In the long list of alternative remedies to try to help you through your menopause symptoms…
…you might comes across the kitchen-staple spice: turmeric. Typically, it’s consumed as a powdery spice, but can also be consumed fresh and resembles ginger root. Most likely, you’ve seen it mentioned as a natural remedy for many menopause symptom which is why it can be found as a supplement. As with many natural remedies, there is some debate as to the extent of the benefits of turmeric.
Anti-cancer or phytoestrogen?
There is a lot of noise on the internet regarding whether or not turmeric acts as a cancer preventing or reducing substance or as a phytoestrogen, which are typically not advised for those with high breast cancer risk. Although much more research needs to be done about phytoestrogens, it’s safe to say that turmeric’s phytoestrogen effect is so weak that it shouldn’t be a concern. What about the anti-cancer effects?
Turmeric’s main active ingredient is curcumin, which is really what people are talking about when they mention the benefits of turmeric. Some researchsuggests that curcumin can reduce the expression of certain aggressive cancer cells in breast cancer and therefore slow down the spread of aggressive breast cancer. Cancer Research UK highlighted one study that examined whether or not curcumin as a complementary treatment to chemotherapy could be more beneficial than just chemotherapy alone against bowel cancer cells. However, overall they concluded that there really isn’t enough evidence to support the idea that turmeric can help prevent or cure cancer.
Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and has also been shown to be almost as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs. This is great news for your joint pains and body aches.
A common clickbait you’ll see regarding turmeric’s benefits is the tempting title, “Turmeric for Weight Loss”. Upon further investigation, what is actually meant by this is that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects can help decrease the inflammation associated with obesity and therefore give you a bit of a boost in fat burning. However, a high-turmeric diet alone will not lead to weight loss.
Memory and mood
Finally, a studied effect of turmeric is that of helping with memory and brain fog. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which prescribed curcumin tablets to one group with memory problems and a placebo to another group with memory problems, found that memory improved by 28% in the group that took curcumin. Additionally, studies on animals have shown that curcumin increases something called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF) which promotes neuron survival and maintenance, keeping you sharper and in a better mood. That said, more studies need to be done on both memory and mood, so nothing conclusive can be said.
Is there a catch?
In short: yes. Turmeric spice only actually contains about 3-5% curcumin by weight. Most (if not all) studies on the benefits of “turmeric” actually use turmeric extract supplements, which contain 95% curcumin. In essence, sprinkling a bit of turmeric in your wraps and stir fry every night at dinner really isn’t going to have the benefits you’re looking for.
On the positive, even just 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric is a good source of iron, manganese and fibre, and fresh turmeric is also a great source of vitamin C, protein, vitamin A and calcium. So, on the nutrition side of things, turmeric spice or root is a quality source of plenty of essential nutrients. However, if you’re looking for the typically listed benefits of “turmeric”, you’re really looking for turmeric extract supplements. Be sure to find supplements that contain piperine (a black pepper extract), since curcumin isn’t easily absorbed by the body and piperine has been shown to increase absorption. As with any supplement, consult your GP before taking, as turmeric extract supplements may interact with certain medications.