The Truth About Turmeric

Like many herbs and spices, turmeric is having a moment. The golden-hued spice is touted as a panacea for ills by both medical and holistic practitioners, its effects impacting everything from hangovers to cancer. Your “golden milk” latte is said to have anti-inflammatory properties and provide a strong antioxidant, and ingesting the spice in larger quantities is said to prevent melanoma, prevent breast cancer, and detoxify the liver.

Unfortunately, turmeric may not be the spice we’ve been waiting for. The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry studied turmeric’s key compound—curcumin—and the effect it may have on the body. They found that it is not easily absorbed by the human body, making it unlikely that the herb’s benefits can be delivered on a cellular level. Moreover, the majority of scientific studies done on turmeric did not include double-blind placebo-controlled trials—the governing standard for pharmacological studies.

However, don’t throw away your turmeric just yet; it may offer localized benefits on the gut level. It is known to suppress excess production of stomach acid, and the spice’s astringent qualities can help seal the lining of the bowel and digestive tract. Though not effective on a cellular level, turmeric may be a natural replacement for acid reflux medications.

Moreover, most scientific studies conducted on turmeric concern just one of its key compounds—curcumin. The actual plant that yields turmeric produces tens of thousands of different compounds, and the synergy of these elements may provide some type of benefit beyond gut regulation. That said, the herb must, likely, be ingested in large quantities to yield any effects. No, your turmeric latte will not cure cancer, but taking a turmeric supplement might have lesser-known benefits.