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.
Turmeric is commonly used in traditional medicine, such as Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. In India, people used it to treat problems with the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and digestion. Western medical practitioners are now interested in turmeric’s role in reducing high cholesterol.
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.
Researchers attribute turmeric’s multipotent properties to its active ingredient, curcumin. Health experts note that while curcumin is safe, ingesting certain formulations may not have significant health benefits. This is due to its poor bioavailability, which means not much of it reaches the bloodstream when taken orally.
Learn more about turmeric here.
Many researchers have examined the effects of turmeric and curcumin on various biological molecules, including cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver and ingested from certain animal foods. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol may help protect the heart. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow.
High levels of LDL and triglycerides, another harmful type of fat, can increase a person’s risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack.
A 2017 meta-analysis evaluated the effects of turmeric on blood lipid levels. It indicated that turmeric and curcumin significantly reduced serum LDL and triglycerides compared to the control group.
The researchers also noted the following:
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.
A 2021 review looked at studies into the effects of curcumin on cholesterol. It found that curcumin significantly reduced one type of lipid in more than two-thirds of the studies. Studies that used a bioavailable formulation of curcumin reported a better impact on lowering cholesterol.
Overall, turmeric’s effect on cholesterol is promising, but more research is needed to confirm its benefits.
Learn about the causes of high cholesterol here.
Turmeric is commercially available in different forms, such as teas, extracts, powders, and capsules.
People can take turmeric by:
Learn about turmeric supplements here.
A 2020 review suggests that turmeric may have additional health benefits besides helping to lower cholesterol. These include:
Learn more about cancer in our dedicated hub here.
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:
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.
Learn more about the side effects of turmeric here.
To reduce cholesterol, doctors may recommend:
Learn more about ways to lower cholesterol without medication here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 94 million adults in the United States have total cholesterol above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Doctors consider total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL desirable.
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.
Learn more about the cholesterol test here.
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.
Last medically reviewed on November 3, 2022
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