Fact Checked
Fact Checked

This NativePath content is medically reviewed or fact-checked to ensure factually accurate information.

With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites, and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace that of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

How Turmeric Supports Immunity

Your Immune-Enhancing Superfood

If the health of your immune system is top of mind right now, you're not alone. With hundreds of supplements on the market, it can be hard to choose which one will be most effective and beneficial for your particular concerns. 

While there's no shortage of research studies backing claims for this nutrient or that one, one of the best ways to determine an immune-enhancing supplement's validity is to look at its history. 

And when it comes to history, few supplements have as rich of a background as turmeric. 

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a plant that's native to Southeast Asia and is grown primarily in India. It's been used for thousands of years in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda as a medicinal plant for treating skin disorders, upper respiratory tract infections, digestive disorders, and joint issues. 

Today, turmeric is most well-known for its potent anti-inflammatory activity. Many people supplement with this plant (also commonly used as a spice) for conditions like arthritis, allergies, depression, liver disease, and much more[1].

While several bioactive compounds have been identified in turmeric, curcumin is by far the most abundant and well-researched[2]


How Turmeric Supports Immunity

One of the many health-promoting aspects of turmeric is its direct impact on your immune system. In fact, there are several ways in which turmeric promotes immunity and enhances your body's defenses against infection and disease. 

Five of the most well-researched ways that turmeric can enhance the function of your immune system include:

#1 Inflammatory and Antioxidant

For optimal immunity, keeping inflammation and oxidative stress at bay is crucial as these two processes can drain the resources of your immune system. Turmeric is not only a potent anti-inflammatory plant, but it also supports antioxidant activity in your body[3].

Inflammation is actually a natural and healthy immune response when it happens in small doses. Acute inflammation can assist in wound healing and tissue repair and is your immune system's way of walling off injury to protect it from further damage. This short-term process is crucial for healing but can become dangerous when it persists and becomes chronic[4].

Chronic inflammation happens when the inflammatory response doesn't resolve, and your immune system continues to signal that there's injury. This results in a continued state of imbalance in your body, which becomes a risk factor for several diseases such as metabolic syndrome, degenerative brain disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes[5][6]

With its powerful anti-inflammatory activity, turmeric helps to support your body and protect against inflammatory conditions like arthritis, metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia (a risk factor for heart disease), and even anxiety[7]

By helping to calm your inflammatory response, turmeric preserves the resources of your immune system.

Antioxidants play a protective role in your body and support your immune systems fight against free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species or ROS), which cause oxidative damage[8]

Much like inflammation, oxidative stress is a natural byproduct of your body's normal functioning. With that being said, the balance of antioxidants to oxidative stress in your body is key. When the scales tip in the direction of oxidative stress and you don't have the antioxidants to balance it out, damage to your cells and tissues can occur. 

Turmeric possesses antioxidant activity that can help combat excessive oxidation and bring your body back into balance. Research shows that it exerts its antioxidant effects by neutralizing free radicals and enhancing antioxidant enzymes[9][10]

#2 Gut Health 

Your gut plays a crucial and very active role in the function of your immune system. In fact, around 70% of your immune system lives in your gut[11]

Turmeric and its bioactive compounds support gut immunity by promoting balance in your gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in your gut). 

Your gut microbiome regulates your immune systems' homeostasis and plays a fundamental role in your immune cells' training and function. When your microbiota is in balance, it allows protective responses to pathogens and enhances tolerance to incoming toxins and foreign substances.

When it's out of balance, however, the symbiotic relationship between your microbiome and your immune system falls apart, and conditions like autoimmunity, inflammation, and increased susceptibility to infection can occur[12][13]

So how does your gut microbiome become imbalanced? Factors such as poor diet, stress, environmental toxins, and inflammation are all known to play a contributing role[14].

On the other hand, turmeric has been shown to play a protective role on the beneficial bacteria in your gut, enhancing your defenses against outside assaults. In fact, research shows that turmeric may have a direct impact on your gut immunity by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria while reducing pathogenic strains[15][16]

#3 Antiviral Properties

Along with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric also boosts antiviral activity in your body. 

