10 Turmeric Benefits – Remarkably Better Than Prescription Drugs?

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Turmeric is a staple spice of Indian cooking. It is one of the most recognizable culinary ingredients thanks to its brilliant yellow color and pungent aroma.

Turmeric is also quite possibly the most powerful all-natural herbal medicine in existence. In fact, there have been over 6,200 research studies conducted on turmeric and its bounty of healing properties, most of which are attributed to its principal curcuminoid, curcumin.

Related – Turmeric: Guide to 9 Substantial Benefits of Turmeric

This puts turmeric on top of the list as one of the most frequently mentioned medicinal herbs in all of science and the next most popular studied herbs include garlic, cinnamon, ginseng, ginger, and milk thistle.

Of the 6000+ studies referencing curcumin, the most interesting finding is that when turmeric is compared to conventional medicine its benefits equal that of many pharmaceutical medications. In fact, a number of studies have even reported that using curcumin is more advantageous than certain prescription drugs.

So, how exactly does Turmeric compare to prescription drugs? It’s time to find out in the ultimate natty vs fake showdown!

Top 10 Head to Head Matchups

Turmeric

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Of the 6000+ studies conducted on turmeric, you’d think there’d be more than 10 showdowns between the spice and prescription drugs – and you’d be right. There are a lot more matchups between turmeric and pharmaceuticals, but we’ve selected the top 10 comparisons based on the most commonly prescribed drugs out there.

#1 – Anti-inflammatories

Turmeric, and with that curcumin’s, most well-known attribute is its ability to combat inflammation. As you know, one of the most commonly used and prescribed drugs are anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc.).

Research comparing curcumin to several other anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, found that curcumin was among the most effective for reducing inflammation. In fact, researchers found that aspirin and ibuprofen were among the least effective anti-inflammatory agents tested. [1]

In case you weren’t aware, inflammation is at the heart of many prevalent diseases of today including arthritis, chronic pain, high cholesterol, and even cancer. If you weren’t spicing up your food with turmeric before, you might want to consider doing so going forward to put a stop to inflammation and ensure a pain free life as you age.

#2 – Antidepressants

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, and roughly 15 million Americans are diagnosed with depression each year. [2] To “beat the blues” doctors typically prescribe all sorts of mood elevators to rebalance your neurochemical makeup in the hopes you get out of your current state of depression. Unfortunately, most people have mixed reactions to the meds and must go through countless rounds of testing different medications to see which one actually works for them.

All of this could be solved with turmeric though. Research in Phytotherapy Research enlisted 60 volunteers diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), i.e. manic depression, and gave patients either Prozac or curcumin. [3]

At the end of the trial, patients showed no adverse affects to curcumin and researchers found that the compound was just as effective as Prozac at managing symptoms of depression. In fact, researchers went so far as to say, “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe therapy for treatment in patients with mild depression.”

#3 – Diabetes

When it comes to current epidemics dominating the landscape, Diabetes is at the forefront of the day. Roughly 29.1 million people have been diagnosed with it, and an estimated 8.1 million are undiagnosed.

Typically, doctors prescribe some form of insulin or other type of drug for handling the condition, such as Metformin, but it turns out that turmeric might be even better than those drugs for controlling type 2 diabetes.

A 2009 study published in Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications investigated how effective turmeric supplementation could be in the war on diabetes. Researchers were stunned to see that curcumin, found in turmeric, was 400x more powerful than Metformin in stimulating AMPK, an enzyme that plays a crucial role in insulin sensitivity. [4]

Moreover, curcumin also has been shown to improve many of the symptoms related to insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, hallmark symptoms of diabetes, as well as diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy (retinal disease that leads to blindness).

Arthritis

#4 – Arthritis

Seeing how turmeric and curcumin are powerful anti-inflammatories, it should come as no surprise that the spice is effective in the treatment of arthritis. One of the most common drugs typically prescribed for arthritis is diclofenac sodium (a.k.a. Voltaren). While it’s been shown to help combat arthritis, it also comes with the potential nasty side effects of heart disease and leaky gut.

