Category Archives: Turmeric


Can Fermentation Unlock Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Fermentation: The Key to Unlocking Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Turmeric seems to be the current king, and though it’s pronunciation may be up for debate (is it tur-merick, or too-merick?!), it’s potential health benefits certainly aren’t. Though it may be the star of the health and wellbeing movement, currently featuring in everything from turmeric lattes to skincare products, it has been around for a long time and has a history of traditional use as a spice and medicinal herb.

Turmeric is a product of curcuma longa, belonging to the ginger family (1). It has been used for thousands of years across Asia, featuring strongly in traditional medicine, with various cultures globally prising it for its support of inflammatory disorders (1). It is considered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, and with many modern-day diseases linked to chronic inflammation like cardiovascular disease (2), its benefits cannot be understated. Turmeric also has antioxidant properties (1), helping and supporting the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and supporting the body’s own production of anti-oxidant enzymes.

Turmeric is made up of many components, though many supplements are focusing on extracting one of the parts which shows benefits, this is curcumin. The problem with this approach is that by isolating compounds within foods we tend to lose out on the synergistic health effects of the whole plant. More than 100 components in total have been isolated from turmeric, and curcumin is just one part of a greater whole, including the other curcuminoids and volatile oils which have been found to have supporting health benefits(1).

Curcumin is not particularly well-absorbed due to rapid metabolism by the body, and low aqueous solubility (3;4). One solution to this is to use a fermented form of turmeric. Fermentation, like turmeric, has been around for thousands of years, and used traditionally by many cultures to aid nutrition. Fermented foods rich in enzymes, beneficial microorganisms and other nutrients would have been a staple of many cultures traditional diets. However, fermentation has made a big comeback, and it’s becoming easier to buy good quality fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut. Fermenting herbs and foods is a good way to help to increase their bioavailability and enhance the nutrients and functional properties due to transformation of substrates and formation of highly bioavailable end-products (5). Nothing is extracted or taken away, and you are supporting the nutrients contained within the plants and naturally activating them.

Living Nutrition’s Turmeric Alive uses a kefir-kombucha style fermentation, using 35 microorganisms to deeply ferment the turmeric and create a living matrix rich in enzymes, nutrients and beneficial microorganism. It has a whole profile of curcuminoids, along with other active compounds and phytonutrients that turmeric is naturally rich in. Fermented turmeric is highly bioavailable as it has increased water solubility, and contains a higher level of antioxidants and potent active components like tetrahydro-curcumin which in can be more efficient than its curcumin analogue (3;6;7). The fermented turmeric is combined with non-fermented turmeric which also is considered to support immune systems, alongside ginger as they have a wide range of active nutrients. It is organically certified by the soil association, Vegan friendly, and contains no fillers, binders or excipients.

1. Prasad, S. and Aggarwal, BB. 2011. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis:
2. Wang, Z. and Nakayama, T. 2010. Inflammation, a link between obesity and cardiovascular disease. Mediators of Inflammation, Volume 2010:
3. Epstein, J., Sanderson, IR., MacDonald, TT. 2010. ‘Curcumin as a therapeutic agent: the evidence from in vitro, animal and human studies.’ British Journal of Nutrition, 103 (11), 1545-1557.
4. Shoba, G. Joy, D. and Joseph, T. et al. 1998. ‘Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.’ Planta Medica, 64(4), 353-356.
5. Marco, ML., Heeney, D., Binda, S. et al. 2016. ‘Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond.’ Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94-102.
6. Portes, E., Gardrat, C. and Castellan, A. 2007. ‘A comparative study on the antioxidant properties of tetrahydrocurcuminoids and curcuminoids. Tetrahedron, 63, 9092-9099:
7. Pianpumepong, P., Kumar Anal, A., Doungchawee, G. et al. 2012. ‘Study on enhanced absorption of lactobacillus-fermented turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) beverages in rats.’ International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 47(11), 2380-2387:


Turmeric and Cinnamon – Spices for a Healthy Heart

Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals.  A new study has tested the effects of culinary spices on markers of conditions such as heart disease.

Turmeric & Cinnamon For Heart Health
Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals. (2)

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, tested the effects of a spicy meal on levels of insulin, triglycerides and antioxidant defences.

Professor Sheila West and her colleagues prepared meals on two separate days for six men between the ages of 30 and 65 who were overweight, but otherwise healthy.  The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit.  The spice mix used was a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika.

The second ‘control’ meal was identical, except that spices were not included.

After each meal, the team drew blood from the participants every 30 minutes for three hours, measuring the effects of each meal on the body.

Compared with the unseasoned meal group, the spicy meal increased antioxidant activity in the blood by 13 percent and decreased insulin response by 21 percent.  Blood triglycerides also decreased by 30 percent compared with the unseasoned meal group.

“Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood,” explains West.  “If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased.  We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.”

