Turmeric: Call it what you want, the latest health fad, or the centuries-old, brightly colored spice native to the Southeast Asian continent found in many flavorful Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African foods.
The spice has gained more popularity in recent years because research finds it may be a helpful natural remedy for some common conditions including headache, joint pain, arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Let’s take a closer look at this bright yellow-orange spice and find out what it can do specifically for diabetes.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the ginger family. It has been used for the treatment of diabetes in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
The turmeric powder that you see in stores is ground from the roots of the turmeric plant.
You can find turmeric root in some specialty ethnic grocery stores. The ground form is more readily accessible at some grocery stores in the spice section. You will find a host of turmeric supplements in capsule form at various health stores.
What Are Turmeric’s Special Properties?
One of the active components of turmeric is called curcumin. It’s been found that this compound might decrease inflammation.
Researchers are excited about this because studies show turmeric might be a potential treatment for diabetes. It fact, it has been shown to reduce glycemia and hyperlipidemia in mice models of diabetes.
Researchers in one study from 2013 concluded that curcumin could favorably affect most of the leading aspects of diabetes, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis.
They state that “despite the potential tremendous benefits of this multifaceted nature product, results from clinical trials of curcumin are only available in using curcumin to treat diabetic nephropathy, microangiopathy, and retinopathy so far.”
The authors state studies are “badly needed” to be done in humans to confirm the potential of curcumin in limitation of diabetes and other associated disorders.
Other studies suggest that turmeric might also protect against prediabetes.
A 2012 study found that people with prediabetes who took curcumin for 9 months were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those taking a placebo.
The researchers found 0% of curcumin-treated subjects developed diabetes, whereas 16.4% of placebo-treated subjects developed the condition.
Curcumin also appeared to improve the function of the beta cells that make insulin in the pancreas.
From their results, the authors believe that curcumin intervention in the prediabetic population can prevent Type 2 diabetes conversion and lower the IR level by maintaining healthy β-cell functions.
Turmeric May Help Type 1 Patients As Well
A 2014 study found that curcumin might adjust how the overactive immune system works in people with Type 1 diabetes.
The researchers found that curcumin lowers the body’s T-cell response, which is part of its immune response. This finding suggests that curcumin may help strengthen the immune system.
The study also found that curcumin was able to delay diabetes onset and, in some instances, blocks disease progression. However, the researchers conclude “the potential therapeutic benefit of curcumin in naturally occurring diabetes in NOD mice remains to be established.”
They also propose that curcumin, in combination with immunomodulatory agents, deserves to be investigated further as a therapy for Type 1 diabetes.
One 2017 study finds that although turmeric has been the focus of many studies, no double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful and that more caution should be used before proposing turmeric as a cure-all.
The researchers call for more detailed studies because turmeric varies widely in quality and is difficult to carry out consistent tests.
Turmeric is a natural spice and considered safe to consume by humans, especially when used sparingly in cooking. However, it should be noted that many of the medicinal properties of turmeric dimish when the spice is cooked at high temperatures.
Caution should be used when turmeric is taken in large or frequent amounts as a health supplement.
A high dosage is typically considered above 4 grams of curcumin daily. If you consume a large amount of turmeric daily, you might experience certain side effects such as nausea, indigestion, and diarrhea.
Always consult with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your daily regimen.
What You Can Do With Turmeric:
There are a variety of things you can do with turmeric, especially if you enjoy cooking.
Here are a few easy ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily life:
Make your own Turmeric Tea
- Turmeric powder
- Boil 2 cups of water
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered turmeric.
- Let the turmeric seep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
- Strain the tea, add honey if desired and sip.
Make your own Turmeric Latte
- 16 ounces almond milk or milk of your choice
- 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ghee or clarified butter (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- Place all of the ingredients in a small pot over low heat.
- Gently simmer for 8-10 minutes to combine flavors.
- To serve, pour 8 ounces into a cup. Enjoy warm.
Make Your Own Iced Turmeric Latte
- 1 cup almond, low-fat milk or milk of your choice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Pinch cinnamon (optional)
- 8-10 ice cubes
- Warm the milk and honey in a small pot over low heat.
- Place the turmeric and cinnamon in a glass
- Pour in the milk and honey mixture over the spices and gently stir
- Fill a glass halfway with ice
- Fill the glass the rest of the way with the warm milk mix, roughly 1 cup.
If you are not a fan of these beverages, and you prefer cooking with turmeric, you can use it to add color and flavor to rice, soup or stew.
Simply stir in a 1/2-1 teaspoon of turmeric while seasoning your dish.
Turmeric can have a warm, bitter taste, so if you are not used to cooking with it, you may want to start off with a small amount and build up your tolerance for the distinct taste.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
3. Kathryn M. Nelson, Jayme L. Dahlin, Jonathan Bisson, James Graham, Guido F. Pauli, and Michael A. Walters (2017). The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2017 60 (5), 1620-1637
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