Turmeric is a staple ingredient in many cuisines, and people use it in traditional medicine to treat various conditions. Research suggests it may be a safe and accessible way to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.
This article explores the effects of turmeric on the body and how it may help lower cholesterol. It also explains how to use it safely, possible side effects, and other tips for reducing cholesterol levels.
Turmeric, or the golden spice, originates from the root of the Curcuma longa plant — a perennial plant in the ginger family. It is a common spice and a primary ingredient of curry powder due to its peppery flavor, distinctive aromatic scent, and golden yellow color.
Many researchers have examined the effects of turmeric and curcumin on various biological molecules, including cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance
High levels of LDL and triglycerides, another harmful type of fat,
The researchers also noted the following:
- By reducing serum LDL levels, turmeric and curcumin may help protect people at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- People may tolerate curcumin better than conventional drugs.
- There is a need for more research to understand curcumin’s most effective dosage, form, and strength.
A 2018 study of 70 participants investigated whether taking curcumin alongside dietary phytosterols helped lower cholesterol. Dietary phytosterols include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. The results suggested that taking curcumin alongside dietary phytosterols may improve the cholesterol-lowering effect.
The researchers noted that curcumin may be a useful complementary therapy.
Overall, turmeric’s effect on cholesterol is promising, but more research is needed to confirm its benefits.
Turmeric is commercially available in different forms, such as teas, extracts, powders, and capsules.
People can take turmeric by:
- adding it as a spice to soups, sauces, and other dishes
- adding it to hot water mixed with lemon
- chewing a piece of turmeric root
- adding it to tea
- sprinkling it into a smoothie
- adding it to salad dressings
- taking it in capsule form
- adding it to skin care and hair products
A 2020 review suggests that turmeric may have additional health benefits besides helping to lower cholesterol. These include:
- Antioxidation: Researchers have attributed the antioxidative property of turmeric to its double-bond chemical structure. Turmeric exerts its antioxidative effect by binding to and scavenging free radicals.
Research from 2021indicates that curcumin, the primary anti-inflammatory agent in turmeric, acts by regulating inflammatory pathways and blocking the activity of inflammatory enzymes.
- Pain relief: Turmeric may offer relief from chronic pain. A 2021 study found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took turmeric experienced less pain and improved knee function.
- Neuroprotection: Curcumin may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases and neural inflammation. It blocks inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins that cause neurological disorders such as:
- Antidiabetes: A
2021 systematic reviewof 16 studies evaluated the effects of curcumin on diabetes mellitus. It found that curcumin significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI).
- Anticancer: A
2019 reviewnotes that curcumin has shown considerable anticancer effects against several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, both in humans and in laboratory models.
- Skin care: Research from
2016and 2021indicates that when people use turmeric topically or orally, it can effectively treat chronic skin conditions, including psoriasis, vitiligo, and atopic dermatitis.
Turmeric and curcumin are usually very safe and do not cause adverse effects, even at high doses of up to 8 grams (g) per day.
However, some people may experience adverse side effects, including:
- digestive disorders
- dermatitis and skin allergies
Peopel who are pregnant and breastfeeding can take turmeric in small doses, such as in cooking, but experts do not recommend higher doses, such as supplements.
People allergic to plants from the Zingiberaceae family, such as ginger and cardamom, should avoid consuming turmeric.
Curcumin may cause gallbladder contractions and gallstone development, so people with gallstones or bile duct obstruction should avoid using it.
To reduce cholesterol, doctors may recommend:
- eating a diet that is low in saturated and trans fat
- getting regular exercise
- quitting smoking
- cutting down on alcohol
- taking prescription cholesterol-lowering medications if necessary
Learn more about ways to lower cholesterol without medication here.
High cholesterol can increase a person’s risk of heart-related conditions, so they may wish to lower it. People can reduce their cholesterol levels gradually by making changes to their lifestyle, such as eating a nutritious, balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
A person can have regular cholesterol screenings to check their levels. They may wish to talk with a doctor about using turmeric to help lower their cholesterol if it is high.
If a person is taking other medications for a health condition or is waiting for surgery, a doctor can help them decide whether they can take turmeric.
Many people use turmeric in their everyday cookings. Its active ingredient curcumin has various health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some studies suggest that turmeric may help reduce cholesterol. However, more research is needed to confirm this.
People can consume turmeric in tea, smoothies, soups, and other dishes. A person may also take it as a capsule.
Most people tolerate turmeric well, but it may cause side effects in some people.
A doctor can assess people who take other medications or have certain health conditions to decide whether turmeric is suitable for them.