Turmeric: it’s amazing for your body, and better for your brain/mental health!
Turmeric is a spice you’ll find in the world’s tastiest cooking, and it packs a punch of flavor and brilliant color that brings every dish that uses it alive.
But did you know that the unique flavor and color is the result of highly potent, health-boosting nutrients? That’s right, the compounds that make the spice as colorful and tasty as it is are also what make it incredible for your health.
We’re all familiar with the physical health benefits of turmeric: reduced heart disease, anti-inflammatory effects, improved antioxidant capacity, reduced arthritis pain, and the list goes on!
However, in this article, we’re going to talk about the many, many ways that turmeric can improve every aspect of your MENTAL health. Not just your body, but your brain, too!
A lot of research has been done into the effects of turmeric as a way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
We’re not going to get into all the complex science and testing methodology, but if you like that kind of thing, you can find the resources we’re going to be referring to in this article here:
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the good stuff!
First of all, you need to know that raw turmeric (ground into spice) isn’t going to be the miracle cure you’re looking for. All of the studies above have examined the effects of concentrated turmeric supplements, rather than just the spice.
That being said, the spice does offer the benefits we’re going to discuss—just in low dosages. You’ll have to eat a lot more turmeric (or take a turmeric supplement) to really see results.
All of the studies you’ll read on the subject will mention curcumin, which is the name of the potent antioxidant that turmeric contains. Curcumin gives turmeric both its flavor and bright yellow color, and it is what makes turmeric such a potent mental health booster.
One of curcumin’s primary benefits for your mental health is its ability to reduce the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques on your brain. These plaques have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease—essentially, they decrease neuroplasticity and reduce brain function. By reducing the building of the plaques, curcumin is able to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, or potentially even reduce its effects among patients already exhibiting the symptoms.
Curcumin also has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Its ability to decrease swelling can improve cognitive function among patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and even enhance blood flow to the brain. It can slow down the degradation of neurons and decrease microglia formation.
All of these things, when put together, equal enhanced memory function, both in patients who are exhibiting early symptoms as well as those farther along the stages of the disease. While none of the studies claim it’s a “miracle cure”, the potent antioxidant curcumin has been linked to improved brain function and memory in the various studies it’s been tested in.
One study (see #2 above) looked at three Alzheimer’s patients who took turmeric supplement for twelve weeks. In one case, the mental state examination score improved by almost 50% by the end of that time, and all three of the patients required less overall care. While this is just a small-scale study that can by no means provide an accurate across-the-board judgement, it’s definitely an insight into what turmeric can do for the brain.
Turmeric has also been linked to decreased oxidative stress, one of the primary contributing factors to Alzheimer’s. It may even help to prevent the degradation and breakdown of the brain cells that is common with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Turmeric, specifically the antioxidant curcumin may have huge potential to help reduce depression. In a controlled trial of 60 people, those who took turmeric supplements saw improvement in their depression on par with those taking Prozac, a highly-regarded and widely-used antidepressant. The group that combined Prozac with the turmeric supplement had the best results of the entire study.
Curcumin has proven effective at boosting brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), one of the neurochemicals that are linked to depression. By increasing BDNF, turmeric may help to decrease depression risk. Pair that with the fact that turmeric may also boost dopamine and serotonin, and you can see why turmeric is so useful for treating depression.
As all of the above-mentioned studies will make clear, eating turmeric alone isn’t going to be enough to counteract the problem. The antioxidants and potent compounds in the spice aren’t easily bioavailable, which means our bodies have a hard time absorbing them. Just eating the spice in our favorite dishes won’t be enough.
That’s why turmeric supplements have become so popular in recent years!
Turmeric supplements are basically the concentrated extracted antioxidants. All of the curcumin is extracted from the root, ground into a powder, then added into capsules that you can take. Doing this gives you a more easily-absorbed boost of the antioxidants that can go to work improving your brain and mental health.
Is it worth buying a turmeric supplement? They tend to be on the pricier side (compared to many other supplements), and they are harder to find than you might expect.
However, if you’re worried about your brain health and you have a family history of neurodegenerative diseases, it may be something to consider. The turmeric supplements can give you a concentrated dose of the critical antioxidants that will protect your brain and prevent the sort of damage that leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Of course, always consult a doctor before trying any new supplement!
Curcumin, which provides turmeric its distinctive yellow color, is the primary active ingredient in the spice. The majority of turmeric's potential health advantages can be attributed to curcumin.
Regrettably, turmeric and curcumin don't readily enter the human system, so eating curry with it only once a month is difficult to provide you with the required antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Although turmeric is gaining popularity at a fast rate, it is still quite a misunderstood root spice. In fact, many people use the term ‘turmeric’ interchangeably with curcumin and curcuminoids.
However, the three terms are quite different in meaning and should certainly not be used interchangeably. You must learn the differences as they have implications in many areas, such as clinical dosing and nutritional supplements.