Diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition wherein blood sugar levels in the body remain high as the body fails to regulate it. Insulin is the hormone that plays a vital role in this disease.
It is produced by the pancreas and it controls the blood sugar. Blood sugar or glucose acts as a fuel for various cellular activities. Insulin moves glucose from blood to muscles, fat and liver cells where it is stored or used as fuel.
In diabetes either little insulin or insulin resistance hampers this transformation of glucose and in turn tends to affect the body negatively. There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: It is caused due to lack of insulin production.
- Type 2 diabetes: It is caused due to failure of cells to respond to insulin appropriately.
- Gestational diabetes: It occurs during pregnancy due to high blood glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes is not treatable while Type 2 can be cured by use of medications with or without insulin and lifestyle changes. Turmeric is a perennial herb that is cultivated mainly in Asia as a spice.
Numerous research studies have proven the use of turmeric in treating diabetes and its complications. This article goes over various studies and developments made in utilizing the medicinal properties of turmeric to cure or prevent pathological conditions associated with diabetes.
Composition of Turmeric
The bioactive properties of turmeric are attributed to various components isolated from its rhizome. The important components are curcuminoids and the volatile oil.
Curcuminoids comprise of curcumin, monodemethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. They are natural antioxidants and impart the yellow color to the powder.
Volatile oil consists of aromatic (containing benzene ring) compounds out of which tumerone and ar-tumerone are considered medicinally quite important.
Sugars, proteins and resins are also isolated from the rhizome.
12 Benefits of Turmeric In Diabetes
In this section we will understand basic mechanisms by which turmeric employs its medicinal properties in treating diabetes.
1.Turmeric counteracts inflammation in Diabetes
The mechanisms involved in inflammation leading to pathogenesis of diabetes are complex. Type 1 diabetes is an immune-mediated disease where selective pancreatic cells are destroyed .
This occurs when the insulin producing cells of the pancreas are invaded by cells of the immune system and this condition is referred to as insulinitis. The infiltration of immune cells leads to secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1 , thus facilitating progress of inflammation and causing cell death.
Chronic low level inflammation is associated with obesity and diabetes. A pro-inflammatory cytokine named tumor necrosis factor-α is overproduced in adipose tissue of obese humans.
This overproduction is known to impair insulin function and contribute to insulin resistance. The functions of macrophages (a type of immune cell) and adipocytes (fat cells) are overlapping.
Hence it is seen that macrophages in adipose tissue, either alone or with the help of adipocytes, secrete proteins that accelerate inflammation and contribute to insulin resistance. Biochemical pathways also contribute to inflammation involved in diabetes. IL-1beta, TNF-α, and IL-6 are the main pro-inflammatory agents involved in pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.
Turmeric demonstrates anti-inflammatory property by modulating various pathways and activity of many proteins. Few of the mechanisms involved are:
- Suppression of nuclear factor- kappa B and hence downregulation of activity of COX-2
- Inhibition of production of inflammatory cytokines like TNF- α, IL-6, IL-1beta
- Reducing activity of enzymes and proteins that mediate inflammation
These mechanisms find their use in suppressing inflammation caused due to diabetes and preventing its proliferation.
A study published in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2014 demonstrated that supplementation with curcuminoids led to reduction in enzymes and proteins involved in inflammation in diabetic patients.
What does this mean?
Curcumin and turmeric are natural anti-inflammatory agents that help reduce inflammation in diabetes.
2. Turmeric reduces oxidative stress in Diabetes
Oxidative stress plays a major role in pathogenesis of diabetes. Oxidative stress is the loss of balance between body’s natural antioxidant defenses and production of reactive oxygen species.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen and bring about phenomena vital to normal cell functioning. However, under adverse conditions, ROS levels increase drastically and cause cell death and inflammation.
In diabetes there is increased glucose uptake by endothelial cells (inner lining of blood vessels) in adipose tissue (body fat).
Under hyperglycemic (high blood sugar levels) conditions increased uptake of glucose leads to excess production of ROS which causes oxidative degradation of fats (lipid peroxidation), oxidative damage to cell and initiation of inflammatory pathways.
Turmeric, a known antioxidant, scavenges ROS, inhibits lipid peroxidation and increases the levels of antioxidant enzymes . This property of turmeric can help reduce oxidative stress observed in diabetes.
Study in humans shows that curcumin works an antioxidant and reduces oxidative stress and heart risk in diabetes. Curcuminoid supplementation is found to raise the level of antioxidant enzymes in diabetes.
What does this mean?
Curcuminoids found in turmeric are natural antioxidants that help improve antioxidant defense in diabetes.
3. It lowers blood sugar levels
Curcumin functions as an anti-hyperglycemic agent- it lowers elevated blood sugar in diabetes.
A review study by Ghorbani et.al demonstrates that curcumin lowers blood sugar in multiple ways few of them being:
- Stimulating insulin production
- Improving activity of pancreas cells
- Improving sensitivity to insulin
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing production of glucose by liver
- Stimulating utilization of glucose by the body
A study in humans shows that curcuminoids exerts its anti-diabetic effect by acting on Adipocyte-fatty acid binding protein. Reduction in this protein helps regulate metabolic disorders.
