What is really on the turmeric effect?
It is a spice that is available in every supermarket. For some time, however, turmeric has been celebrating a remarkable triumph in naturopathy – perhaps also in the future in the treatment of certain diseases. A trendy ingredient put to the test.
Turmeric – a miracle cure?
It is the star in the superfood sky: Hardly any spice is currently so celebrated as the curry ingredient turmeric, also called turmeric.
Touted as the "magic bulb", "spice of life" or "power root", its extract – the yellow pigment curcumin – is said to help with numerous ailments and diseases of civilization such as osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease or even cancer. But how healthy is turmeric for humans? -. With which ailments it can help? High time to bring light into the darkness. Because medicine has been studying its effect on the human body for years. Here is the fact check.
A little turmeric knowledge
The plant, originally from India, belongs to the ginger genus. Turmeric is an important ingredient in curry blends. The yellow color is due to the dye curcumin. The rhizome is used fresh or dried and ground as a spice and as a colorant, for example, for mustard, butter preparations or sausage. Turmeric powder tastes slightly spicy. A bit earthy-bitter. It contains essential oils, proteins, sugar and about five percent of the valuable ingredient curcumin.
Superfood turmeric? It's the dose that counts
As a spice found on supermarket shelves, the rhizome is usually sold as a ground powder, and in some stores it is also sold fresh.
However, as a stand-alone cooking ingredient, it can hardly act as a remedy. Background: Curcumin is hardly soluble in water and is hardly absorbed by the body, which is also called "low bioavailability". So very little gets to where it is supposed to work: in the cells. This suggests that you would have to eat large amounts of turmeric to actually achieve health-promoting effects in the body.
Then a lot helps a lot? No, this calculation does not add up. From the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) there are regulations for the intake of the active ingredient curcumin. It recommends, No more than two milligrams per kilogram of body weight daily to consume. For a 70-kilogram person, 140 milligrams of curcumin per day, for example, in the form of a dietary supplement. If the spice or extract is taken in higher doses, depending on sensitivity, it may be Side effects such as bloating, diarrhea, nausea, or pain in the digestive tract occur.
What turmeric helps against – the study situation
But can turmeric in this concentration really be a secret weapon against serious diseases such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease or even cancer, as is often claimed?? The ingredient curcumin has been tested in hundreds of scientific studies – and in many of them there were quite promising effects. In petri dish experiments with cancer cells, turmeric has an inhibitory effect on growth and induces premature cell death. In animal studies, curcumin improves brain performance. Prevents experimentally produced Alzheimer's changes in the brain. The results should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as data from cell culture and animal studies are rarely transferable to humans.
Clinical studies on humans are necessary to verify the results. Although curcumin also shows positive effects here, such as anti-inflammatory, cartilage-protecting and cholesterol-lowering properties. But: only a few studies are conclusive in this regard. Many studies have too few participants or there was no control group that could have ruled out a random effect. Another problem: In most clinical studies, much higher daily doses than recommended were used – up to eight grams of the powder or one gram of the active ingredient curcumin.
What is clear, however: Turmeric has been used for many years to produce positive effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Intestinal sluggishness or a feeling of fullness after eating are long-standing uses of turmeric powder, according to the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). Because the spice stimulates the digestive juices.
Turmeric can change the effect of drugs
There are also known cases of drug interactions with curcumin and therefore caution is advised. Most drugs are broken down by enzymes in the liver, the so-called cytochrome P450 enzymes. They are responsible for the biotransformation of drugs. Substances that cannot be excreted are converted into excreted substances. Curcumin may also interact with these enzymes in the liver. Thus, the effective blood concentration of drugs change – that is, increase or decrease. Thus, an interaction of curcumin and anticancer agents may have been observed, resulting in lower blood concentrations. The anticancer drug could thus work less well.
Studies on side effects and interactions of dietary supplements are much less detailed than for medicines. Therefore, caution is also required with curcumin preparations. If you regularly take curcumin extracts and medicines, be sure to inform your doctor or pharmacist.
Curcumin products with improved bioavailability
Since turmeric is poorly absorbed through the intestine, some curcumin products advertise improved absorption (bioavailability). As supplements, for example, black pepper (piperine) should help. However, the data on side effects and toxicity of the new products is thin and existing information from pure curcumin cannot be transferred to the newer products. Therefore, it is important to consider: Curcumin products with improved bioavailability are not yet classified as safe foods.
At a glance
Curcumin extracts should be taken with caution.
As a spice in usual amounts, turmeric is considered safe to eat. Allergic reactions occur only sporadically. If you experience severe and prolonged gastrointestinal discomfort after a curry meal or after taking capsules containing curcumin, talk to a doctor.
It is important to note: Turmeric itself is not an approved medicine. Also, advertising of foods with health-promoting effects is prohibited in Germany. And so far there is no clear evidence that turmeric can help with certain diseases.
Who should avoid curcumin extracts?
– People with known allergies to curcumin – Pregnant and breastfeeding women (but as a spice it is not a problem) – People with gallstones (curcumin promotes the formation and secretion of bile, which can cause biliary colic) – Children
Me, O., Ropert, S., Chamseddine, A.N., Paci, A.: Curcumin dietary supplements and everolimus-based cancer treatment. Ann Oncol.