Turmeric, however, is side effect free, and has been shown to not only improve symptoms of arthritis, but it has been documented to yield the greatest improvement in “Disease Activity Score” compared to other arthritis drugs. [5] This means that the curcumin in turmeric gave users the best relief from their aches and pains, even better than commonly prescribed prescription drugs.

#5 – Painkillers

Opioid addiction is one of the biggest crises facing the country and world at large. Opioids are commonly prescribed to help people deal with pain following serious surgery or extreme pain. However, they very frequently result in addiction.

In addition to its powers as an anti-inflammatory, curcumin is also a natural painkiller by way of stimulating the opioid receptors in the body, the natural pain-relieving receptors of the body.[6] Nowhere was this more present than in a study conducted on burn victims.

While they are commonly prescribed opioids, NSAIDS, and other drugs to deal with pain, researchers found that giving turmeric to burn victims improved healing (due to its anti-inflammatory properties) as well as provided natural pain relief. [6][7]

The biggest upside to using turmeric though is that there were no risk of addiction, overdose, or tolerance buildup as is normally found with prescription painkillers.

#6 – Cholesterol

Cholesterol medications are another of the most commonly prescribed medications of today. Typically, doctors prescribe statin drugs, such as Lipitor, to combat plaque and cholesterol build up in the arteries and lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and numerous other diseases brought on by high cholesterol.

However, statins also come with a number of deadly side effects such as kidney and liver damage. So while you might not die from high cholesterol, something else could easily send you to an early grave.

That’s where turmeric comes to the rescue. Research published in the journal Drugs in R&D found that curcumin was more effective than prescription drugs in treating high cholesterol. [8]

Yet again, you see that nature has provided a superior all-natural remedy to a common medical condition and spares you the need and hazard of using prescription drugs… But we’re not done yet!

#7 – Cancer

Cancer (in all its forms) represents the number one cause of deaths around the world. There’s no other way to spin in — the disease is deadly, pure and simple. A number of treatments and drugs have been developed to combat the various forms of cancer, all with varying degrees of success, but almost all of them come with nasty side effects.

Given turmeric’s long list of benefits, it’s no surprise researchers have investigated it as a means for combating the disease. In fact, a number of studies have successfully demonstrated that curcumin does exerts some anticancer properties. More specifically, curcumin has the power to kill off cancer cells and prevent new cancer cells from growing. [9] Researchers attribute curcumin’s cancer killing properties to its ability to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. [9]

Curcumin has increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments in bowel cancer and has shown incredible effectiveness for other forms of cancer including skin, stomach, and breast cancers. [10]

#8 – Gastrointestinal

Inflammation is one of the primary causes of common gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative Colitis (UC), and Crohn’s disease. A comprehensive review of curcumin studies have found that the compound is incredibly effective at managing the different diseases. [11]

More importantly, many of the drugs prescribed for these GI diseases destroy beneficial gut flora (bacteria) which brings about further complications in digestion and nutrient absorption. But, with turmeric, you won’t have those worries, because it actually supports the growth of good gut bacteria, a.k.a. Probiotics. [12]

#9 – Blood Thinners

Blood thinners, a.k.a. anticoagulants, are drugs commonly prescribed to reduce or prevent coagulation of blood, thereby lengthening the amount of time it takes blood to clot. These types of drugs, such as aspirin, warfarin, or Plavix, are usually prescribed for people with deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms. While these drugs are effective to a certain degree, they also come with a number of side effects including headaches, back pain, difficulty breathing, and excessive bleeding.

