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What is Turmeric?

Benefits of Turmeric - turmeric root and turmeric powder Swanson Health

Turmeric is a plant in the same botanical family as ginger. It’s native to southern Asia, but turmeric is grown in a few other warm, humid climates around the globe. Like ginger, it’s the tuberous shoots (rhizomes) of the plant that are used in foods and health supplements. The powdered turmeric you find in the spice aisle is made by boiling, drying and finely grinding the roots of the turmeric plant.

Illustration of a Turmeric Plant

Most people think of turmeric as the “curry spice” and mistakenly think turmeric is spicy. Turmeric gives curry its signature, yellow color and distinct flavor, but it isn’t actually spicy. Turmeric is also added to mustards, pickles and relish, and it’s sometimes used as a substitute for saffron.

But aside from lending color and flavor to some of our favorite foods, the potential health benefits of turmeric are truly impressive. Research and historical usage shows turmeric may provide relief and support to our bodies in many ways.1

History of Turmeric Use

Turmeric has been used in medicines and as a culinary spice for nearly 4,000 years, dating as far back as the Vedic culture in India, where it also held religious significance.2 An Ayurvedic text dating back to 250 B.C. mentioned its use for relief from digestive disturbances related to spoiled food; plus, other cultures use turmeric for digestive health and liver support, even including it in lotions and creams as a skin tonic.2

Over the last 25 years, modern medicine has increasingly acknowledged the importance of turmeric as well, particularly the benefits of curcumin, a well-known and frequently studied phytonutrient in turmeric. Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant and can help support heart, cardiovascular and joint health.3, 

What is Turmeric Good for? Turmeric and Digestive Health

If you suffer from digestive or gastrointestinal issues, this healthy spice just might be the answer. Turmeric provides multifaceted digestive comfort and supports the lower gastrointestinal system.

Turmeric for Bowel Disturbances - Turmeric can help relieve gastrointestinal discomfort from eating spicy or fattening foods. It can also help with gas, support digestion and calm abnormal muscle movements resulting from digestive issues. The potassium and magnesium in turmeric can help your body regain balance after a bout of diarrhea.

Turmeric as a Digestive Aid - The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in turmeric have a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal system and provide support for digestion. Turmeric can even help combat some queasiness and support internal cleansing. Herbalists have used turmeric for centuries as a liver tonic. Because of its digestive benefits, some people also use turmeric for weight loss.

Ways to Take Turmeric

Since it’s typically eaten with other ingredients in food, you might wonder — what does turmeric taste like alone? By itself, turmeric doesn’t taste that great. It has a pungent and bitter flavor, so if you eat it, it’s best combined with other flavors. But you wouldn’t eat most other spices alone either. Just imagine eating a mouthful of cinnamon powder vs. adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your coffee!

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get turmeric benefits without adding it to everything you eat. Turmeric is available in supplements, extracts, teas and even as a coffee creamer!

Turmeric Supplements

There are a variety of turmeric supplement options available to suit your individual needs. Since the curcuminoids in turmeric are more efficiently absorbed when consumed with black pepper, we developed Swanson Health’s Premium Full Spectrum Turmeric & Black Pepper supplements. If you have a sensitive digestive system, you might also try Kyoto Fermented Turmeric.

Turmeric Extracts

Fermented turmeric extracts, like KefiNutra™ Organic Fermented Turmeric Extract, provide all the turmeric health benefits with increased bioavailability and additional gastrointestinal benefits of probiotics. Try it mixed with water or juice, or add it to smoothies for a powerful antioxidant boost.

Turmeric Teas

Supplement your daily turmeric intake with turmeric herbal teas, which are available either with turmeric as the only ingredient or in flavorful combinations with additions like ginger and lemon balm. You can even use Swanson Organic Turmeric Tea to cook rice! Just add a couple of tea bags to your rice water.

Turmeric for Skin

Turmeric is good for your skin when taken as a supplement because of its antioxidant effects, but it’s also used in facial creams to improve skin quality, including Swanson’s Brightening Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum to help calm and brighten skin.

With all the ways to add turmeric to your diet, it will be easy to take advantage of the health benefits of turmeric. For more tips on adding turmeric to your diet, read Benefits of Turmeric (Plus 10 Ways to Use It!) and 7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Turmeric

Do you have your own tips for using turmeric, or turmeric success stories? Share them in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this article about the health benefits of turmeric, sign up for Swanson Health emails to get more healthy tips, and special deals and promotions on Swanson Health Products.

About Lindsey Bristol, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Lindsey Bristol of Swanson Health Products

Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. 

Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health Products. 


1 Turmeric Uses & Effectiveness: WebMD. (Accessed 11/16/2017)

2 Turmeric, the Golden Spice: National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed 11/16/2017)

3 11 Superfoods That Work Better Together: Time Health. (Accessed 11/16/2017)

4 Turmeric. National Institutes of Health: National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health. (Accessed 10/06/2017)


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