This was a small, preliminary study, and further studies using a larger test group would help to clarify the results.  West intends to conduct further research to find if smaller doses of spices exert similar benefits.

In the meantime, for those who enjoy cooking, adding culinary spices is a simple way to add ‘kick’ to your dishes, and may offer health benefits too. The active components of ingredients such as garlic and turmeric are available in supplement form, which can be a convenient option. Those who enjoy spicy foods can try adding fresh, grated ginger to stir frys.  Turmeric goes well with chicken, rice and vegetable dishes, while its vibrant colour really helps to lift a dish.  Rosemary and oregano are great in Italian dishes, in stews or with roasted vegetables. Finally cinnamon can be added to your morning oatmeal for a sweet and healthy way to start your day.

Written by Nadia Mason


1.   A. C. Skulas-Ray, P. M. Kris-Etherton, D. L. Teeter, C.-Y. O. Chen, J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. G. West. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141 (8): 1451 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.138966.

2.  Image courtesy of  Michelle Meiklejohn.




Add some spice to your week

Curry is a firm favourite here in the UK and many of you may be planning on eating spicy dishes over the coming week.  Turmeric is one of the main spice ingredients of curry powder and has been used for thousands of years in Indian and Chinese medicine to relieve many different conditions.  In the last few years the spice has gained recognition here in the West as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent.

Curcumin, a polyphenol (plant chemical), is the key active component found within turmeric and is largely responsible for the orange/yellow colour of the spice.  In ancient times turmeric was used on the Indian subcontinent to treat various illnesses such as rheumatism, body-ache, skin diseases, intestinal worms, diarrhoea, intermittent fevers, liver disorders, nausea, urinary discharges, indigestion, inflammations, constipation, absent periods (amenorrhoea), and colic(1).

A recently published review paper(2) discusses the growing body of research suggesting that curcumin, has potential for the prevention and therapy of cancer.  Animal studies and in vitro (test tube) studies on human cells have shown that curcumin can both inhibit the formation of tumours and can act on cancer development in a variety of ways. Cell studies also demonstrate that curcumin is efficient at inducing controlled cell death (known as apoptosis) and that the spice exhibits a degree of selectivity for the destruction of cancer cells.  Studies indicate that curcumin is a safe agent, after further trials in humans take place it may well be developed for use in cancer prevention and therapy.

Another recent review paper(3) discusses the mounting evidence, from cell studies, of the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant potentials of turmeric and curcumin.  If further studies find that these properties extend in humans it would be hugely significant as many diseases have underlying inflammatory causes e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, psoriasis and many, many more!

Although curcumin and turmeric have promising health properties it was previously thought that absorption of the polyphenol into the body was limited.  However, a recent human study(4) found that curcumin was well absorbed by humans and could be detected in their blood plasma after consumption.  This is good news in terms of the therapeutic potential of the spice.  Neither turmeric nor curcumin has yet been extensively studied in human clinical trials, though small trials have taken place and larger ones are planned. 

A small study(5) with 62 patients who had ulcerating mouth or skin cancers found that an extract of turmeric as well as an ointment of curcumin was very helpful in relieving symptoms in the patients.  The patients applied the ointment to their lesions three times a day for at least four weeks.  Reduction in smell was noted in 90% of the cases and in 70% the lesions dried up (they were no longer weeping/exuding).  50% of participants noted a reduction in pain and 10% of patients experienced a reduction in lesion size.  

Turmeric is available as a supplement and many people take the spice in capsule form for anti-inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and also for indigestion and digestive complaints.  If you decide to try such a supplement the recommended dose is usually 500mg-1000mg a day.  Do not exceed the recommended dose as turmeric in large amounts can cause gastrointestinal problems.  Of course, if you have any medical conditions or are currently taking any medication you should consult your doctor, curcumin can alter the effectiveness of some medications.

Using spices and herbs to flavour food is also a great way to improve taste and palatability without the use of salt and, as these studies show, may add to the overall health-potential of your meals.  Why not spice up your meals this week?!


(1)Pari L, Tewas D, Eckel J.  2008.  Role of curcumin in health and disease. Arch Physiol Biochem.  114(2):127-49.
(2)López-Lázaro M.  2008.  Anticancer and carcinogenic properties of curcumin: Considerations for its clinical development as a cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent. Mol Nutr Food Res. May 21;52(S1):103-127. [Epub]
(3)Krishnaswamy K.  2008.  Traditional Indian spices and their health significance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr.17 Suppl 1:265-8.
(4) Vareed SK et al.  2008.  Pharmacokinetics of curcumin conjugate metabolites in healthy human subjects. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.  17(6):1411-7.
(5)Kuttan R, Sudheeran PC, Joseph CD. Turmeric and curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy. Tumori. 1987; 73:29-31.

Written by Ani Kowal