I Just Started Taking Turmeric — When Should I Expect To See Health Benefits?
If you're anything like me, you saw turmeric on social media before you knew what it was. It's a highly photogenic spice, often captured on Instagram as it's sprinkled into lattes or over eggs balancing on top of avocado toast.
But beyond turmeric's striking golden hue, the herb has a rich history rooted in ancient Ayurvedic medicine and is considered a superfood because it's packed with healing properties. Thanks to its astounding antioxidant actions, there are so many benefits of turmeric.
The question is, how long does it take for turmeric to work once you start regularly incorporating it into your wellness routine?
What is turmeric?
According to holistic healer, Ayurveda expert, and author of Everyday Ayurveda Bhaswati Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, turmeric is part of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and is best known as Haridra in Sanskrit (the sacred language of Hinduism) and Curcuma longa in botanical sciences.
Native to India and Indonesia, turmeric is a multifaceted herb classified as "broad-spectrum," meaning it can be used to promote various aspects of health and well-being.
Does turmeric work? Benefits and uses.
Turmeric comes in two forms: Topicals, like creams and balms, and ingestible forms, like capsules, tinctures, powders, and the root itself. Whether you're relaxing with a DIY turmeric face mask, cooking up curry for dinner, or adding a daily turmeric supplement to your regimen, there are many ways to enjoy this revered botanical.
It's most commonly used in Western culture as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hemostatic hero, but because the flowering plant contains thousands of chemical compounds—among them the heavily researched principal curcuminoid, curcumin—Bhattacharya tells mbg it has many other uses, too. These include promoting joint mobility1 and easing muscle soreness2, helping protect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems3, and bolstering brain function and longevity4.*
There are myriad studies pointing to the efficacy of turmeric and curcumin. Below, we've listed some of the most prevalent findings on the herb's benefits to the human body.
It's supports a healthy inflammatory response.
According to registered dietitians Lindsay Pleskot, R.D., and Ally Choo, R.D., the phytochemicals in turmeric—particularly curcumin—exhibit antioxidant and inflammatory regulating properties by binding to pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNF alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6) and interacting with transcription factors5 (like nuclear factor kappa B).*
"Curcumin helps modulate6 pro-inflammatory pathways by scavenging free radicals and suppressing pro-inflammatory enzymes,"* Pleskot and Choo explain. These inflammatory response balancing actions benefit physiological function throughout the body (e.g., in the heart, brain, skin, gut, and more) to promote overall well-being and longevity.*
It promotes joint health and mobility.
According to Ayurveda expert Paul Morehead, Ph.D., turmeric can be especially beneficial to those experiencing suboptimal joint strength and mobility—and science7 agrees.* This is thanks to curcumin's anti-inflammatory actions, all of which play an important role in bolstering the health and function of your joints (and overall musculoskeletal system).*
Studies show that curcumin influences cell signaling molecules5 in the body, specifically a vital molecule called nuclear factor kappa B, "an important regulator of the cellular pro-inflammatory response,"* Morehead explains.
By intervening with pro-inflammatory pathways, curcumin helps promote mobility so your joints can move with comfort and fluidity throughout your lifespan.*
It helps with digestion & gut health.
Tummy troubles? Turmeric is often used to help promote a healthy gut7 and overall digestion.* Speaking as someone with gastrointestinal concerns, I can personally attest to its healing properties in this category.*
But don't just take my word for it: According to a 2020 scientific review from 8Nutrients8, curcumin favors beneficial bacterial strains and even encourages their growth over the growth of unwanted bacteria in the gut.* From soothing digestion to supporting a healthy microbiome, turmeric has some serious GI benefits.*
It helps regulate your immune system.
When left unchecked, the pro-inflammatory response and oxidative stress can have a significant impact on your body's ability to regulate the immune system, Pleskot and Choo warn.
The duo shares that by suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes and combating free radicals, turmeric can help regulate the immune system.*
Ergo, you might want to be more adamant about taking your turmeric supplement during the winter, while you travel, and any other time your immune defenses may need a little extra support.*
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and free-radical-scavenging abilities, evidence suggests curcumin helps promote cardiovascular function and protect the heart.*
In a 2016 study published in Scientific Reports, the curcuminoid was found to regulate the expression of the AT1 receptor (AT1R)9, which plays an important role in modulating healthy blood pressure.* Curcumin was also found to improve endothelial function3 (the heart's and blood vessels' ability to contract and relax properly) in a 2020 Frontiers review.*
Curcumin has also been found to affect blood lipid levels (i.e., the fat concentrations in your blood).* According to a 2019 Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition meta-analysis, turmeric supplementation significantly reduces triglyceride levels and increases HDL ("good") cholesterol10, both of which are measures of a healthy heart.*
Interestingly, researchers also discovered that the amount of time participants took a turmeric supplement did not affect the curcuminoids' effects on lipids, suggesting that turmeric use for any amount of time may have positive cardiovascular benefits.*
It can boost your mood.
