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Turmeric: It’s been touted as a magic bullet for a host of ailments

Turmeric latte? How about a turmeric-infused popcorn? It’s been touted as a magic bullet for joint pain, eczema and even depression… so here’s why you should Curry on taking the turmeric!

Fancy a turmeric latte? How about a turmeric-infused bag of popcorn, washed down with a turmeric tea? And maybe later you can dab on a little turmeric face cream? Not too long ago, this golden spice was just another powder at the back of the cupboard – only really getting an outing when added to a chicken tikka masala. Hard to believe that now.

Today, supermarket shelves seem to heave with products infused with the stuff.

Turmeric, which gives many foods an almost neon glow, can now be found in everything from drinks, yogurts and bread to buns, biscuits and even popcorn.

Fancy a turmeric latte? How about a turmeric-infused bag of popcorn, washed down with a turmeric tea? And maybe later you can dab on a little turmeric face cream? Not too long ago, this golden spice was just another powder at the back of the cupboard

Undoubtedly, the surge in interest is at least partly due to news about the alleged health-giving benefits of the root, which in its raw form looks a bit like ginger, linking it to everything from aiding gut ailments and easing joint pain to helping stave off depression and even preventing cancer.

Whether or not the aromatic taste of turmeric appeals is one thing. But is eating it doing us any good? Here we examine the facts (and some myths) to help you decide if you need to get some in…


Numerous trials have concluded that the spice – or rather, its active ingredient curcumin, which makes up around three per cent of the powdered spice – could help ease the pain of arthritis.

Most arthritis studies have used a concentrated extract of the spice containing at least 500mg curcumin, which would equate to over five and a half teaspoons of turmeric powder. But at these sort of levels it’s a promising treatment. In a small 2012 pilot study, a concentrated pill form of curcumin under the brand name BCM95 reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis better than diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Biocurcumax (£21.99 from supplies the BM95 form with 650mg in a daily dose of two capsules.


A study published in Diabetes Care in 2012, found that people with prediabetes who took curcumin for nine months had improved function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. About 240 people were involved in the study and, after nine months of treatment 16 per cent of subjects in the placebo group were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but none in the curcumin-treated group.

The results sound impressive but need replicating, ideally with lower dosages, as the amounts used in this study were in a concentrated curcumin supplement form – equating to 16 teaspoons of turmeric powder. It’s more easily achieved by taking three capsules daily of a 500mg supplement such as Opti-Turmeric (£18.95 for 50 capsules from health – though the recommended daily dose is two.

A study published in Diabetes Care in 2012, found that people with prediabetes who took curcumin for nine months had improved function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas


A handful of small clinical trials suggests that curcumin can help people with ulcerative colitis. A study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2015 found that for people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis taking the standard medication of mesalamine, the addition of a high-dose curcumin supplement (equivalent to 30-plus teaspoons of turmeric powder) helped half of them achieve remission after four weeks. None given a placebo benefited.

More trials are needed to confirm the findings.


Curcumin supplements may improve the ability of blood vessels to dilate and expand, which enables blood pressure to normalise during stress. In a 2012 Japanese study involving 32 post-menopausal women split into three groups, those who took high- dose curcumin supplements had the same improvement in artery flexibility as those who did aerobic exercise. A placebo group saw no improvement.

An Iranian study reported in Phytotherapy Research in 2013 also found a reduction in triglycerides in those taking 1g curcumin a day – about 11 teaspoons of turmeric powder or 2 x 500mg curcumin capsules. Elevated levels of triglycerides make the blood sticky and thick, increasing the risk of clots.


Despite some promising laboratory research on brain cells, studies looking at turmeric and brain functions have mostly found little or no benefit. As for people with Alzheimer’s disease, studies ‘have not been able to generate the anticipated benefits of curcumin’, a review in the British Journal Of Nutrition in 2016 found.

Cancer Research UK say that studies with cancer and turmeric look promising but that more clinical trials in humans are needed before we will know if it has any potential to treat cancer. Generally speaking, a minimum dose of two 500mg capsules of curcumin per day may give you the best chance of reaping health benefits.


