Long a superstar spice in Asian countries, particularly India, turmeric is gaining popularity in the Western world. And it turns out, it packs a much bigger punch than simply flavoring your food. As one of the most studied spices for health benefits, turmeric is rich in a compound called curcumin that can work magic in the body. From taming pain to improving brain health and mood to lowering risk of diabetes, turmeric benefits for women are impressive.
In fact, there are more than 22,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies on curcumin on PubMed, a free online database of research maintained by the National Institutes of Health, says Ajay Goel, PhD, who has studied curcumin extensively and is an expert on its health benefits. “There is not any modern drug or any other spice for which we have that many [studies],” he asserts. “And I’ve yet to find a single human disease for which curcumin has not been studied because it works every time.” Why? It lowers inflammation. “And once that happens, everything begins to get better.”
The superstar compound found in turmeric
When it comes to turmeric benefits for women, it’s primarily due to the spice’s rich concentration of curcumin. “In my mind, curcumin is probably the best-known natural anti-inflammatory,” says Dr. Goel, professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapy at City of Hope, a cancer center pioneering cancer research, treatment and prevention. “That’s a big deal because most of the chronic diseases we talk about all originate from long-term chronic inflammation.”
Dr. Goel has gone so far as to call curcumin a “complete well-being tonic.” “Pain is a manifestation of acute inflammation,” he says. “But chronic inflammation has no symptoms. When it happens for a long time, we get diabetes, depression, cancer and every other disease.”
But curcumin’s perks don’t end with putting the brakes on inflammation. “In addition, curcumin is an important antioxidant. It gets rid of all of the free radicals floating around in our body.” And that’s so important to healthy aging, he says, because free radicals cause oxidative stress that damages our DNA and tissues.
Turmeric benefits for women
While eating foods with turmeric and supplementing with curcumin can bring health perks to everyone, there are certain benefits that are especially important for women.
1. It reduces diabetes risk
Board-certified naturopathic physician Kellyann Petrucci, MS, ND, says so many women gain weight, especially around the belly, during the transition to menopause because the natural drop in estrogen makes them more susceptible to insulin resistance. “It’s prevalent for women because insulin has a direct effect on weight gain and the inability to lose weight during perimenopause and menopause,” says the author of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Breakthrough.
That’s where turmeric can help. A Harvard study found that 100% of prediabetic subjects who took 750 mg of curcumin twice daily prevented diabetes entirely, while many who did not supplement developed the disease. Curcumin helps prevent insulin resistance, optimizing the body’s ability to produce and use the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. This lowers excess insulin levels and markedly helps ward off weight gain. (Click through to learn how to whip up a delicious glass of turmeric milk for weight loss.)
2. It eases hot flashes and PMS
Another perk for women? A study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that curcumin significantly reduced hot flashes in postmenopausal women, Petrucci says. And Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, says a separate study in the same journal confirmed curcumin’s ability to significantly reduce symptoms of PMS. Subjects in this study who took two capsules of curcumin daily — starting seven days before their period and again for three days following their period — saw a 60% reduction in PMS symptoms. That can include mood swings, irritability, breast tenderness and abdominal cramping, among other symptoms. (Click through to learn how maca root can ease menopause symptoms, too.)
3. It wards off autoimmune conditions
While turmeric’s curcumin can help anyone who suffers with inflammation and the immune-triggered conditions it can cause, such as Hashimoto’s, multiple sclerosis and arthritis, women are disproportionately affected, says Dr. Teitelbaum, an expert in the fields of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, sleep and pain and the developer of the free smart phone app, Cures A-Z.
More ways turmeric improves your health
The benefits of turmeric for women don’t stop there. Here are seven more ways the brightly colored spice can improve your health from head to toe.
1. It improves digestion
Pairing an herb known as Boswellia with curcumin tames damaging inflammation to strengthen the gut wall by 150%, suggests research in Pharmaceuticals. This wards off a condition known as leaky gut syndrome, in which the intestinal lining leaches bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream to cause GI upset and fatigue. And a study in Nutrients found folks who took the combo experienced significantly less bloating and abdominal pain within 30 days.
2. It reduces liver fat
“The liver is one of your body’s primary detoxification organs,” Petrucci says. “Turmeric encourages the natural detoxification process, assisting in the breakdown and removal or harmful substances.” And a study in Phytotherapy Research backs this benefit, finding that curcumin lowered liver fat by 51% in eight weeks.
3. It wards off the blues
“The active compounds in turmeric can influence neurotransmitter functions in the brain, helping to maintain a balanced and positive mood,” Petrucci says. Proof it works: A study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that taking 1,000 mg. of high-absorbency curcumin wards off seasonal doldrums for 63% of women who try it. That’s as effective as the drug Prozac. The researchers say curcumin helps the brain produce feel-good hormones, even during times of stress.