Turmeric, though, doesn’t come with these sorts of extreme consequences, unless taken in excessively egregious amounts. In fact, turmeric has been researched since the 1980s as a more effective and natural alternative to these medications for the treatment of vascular thrombosis.[13]

#10 – Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a family of steroid hormones commonly prescribed to treat a wide variety of conditions including Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and scleroderma. They work by reducing redness, swelling, and itching in inflamed areas of the body. The downside to corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, is the laundry list of side effects that come with them, including:

  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cataracts

The list goes one, but you get the idea. While useful, corticosteroids are useful, they bring way too many negative consequences to be used for any considerable length of time.

However, curcumin has been shown in a number of trials to be equally as effective as steroids in treating a number of conditions, but with the added benefit of no adverse side effects experienced by test subjects. Additionally, when combined with prednisone, curcumin helps users avoid any of the nasty side effects described above. [14]

Turmeric Side Effects

Now, while turmeric is considered a fantastic all-natural remedy for a wide array of diseases and conditions, some people do experience the occasional side effect from its use. It’s important to note that these occurrences are minimal in magnitude and quantity compared to prescription drugs. Still, it’s worth mentioning that there are a few possible side effects to using turmeric and curcumin, including:

  • Rash (when applied topically)
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Increased menstrual flow
  • Greater risk of bleeding

Also, if you are currently on an prescription medications, consult with your doctor before supplementing with either curcumin or turmeric as the spice is known to interfere with several brand name drugs, especially anticoagulants and NSAIDs.

Turmeric Knock Out!

When you step back and look at all the benefits turmeric has to offer in regards to disease fighting and prevention, incorporating it into your lifestyle really is a no-brainer. It’s been shown time and again to perform as good or better than many prescription drugs, and without any of the nasty side effects that prescriptions usually contain.

If you’re looking to shift away from prescriptions and into a more holistic, natural way to improve your health, turmeric (and curcumin) are one of the best remedies you can invest in!

References

1) Takada Y, Bhardwaj A, Potdar P, Aggarwal BB. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene. 2004;23(57):9247-9258. doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1208169. https://www.nature.com/onc/journal/v23/n57/full/1208169a.html
2) “Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Home | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.
3) Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., Goel, A. and Tripathi, C. B. (2014), Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother. Res., 28: 579–585. doi:10.1002/ptr.5025. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.5025/abstract
4) Kim T, Davis J, Zhang AJ, He X, Mathews ST. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009;388(2):377-382. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.08.018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19665995
5) Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719-1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22407780
6) Cheppudira B, Fowler M, McGhee L, et al. Curcumin: a novel therapeutic for burn pain and wound healing. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2013;22(10):1295-1303. doi:10.1517/13543784.2013.825249. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23902423
7) Kulac M, Aktas C, Tulubas F, et al. The effects of topical treatment with curcumin on burn wound healing in rats. J Mol Histol. 2013;44(1):83-90. doi:10.1007/s10735-012-9452-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23054142
8) Usharani P, Mateen AA, Naidu MUR, Raju YSN, Chandra N. Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study. Drugs R D. 2008;9(4):243-250. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18588355
9) Ravindran J, Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively? The AAPS Journal. 2009;11(3):495-510. doi:10.1208/s12248-009-9128-x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/
10) Patel VB, Misra S, Patel BB, Majumdar APN. Colorectal Cancer: Chemopreventive Role of Curcumin and Resveratrol. Nutrition and cancer. 2010;62(7):10.1080/01635581.2010.510259. doi:10.1080/01635581.2010.510259. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3837545/
11) Taylor RA, Leonard MC. Curcumin for inflammatory bowel disease: a review of human studies. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(2):152-156. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21649456
12) Bested AC, Logan AC, Selhub EM. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II – contemporary contextual research. Gut Pathogens. 2013;5:3. doi:10.1186/1757-4749-5-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601973/
13) Kim D-C, Ku S-K, Bae J-S. Anticoagulant activities of curcumin and its derivative. BMB Rep. 2012;45(4):221-226. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531131
14) Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. The AAPS Journal. 2013;15(1):195-218. doi:10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/

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