In 2016, The Mail on Sunday’s health columnist Dr Michael Mosley and Newcastle University, demonstrated how one daily teaspoon of turmeric, taken for six weeks, has the power to manipulate genes – even those involved in depression, asthma, eczema and cancer.

The study used a smaller, more achievable dose than other studies, and still showed a benefit. But that was with turmeric added to food – neither a supplement of the same dosage nor a placebo showed this beneficial effect. One theory is that adding oil or heating (as in a curry or stir-fry for example) could make the curcumin more soluble and easier to absorb. Curcumin dissolves in fat, not water, and studies show that consuming it with black pepper boosts absorption by 2,000 per cent.

So having turmeric in food is probably the better bet, but consistency of intake is key. Anything from one to five-and-a-half teaspoons of 90-500mg curcumin taken every day is the suggested minimum dose of turmeric powder.

When scouring high street and online stores for turmeric-containing products we went with the achievable one teaspoon a day yardstick for measuring potential benefit. We know this amount may have beneficial effects and doesn’t cause known downsides such as reduced iron absorption and gastric reflux.

In reality, you’re more likely to be getting too little than too much from everyday products.

So which are going to leave you glowing and which were little more than fool’s gold? Here are the best, and the rest, of the bunch…


Golden Greens organic turmeric with ginger and black pepper

Golden Greens organic turmeric with ginger and black pepper

Active dose of turmeric?

What is it? Turmeric with ginger and black pepper to boost curcumin absorption. When whisked into warm milk, it makes a comforting drink. The recommended 5g rounded teaspoon should give about 150mg of curcumin. You can also add to cooking.

Taste test: Spicy milk is initially disconcerting, but the after-taste was strangely pleasant.

Nutritional evaluation: A good amount of active curcumin here, although website claims about protection from Alzheimer’s are premature. Additive-free.

£12.99 for 100g,

Turmeric & Black Pepper Popcorn

Active dose of turmeric?

What is it? Popcorn flavoured with turmeric, Himalayan Pink Salt and black pepper.

Taste test: Light and crisp (not greasy) with subtle flavour of salt and turmeric.

Nutritional evaluation: One packet gives 117 calories, no sugar and 7g fat – a quarter of your daily limit. Despite the fat content, it’s a low-calorie wholegrain treat. The turmeric content equates to an eighth of a teaspoon, though the little that is in a bag should be absorbed relatively well because of the fat and black pepper.

£1.15 for 20g pack,

Pukka turmeric brainwave

Pukka turmeric brainwave

Active dose of turmeric?

What is it? Supplement contains turmeric root, iodine and Indian plant extracts such as Brahmi leaf and Gotu Kola Leaf, which Pukka claim have brain- boost benefits.

Taste test: Relatively tasteless. Recommended dose is two tablets daily so one pack doesn’t last long.

Nutritional evaluation: Contains the equivalent of a quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric – 20mg of curcumin – so you would need to quadruple the dose at least and consume with a fat-containing meal to improve absorption.

£15.95 for 15-day supply,

Starbucks Turmeric Latte

Active dose of turmeric?

What is it? Double-shot espresso with semi-skimmed milk and Starbucks ‘turmeric mix’ – a mixture of sugar and turmeric powder.

Taste test: Pleasant, warming flavour with a caffeine kick, although on the sweet side.

Nutritional evaluation: Tall latte provides 184 calories and 24g of sugar – up to half of it added sugar. Starbucks failed to specify the amount of turmeric but we do know the sugar content is far higher. More likely to affect the waistline than boost health.

£2.95 for a medium, Starbucks

Profusion Turmeric Rice Bread

Active dose

of turmeric?

What is it? Gluten-free bread made with wholegrain rice, millet, corn, agave syrup and turmeric.

Taste test: The turmeric flavour doesn’t fit well in a bread.

Nutritional evaluation: If you can stomach it you’d get a teaspoon of turmeric in four slices. Low in fat and sugar, 100 calories in a slice.

£2.31 for 250g loaf,

Dr Carrie Ruxton is a dietician, and Angela Dowden is a nutritionist and regular contributor to The Mail on Sunday’s Health pages.


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