Though turmeric might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of taking a "chill pill," it turns out curcumin can be quite the mood-booster.*
In a 2015 clinical study11 on healthy older adults, researchers found that working memory and mood (i.e., state of calmness and contentedness) were significantly improved after four weeks of daily turmeric supplementation.*
It can even help clear your skin.
Turmeric's antioxidant properties are just as beneficial for your skin as they are for the inner workings of your body.* What's more, because the spice is swarming with antimicrobial properties (i.e., prioritizes good bacteria over harmful bacteria), it's also helpful for maintaining a clear complexion.*
How long does it take for turmeric to work?
In short: It varies.
According to Morehead, it comes down to an individual's constitution, age, and unique health needs. Like any other supplement, turmeric can work quicker for some than it does for others. It also depends on what you're using turmeric for.
For example, Bhattacharya explains that turmeric on the skin can work as fast as five minutes, whereas those seeking targeted joint support and comfortable mobility might see results after a few days of oral ingestion.*
If you're taking a turmeric supplement, Chicago-based registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, of Once Upon A Pumpkin says it won't act as a "quick fix." Rather, as with most supplements, consistency (i.e., daily use) is key. Generally speaking, Michalczyk says you likely won't notice a significant difference "for at least four to eight weeks."
All the more reason to start today, right?
Dosage: How much turmeric should you take?
While the National Academies do not have a recommended dietary intake for turmeric or curcuminoids, it's worth noting that turmeric supplements tend to be more concentrated than raw turmeric powder; you'd have to consume more of the latter to reap the kind of results a daily supplement can provide.
Still, if you're going the supplement route, Morehead stresses that too much of anything can be a bad thing, and excess turmeric, specifically, may increase heat and dryness in your body.
So, what's the sweet spot? According to a comprehensive 2017 12Foods 12review12 of turmeric's effect on the body, doses of 500 milligrams taken daily have been found to be effective.*
However, it's also worth noting that curcumin has poor bioavailability, so the effectiveness of the supplement (and its dosage) also depends on the bioavailability of the form of turmeric and the ingredients it's paired with to enhance absorption.
For example, mbg's turmeric potency+ features 500 milligrams of full-spectrum turmeric root extract (as Acumin™), which uses polar-nonpolar-sandwich (PNS) technology to protect and deliver turmeric's full array of herbal bioactives in an ultimate matrix with a clinically shown absorption advantage with up to 10 times higher bioavailability than other common forms of turmeric.*†
With an efficacious dose of full-spectrum turmeric, 150 milligrams of ginger root extract, and 5 milligrams of black pepper fruit extract (which contains phytonutrient piperine and further supports turmeric's absorption), turmeric potency+ delivers the ancient herb in a form your body can easily and effectively use.*
When is the best time to take turmeric?
It's really up to you when you take your supplements each day, but Morehead notes that the reason you're taking a turmeric supplement should also be a determining factor.
For example, if you're taking turmeric to support healthy digestion, Morehead suggests taking it with food.* To promote joint comfort and mobility, he suggests taking your supplement either after meals or on an empty stomach.*
If you're consuming turmeric as a part of your diet, Pleskot and Choo recommend your meal contains some sort of fat "to improve its absorption in the body" and piperine-containing black pepper "to aid in its bioavailability."*
Incorporating turmeric into your everyday well-being routine can prove wildly beneficial for your body and mind by actively promoting antioxidant actions, encouraging good bacteria growth for optimal gut health, lifting your spirits with mood support, and strengthening your musculoskeletal system.*
If you're looking for a daily turmeric supplement clinically shown to enhance the body's healthy inflammatory response and recovery properties for whole-body health, your search just might be over.* Talk to your health care provider to see if mbg's turmeric potency+ is right for you and your individual health needs.
† Acumin™ research has demonstrated superior bioavailability, curcuminoid serum response, and stability compared to other common forms of turmeric root extract (e.g., volatile oil, phospholipid/liposomal, and standard 95% curcumin).
Julia Guerra is a health and wellness writer reporting for mindbodygreen, Elite Daily, and INSIDER. Formerly the beauty editor for BestProducts.com, she's contributed to Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, PopSugar, and more. A book worm and fitness enthusiast, her happiest moments are spent with her husband, family, sipping tea, and cuddling with her Tabby cat, Aria.