treating depression as Prozac and possibly more effective than other depression drugs on the market., , ,  These better known drugs have as possible side effects suicidal ideation and/or other psychotic disorders. However, turmeric has none of these side effects.
- Anti-inflammatory: Turmeric is one of the most anti-inflammatory herbs in existence. In a previous post I discussed how many studies have linked symptoms and signs of chronic inflammation to mental health instability and that following an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and hearing threatening voices. Adding turmeric to your diet can really help with that.
- Help Delay Age-related Mental Decline: Curcumin may help delay age-related mental decline. Curcumin has demonstrated to have many protective properties, including cognitive improvements in humans, yet the mechanism of such effects remains unclear. More research is needed.
How To Take It
Most of the studies on turmeric are using extracts. So if you only add a little bit of the dried powder as a spice to your meals, you might not experience the same effect. I recommend cooking with fresh turmeric rhizomes. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adults can take 1.5 to 3 grams of the cut root per day. Turmeric is known to have a low bioavailability, which means your body will not absorb the full ingested dose unless it is combined with other ingredients. Research shows that adding pepper and some form of fat like olive oil to each meal you cook with turmeric will increase its bioavailability and absorption in your body. 
When cutting up the fresh root, you might consider using gloves, as it stains fingers, utensils, and cloths. Since Corona walked into our lives, I’ve been cutting up the fresh root almost daily and adding it to different meals to boost my immune system and reduce inflammation in my body. When I’m too lazy to wear gloves, my fingers and finger nails end up with orange coloring.
Or you can also take a standardized extract of curcumin in capsule or tablet form. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 400 to 600 milligrams up to three times a day. You can take a tincture – or alcohol extract – in a dose of 15 to 30 drops three to four times daily. Again, I’d recommend buying products that consider adding ingredients to increase its bioavailability. Or take it together with a meal that includes fats and pepper.
Turmeric is generally a very safe ingredient and supplement. However, you might want to talk to your doctor before beginning any routine including turmeric on a regular basis.
When to Be Careful with Turmeric
- Turmeric has blood-thinning properties and should not be used together with blood-thinning medicine like warfarin, or if you have bleeding problems or an upcoming surgery,
- Using turmeric to season foods is safe during pregnancy, but due to its circulating-stimulating properties, turmeric supplements should not be taken by a pregnant woman,
- High levels of turmeric might increase the production of stomach acid, which
could be problematic for those with reflux or ulcers,
- Curcumin might decrease blood sugar in diabetics,
- Even if curcumin is known to have anti-cancer properties for a number of cancers including colorectal cancer, breast cancer and childhood leukemia, it may actually promote certain types of lung cancers, particularly in smokers.
Fresh turmeric has gingery, citrus rich aromas. The taste is earthy, slightly bitter and sour.
Turmeric tastes good with:
Beans, eggplant, fish, lentils, rice, root vegetables, and spinach.
Turmeric combines well with:
Chili, cilantro, cloves, coconut milk, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, fennel, galangal, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, mustard seeds, paprika, pepper, rau ram.
I love adding it to tomatoey sauces.
You might not be able to find fresh turmeric rhizomes in your local supermarket. In Berlin, I can find them in Asian supermarkets and in most stores that offer organic produce. Turmeric is best stored in a cool and dry place or in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
For Further Reading:
You can find many books with more information on turmeric and curcumin on AbeBooks here.
Maybe your local book store or public library will also have books for you.
Knowledge Is Power!
 C. ALBER (2012): The Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin: How to Improve Your Health with Magical Turmeric Simply and Easily; Page 6
 Sanmukhani J, et al. (2008) Antidepressant activity of curcumin: involvement of serotonin and dopamine system
 Sanmukhani J, et. al. (2013): Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5025
 Kulkarni, S.K. (2009): https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2009/624894/
Shrikant Mishra et al. (2008): The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/
 Zhang, Laura et al. (2006): Curcuminoids enhance amyloid-beta uptake by macrophages of Alzheimer’s disease patients : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16988474/
 Dong, S. et al. (2012): Curcumin Enhances Neurogenesis and Cognition in Aged Rats: Implications for Transcriptional Interactions Related to Growth and Synaptic Plasticity: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0031211
 M. Dei Cas et al. (2019): Dietary Curcumin: Correlation between Bioavailability and Health Potential: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770259/
 G. Shoba et al. (1998): Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/
 Jill Norman (2002): Herb & Spices : https://www.scribd.com/document/338333740/Herbs-and-Spices