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Introducing turmeric:
your step-by-step
superfood guide

Great news about the benefits of turmeric on BBC Two’s Trust Me I’m A Doctor series. In their experiment, supplements didn’t fare as well as a daily teaspoon of turmeric mixed with food but this was thought to be due to the body’s ability to absorb turmeric.

This is a factor about turmeric supplements that has been known for some time and was one of the reasons for the launch of our revolutionary Opti-Turmeric product. Opti-Turmeric™ is an innovative liquid capsule, containing high-potency, bioavailable curcumin. This innovative water-soluble and pH-stable formulation enables the body to absorb high levels of beneficial curcuminoids. Tests have shown that Healthspan Opti-Turmeric™ capsules are up to 185 times better absorbed than standard powdered turmeric. It’s important to note that most studies on turmeric have been carried out using very strong extracts in high doses. You’d have to eat an awful lot of curries to get that much curcumin into your system! Though turmeric supplements are available, Rob Hobson, Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition explains why it’s not that easy to reap the benefits: “If what you eat is not absorbed from your intestine then it passes through without any benefit. The problem is that curcumin isn’t naturally water-soluble, so the body struggles to absorb it. To truly gain the benefits of curcumin you will need to take a supplement, but finding one that is bioavailable is the key issue.”

WHAT IS TURMERIC?

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Traditionally known as Indian saffron, due to its bright mustard yellow colour, turmeric has a warm but slightly bitter flavour. It’s a very mild spice, meaning you can use it in a variety of different dishes, including Western meals, as, if used correctly it will not overpower the flavour. If you’ve ever cooked with turmeric you’ll know how vivid the colour is and how cautious you need to be with surfaces it touches. Its yellow pigment can stain almost anything,

from light kitchen counter tops to your clothes and fingers. Make sure when you’re using turmeric that you clean any spillages straight away! Turmeric comes from the root of the ‘curcuma longa’ plant, which is traditionally boiled, dried, and ground down into a powder. Most of us now use turmeric as a ready ground powder, which is available in most supermarkets and many health food stores, although more and more people are enjoying the fresh root.

How can turmeric support my health?

Turmeric has been shown to have many potential benefits to our health, principally from the compound curcumin (diferuloyl methane), a curcuminoid, which gives turmeric its yellow hue. There are also many other substances in turmeric, such as its volatile oil, which may also support our health. Although much of the research on turmeric focuses on curcumin, there are over 50 different molecules in turmeric thought to have numerous benefits to human health. Other potential super substances in turmeric include the essential vitamins and minerals it contains, especially manganese and iron. Even though we typically consume just a small amount of turmeric

it can still can contain significant levels of these essential nutrients, which are vital for healthy bones, oxygen transport, thyroid function, and metabolism. Over the years, there have even been numerous studies on turmeric’s impact on cancer. Curcumin is thought to be able to modulate and balance cell-signalling molecules, including cytokines and the compound nuclear factor Kappa B. It may also help to increase the activity of some of our liver enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase, which helps to clear toxins from the body. Curcumin may even be a powerful cytotoxic molecule.

Turmeric and joint health

Turmeric has been shown to have many potential benefits to our health, principally from the compound curcumin (diferuloyl methane), a curcuminoid, which gives turmeric its yellow hue. There are also many other substances in turmeric, such as its volatile oil, which may also support our health. Although much of the research on turmeric focuses on curcumin, there are over 50 different molecules in turmeric thought to have numerous benefits to human health. Other potential super substances in turmeric include the essential vitamins and minerals it contains, especially manganese and iron. Even though we typically consume just a small amount of turmeric

it can still can contain significant levels of these essential nutrients, which are vital for healthy bones, oxygen transport, thyroid function, and metabolism. Over the years, there have even been numerous studies on turmeric’s impact on cancer. Curcumin is thought to be able to modulate and balance cell-signalling molecules, including cytokines and the compound nuclear factor Kappa B. It may also help to increase the activity of some of our liver enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase, which helps to clear toxins from the body. Curcumin may even be a powerful cytotoxic molecule.

Turmeric and the
digestive system

Traditionally in India, turmeric has been used to support digestive wellness and liver health. It is believed to increase levels of the enzymes needed to support detoxification, it is also a bitter spice which may help to stimulate our digestive secretions and help us to break down food. Some studies suggesting that turmeric and curcumin, like many plant compounds, may help to influence our gut bacteria, which is so vital for digestive health.