Curcumin, specifically, has been shown to exert antiviral effects on a range of viruses, including influenza, HIV, herpes, Zika, and more[17].

Viruses work by inserting information into cells (human cells, bacteria cells, etc.) that contain instructions to make more of the virus. This allows for rapid replication of the virus while disrupting the function of healthy cells. 

Research shows that curcumins antiviral activity and ability to inhibit replication may be due to several potential mechanisms[18][19]

  1. It may directly kill the virus before it is able to infect the cell.
  2. It integrates with the viral instructions and inactivates the virus.
  3. It alters the metabolism of healthy cells to prevent viral entry. 

In addition to its antiviral activity, researchers also report antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal activity of curcumin[20]

#4 Improves Respiration

One of the traditional uses for turmeric, dating back about 5,000 years, was to support respiratory health. Modern application of turmeric backs up this ancient remedy as it shows protective activity against both acute and chronic lung disease. 

Two markers of lung disease include inflammation and oxidation. When your lung tissue becomes damaged by these out of balance immune responses, it can make it harder to breathe as the inflammation constricts your airways and free radicals reap havoc on the cells that line your respiratory tract.

Turmeric, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound, has been shown to support lung health and play a protective role in several respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acute lung injury, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, and allergic asthma[21]

In addition to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, turmeric has also been shown to break down mucus in the airway, which helps relieve coughing and improve your ability to breathe[22]

#5 Counteracts Stress

Chronic stress, both physical and psychological, can have a direct impact on the health of your immune system, slowly weakening your immunity and increasing your vulnerability to infections[23]

Stress can be an insidious assault, especially when it's chronic, as you often become slowly accustomed to the drain on your energy and wellbeing and start to feel that a stressed-out existence is just a standard way of life[24]

Although you can't necessarily remove all of your life stressors, you can certainly increase your resistance and tolerance to stress. 

Stress can show up on your body in a number of ways, but two common side effects are increased inflammation and oxidation. As you've learned by now, turmeric is a superstar when it comes to combating both of these conditions[25]

In one study, researchers administered a curcumin supplement to mice and examined their response to stressors. The results showed that the mice given curcumin exhibited a 4.5-fold increase in stress resilience. In addition, the curcumin also seemed to prevent anxiety-like behavior in the defeated (stressed out) mice[26]

Not All Turmeric Is Created Equally

Before you go out and buy a bottle of turmeric supplements, it's crucial to understand that not all turmeric is created equally. Well, it would be more fair to say that not all turmeric supplements are created equally. 

When looking for a turmeric supplement, there are two things you should keep in mind:

  1. Bioavailability 
  2. Potency

One secret that the ancient texts of Ayurveda understood is that the digestive tract does not absorb turmeric well. In other words, taking turmeric alone yields poor bioavailability - the ability of your body to digest and utilize a compound. 

To remedy this, ancient formulas that include turmeric always include black pepper, which potentiates the effect of curcumin 2000%. That’s right, not 200% -- 2000%[27]. Therefore, any turmeric supplement worth its salt will have some form of black pepper as an additional ingredient. 

The second aspect of a high-quality turmeric supplement is the potency. 

As previously mentioned, curcumin (also known as curcuminoids) is the most potent and bioactive compound in turmeric. It's this powerhouse compound that's responsible for much of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity in turmeric, which is why it continues to be the most heavily researched bioactive constituent in this medicinal plant[27]

Clearly, you want to make sure that the turmeric you're taking daily is packed with the most bioavailable and potent version of curcumin.

There are hundreds of turmeric supplements on the market, making it challenging to choose which one will be the most beneficial for you. Because of this, we've formulated a simple yet powerful formula that contains both a highly-potent source of curcumin along with a black pepper bioavailable enhancer, called Daily Turmeric.


Takeaway 

Turmeric has become an increasingly popular herb in the last five to ten years. While ancient systems of medicine have understood the profound benefits of turmeric for thousands of years, researchers are now backing up this powerful herb's history of use with troves of groundbreaking studies. 

From antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to its direct antiviral activity, turmeric and its bioactive compound curcumin are becoming a must-have immune-boosting herb. Now more than ever, it's crucial to stay on top of your immune function, so be sure to round out your immunity regimen with a high-quality source of this powerful plant. 

Try NativePath Daily Turmeric Today! 

References 

  1. 1.https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric 
  2. Tanvir, E. M., et al. "Antioxidant properties of popular turmeric (Curcuma longa) varieties from Bangladesh." Journal of Food Quality 2017 (2017).
  3. Iddir, Mohammed, et al. "Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis." Nutrients 12.6 (2020): 1562.
  4. https://www.nature.com/subjects/acute-inflammation#:~:text=Acute%20inflammation%20is%20a%20short,function
  5. Dubois, Raymond N. "The Jeremiah Metzger Lecture: Inflammation, immune modulators, and chronic disease." Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association 126 (2015): 230.
  6. Pahwa, Roma, and Ishwarlal Jialal. "Chronic inflammation." (2019).
  7. Hewlings, Susan J., and Douglas S. Kalman. "Curcumin: a review of its’ effects on human health." Foods 6.10 (2017): 92.
  8. A Puertollano, Maria, et al. "Dietary antioxidants: immunity and host defense." Current topics in medicinal chemistry 11.14 (2011): 1752-1766.
  9. Menon, Venugopal P., and Adluri Ram Sudheer. "Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin." The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease. Springer, Boston, MA, 2007. 105-125.
  10. Mrityunjaya, M., et al. "Immune-boosting, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food supplements targeting pathogenesis of COVID-19." Frontiers in Immunology 11 (2020).
  11. Vighi, G., et al. "Allergy and the gastrointestinal system." Clinical & Experimental Immunology 153 (2008): 3-6.
  12. Belkaid, Yasmine, and Timothy W. Hand. "Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation." Cell 157.1 (2014): 121-141.
  13. Wu, Hsin-Jung, and Eric Wu. "The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity." Gut microbes 3.1 (2012): 4-14.
  14. Myers, Stephen P., and J. A. Hawrelak. "The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: a review." Altern Med Rev 9.2 (2004): 180-197.
  15. Di Meo, Francesco, et al. "Curcumin, gut microbiota, and neuroprotection." Nutrients 11.10 (2019): 2426.
  16. Peterson, Christine T., et al. "Effects of turmeric and curcumin dietary supplementation on human gut microbiota: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study." (2018): 2515690X18790725.
  17. Mrityunjaya, M., et al. "Immune-boosting, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food supplements targeting pathogenesis of COVID-19." Frontiers in Immunology 11 (2020).
  18. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200717120154.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A,infects%20pigs%20%2D%20from%20infecting%20cells
  19. Mathew, Dony, and Wei-Li Hsu. "Antiviral potential of curcumin." Journal of functional foods 40 (2018): 692-699.
  20. Zorofchian Moghadamtousi, Soheil, et al. "A review on antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity of curcumin." BioMed research international 2014 (2014).
  21. Venkatesan, Narayanan, Durairaj Punithavathi, and Mary Babu. "Protection from acute and chronic lung diseases by curcumin." The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease. Springer, Boston, MA, 2007. 379-405.
  22. https://lunginstitute.com/blog/the-lung-health-benefits-of-turmeric/#:~:text=Turmeric%20has%20been%20shown%20to,improve%20your%20ability%20to%20breathe
  23. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  24. 24.Mariotti, Agnese. "The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication." Future science OA 1.3 (2015).
  25. Bhatia, Nitish, et al. "Adaptogenic potential of curcumin in experimental chronic stress and chronic unpredictable stress-induced memory deficits and alterations in functional homeostasis." Journal of natural medicines 65.3-4 (2011): 532-543.
  26. Aubry, Antonio V., et al. "A diet enriched with curcumin promotes resilience to chronic social defeat stress." Neuropsychopharmacology 44.4 (2019): 733-742.
  27. Hewlings, Susan J., and Douglas S. Kalman. "Curcumin: a review of its’ effects on human health." Foods 6.10 (2017): 92.

More Nutrition

popular articles

Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Comments must be approved before appearing