4. It protects your heart
Turmeric can help keep your ticker in tip-top shape. The spice helps maintain blood vessel health to support cardiovascular function, Petrucci says. In fact, a study in Nutrition Research found that supplementing with curcumin increased blood vessel suppleness by 47% in eight weeks. That’s thanks to the compound’s polyphenols, which curb the inflammation that triggers vessel stiffening. Even better: A study in the journal Cells suggests that curcumin lowers the risk of heart attack through its ability to prevent atherosclerosis, or thickening and hardening of the arteries.
5. It bolsters immunity
“Especially relevant during changing seasons, turmeric can bolster the body’s natural immune responses, preparing us against common illnesses,” Petrucci says. So it’s no wonder that research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that curcumin decreased inflammation and allergies, plus enhanced immune protection against tumor cells, cardiovascular diseases and all types of pathogens. (Click through to learn how compounds known as quercetin and zinc boost immunity, too.)
Check out the video below from Steven Gundry, MD, to discover more health benefits turmeric.
6. It protects against cancer
One of the easiest ways to shore up your defenses against developing cancer is by tapping into the protective benefits of turmeric. Its curcumin turns off genetic “switches” in cells that set cancerous changes in motion. “As a result, curcumin works to prevent or delay the onset of virtually every type of cancer,” Dr. Goel says.
7. It eases pain
As one of the best anti-inflammatories, curcumin is also a very potent COX-1 inhibitor, says Dr. Goel. Since pain begins with inflammation and COX enzymes that fire up pain pathways, curcumin quashes discomort on all levels. And it works as well as, if not better than, many of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) sold over-the-counter, Dr. Goel adds. (Click through to see why turmeric is one of the best ways to ease knee pain when bending.)
Why supplementing with turmeric is best
Turmeric’s curcumin is one of the top tools in what Dr. Teitelbaum calls our “herbal armamentarium” thanks to its powerfully effective ability to tame and prevent so many health issues. But for the first 35 years of his medical practice, it was useless, he says. Why? It wasn’t possible to get enough curcumin based on the doses needed to bring these amazing benefits.
The spice turmeric usually contains less than 2% curcumin, Dr. Teitelbaum says. Not only would it be difficult to get enough curcumin by adding turmeric to your diet, but it would take “50 pills of turmeric to get the effect of one pill of curcumin,” he says. “Then the curcumin itself is poorly absorbed, so it took a lot of the curcumin itself to work.”
“Then, research found that if the turmeric oil was added back to the curcumin, absorption was increased sevenfold,” he notes. “So one pill of this special combination was like 350 pills of turmeric,” Dr. Teitelbaum says of the combo available as Terry Naturally CuradMed Superior Absorption Turmeric (Buy from Amazon, $73.56). “Suddenly, thousands of research studies became helpful, because the clinical effect of the curcumin could now be seen with one or two pills a day instead of 350 to 700.”
How to cook with turmeric
If you’d like to work more turmeric into your diet to reap the health benefits of curcumin, three things will increase its absorption and effectiveness, says Petrucci: Add black pepper to your dish, combine the turmeric with fats and heat it up. Pepper contains piperine, a substance that a study in Cancer Research & Treatment found increased curcumin absorption by 2,000%.
“Just a little pinch of black pepper can work wonders,” she says. “Also, turmeric is fat-soluble, so consider combining turmeric with healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil or even avocados.” When the turmeric dissolves in the fat, it becomes more bioavailable to the body. And cooking the turmeric, she adds, does the same thing.
What does turmeric taste like?
“Turmeric has a warm, slightly bitter taste (similar to raw cocoa),” says Petrucci. “Imagine the warm, spicy undertones of ginger and the tangy bite of mustard, coupled with a peppery kick.” The spice’s warmth may remind you of a mild cinnamon with an earthy base note, she adds. “Curry is the classic use for turmeric, and it’s typically how people are first introduced to the spice.” She suggests sprinkling it on veggies, especially carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale and spinach. “Roasted vegetables with turmeric is an effortless way to add a dash of health and color to your daily diet.”
How long does it take for women to see the health benefits of turmeric?
“Everyone’s path to wellness is unique,” Petrucci says, adding the same holds true for the time it will take for turmeric to work its magic. “Your baseline health plays an important role. If your body is in a state of balance, you may notice the benefits sooner than if you have specific health challenges.”
What you eat can also enhance or inhibit the effects of curcumin. “For instance, because curcumin can help soothe tension and irritation in the digestive system, eating foods that trigger digestive upset might cause you to miss out on the benefits of turmeric.” Consistency is also important, meaning that for women to get the benefits, they must consume turmeric on a daily basis.
For more on turmeric’s benefits:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at email@example.com.