Turmeric extracts may help support brain health by helping to protect brain cells from damage from toxins. Studies have also shown that curcumin may help to increase the clearance of amyloid plaque, which can accumulate in the human body and cause damage to brain cells.

Turmeric for
the brain

Turmeric and the
immune system

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has traditionally been used to help prevent coughs and colds, this could be due to its balancing effect on the immune system.


Turmeric is also thought to contain anti-bacterial properties, being used as a paste to help heal wounds and reduce infections. In fact, in certain parts of Bangladesh turmeric is the most commonly used medicine applied to umbilical cords after birth!

How can turmeric support
optimum wellness?

Turmeric has focused on those with health issues. However, a recent study looked at whether the spice may be able to support the wellbeing of healthy individuals. A group of 40 to 60 year olds were given 80mg of curcumin for 4 weeks, and this significantly helped to decrease levels of blood triglycerides, which may affect heart health, as well as helping to support overall health.

Absorption of turmeric

Unfortunately, many research trials using turmeric and the extract curcumin have not been as effective as scientists have hoped, and it’s thought this is due to the poor bioavailability of curcumin. This means that our body doesn’t absorb the extract very well through the gut, and what is absorbed is excreted very quickly.


The good news is that some regular cooking ingredients may help increase our body’s ability to absorb and use curcumin and turmeric. Simple additions include: piperine from black pepper, any type of fat, and polyphenol quercetin which is found in many vegetables such as onions or apples.


Piperine in black pepper has been shown to increase bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%. Whenever you cook with turmeric make sure that you add plenty of black pepper, a dollop of coconut oil or some olive oil, or use quercetin rich apples or onions in your recipe.


If you’re choosing turmeric or curcumin capsules, these should also contain some form of fat and/or piperine or black pepper. Some preparations are made with lecithin or glycophospholipids, which again can significantly increase how our body uses and absorbs the active ingredients.


Interestingly, some research trials have compared the effectiveness of turmeric against curcumin extract alone, with one study finding that the whole turmeric supplement was twice as effective in helping the body’s immune responses compared to cur cumin.


Another trial studied a supplement which contained curcumin extract alongside turmeric oil, which significantly increased the bioavailability of the curcumin. This suggests that using the natural compounds found in turmeric may actually help our body to use all the goodness found inside, which may be an argument for using the whole food (ie turmeric root or powder) instead of extracts.

How much turmeric should I have?

It has been established that, even in quite high doses, it’s very safe to use turmeric, with up to 8g per day of the extract curcumin being used in some trials. In terms of supporting optimal wellness and prevention of disease, usually 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder per day is advisable, added to your food.


Generally turmeric and curcumin are very safe, although it’s important to see how your body reacts to the spice, especially your digestive system, as for some people it can loosen the bowel a little or cause irritation to the stomach. However this usually only occurs if consumed at very high doses.

How do I use turmeric?

So, now that we know some of the wonderful health benefits of turmeric, it’s important to discover the best ways to use it. India uses around 80% of the world’s supply of turmeric, so it’s no wonder that the spice is associated with Indian cooking, giving the strong yellow colour to so many of its dishes. You can add powdered turmeric to so many of your favourite foods – the

most obvious being rice dishes and curries. However, scrambled eggs, stews, soups, casseroles and even smoothies work really well with a good pinch or more of turmeric. A little turmeric mixed with lemon and some yoghurt makes a beautiful marinade for chicken, or you can use it to coat fish, or even added to your mashed potato. Cakes turn a beautiful colour

when a little turmeric is added, or try some home brewed turmeric and orange tea, or make your own turmeric milk. Just add a half teaspoon of turmeric to a milk of your choice, gently heat, and stir in some nourishing coconut oil. If you have a sweet tooth, try adding a little honey, or perhaps some dark cocoa powder and cinnamon for a superfood hot chocolate.

“If you decide to supplement curcumin extract, it’s advisable to have up to half a gram (500mg) up to three or four times per day, although some research studies have used much more.


Do remember, that if you have any health conditions or are taking medication, you should speak to your GP or specialist before taking any medicinal doses of turmeric or cur cumin.”

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