In another study by the same research group, overweight or obese diabetes patients were treated with 300mg curcuminoids or placebo for 3 months. Curcuminoids significantly reduced blood sugar supplementation and also reduced insulin resistance index.
A recent study demonstrated that nano-curcumin supplementation in type 2 diabetes for 3 months helps in reducing blood sugar levels, glycated hemoglobin, triglyceride levels and even BMI.
Animal study shows that even turmeric supplementation can help lower blood sugar.
What does this mean?
Turmeric and curcumin are natural anti-hyperglycemic agents- they help lower high blood sugar levels and balance blood glucose and insulin levels in diabetes.
4.It can repair and regenerate pancreas cells
Experimental study shows that curcumin can benefit in autoimmune diabetes by regulating the action of immune cells that destroy beta cells of the pancreas that are necessary for insulin production.
An animal study published in Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 2013 revealed that curcumin can not only help in lowering blood sugar levels but also help to regenerate and repair damaged pancreatic islet cells. (Read Turmeric can regenerate damaged pancreas cells in type 1 diabetes)
Bone marrow transplantation is an area of therapy that is being actively researched upon in relation to diabetes. Studies point out that combination of natural antioxidant like curcumin with bone marrow transplant can help regenerate pancreas cells.
These findings are of great importance in type 1 diabetes.
What does this mean?
Experimental studies show that curcumin has the potential to regenerate pancreas cells and this can benefit in type 1 diabetes.
5. It can reverse prediabetes
Type 2 diabetes is said to be controlled by changes in lifestyle and diet. This measure is furthered potentiated by turmeric supplementation and the following study validates this fact.
In a study conducted on prediabetic population (people who have the tendency to develop DM in near future), the effect of curcumin in delaying development of diabetes was observed.
Two random groups were made: one treated with curcumin, others with a placebo. They were asked to consume 6 capsules a day for 9 months. Each curcumin capsule had 250 mg curcuminoid content. Various physiological parameters were measured before the treatment and at an interval of 3, 6 and 9 months of the treatment.
Many of the subjects in the placebo treated group developed diabetes while none of the subjects treated with curcumin developed diabetes.
HOMA-IR represents insulin resistance while Homa-beta indicates cell functioning. Improved HOMA-beta levels and reduced HOMA-IR levels in curcumin treated groups strengthened the idea of turmeric as an anti-diabetic drug. Also elevated levels of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory agent, was seen.
Based on this 9 month study, it was proposed that curcumin extract can be used to prevent diabetes in prediabetic population.
Naijil et. al have identified that curcumin has anti-diabetogenesis effect. It prevents diabetes in the first place by acting on what is called pancreatic adrenergic receptors. These regulate the release of insulin.
Curcumin affects the activity of these receptors and regulates the ability of the pancreas to sense glucose and secrete insulin.
Diabetogenesis is caused by death of pancreatic islet cells due to oxidative stress (imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant levels) and curcumin is found to protect pancreatic cells from such damage.
What does this mean?
Curcumin has anti-diabetogenesis effect- it prevents diabetes. Clinically curcumin supplementation has been proven to reverse prediabetes.
6. It lowers cholesterol levels
Various studies in animal models of diabetes have found that curcumin can reduce the abnormalities in lipid and cholesterol levels by regulating liver function.
Turmeric, as a part of herbal formulation, helps lower cholesterol in type 2 diabetes patient.
Curcumin improves antioxidant defences, regulates fat metabolism, affects intestinal absorption of cholesterol and acts in a similar fashion as statins (conventional cholesterol lowering drugs).
What does this mean?
Curcumin has cholesterol lowering properties that benefit metabolic health in type 2 diabetes.
7.It protects from heart risks
Endothelial dysfunction is a common complication experienced by diabetic patients . It is an abnormality in inner tissue lining of blood vessels occurring due to high blood sugar levels.
Usharani et. al conducted a study in humans where type 2 diabetes patients were treated with 300mg curcumin or with atorvastatin (a cholesterol lowering drug) or with placebo for 8 weeks.
Curcumin was found to be as good as atorvastatin in improving endothelial dysfunction and reduced inflammation and oxidative stress.
A 6 month treatment with curcumin is found to reduce atherogenic risks (factors that increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis) in type 2 diabetes.
What does this mean?
Curcumin improves heart health and protects from diabetes induced cardiovascular complications.
8.It helps in weight loss
A study in overweight individuals suffering from metabolic syndrome demonstrates that curcumin supplementation increases weight loss outcomes of diet and lifestyle changes by 3%.
Loss of 1kg every 10 days was observed in curcumin treated group.
What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-obesity potential benefits in diabesity and aids in losing weight.
9.It benefits in wound healing
Curcumin is a natural wound healing agent and speeds up wound healing process. Even topical application of curcumin benefits in skin wounds.
Curcumin is identified as one of the nutritional supplements that can aid in diabetic wound healing.
A study published in Journal of Diabetes Research, 2016 reports that topical application of curcumin normalizes wound healing in diabetes.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential of curcumin helps speed up ‘impaired’ wound healing in diabetes.
What does this mean?
Curcumin naturally speeds up wound healing and benefits in diabetic foot ulcers.
10. It benefits kidney health
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory action protects kidneys from diabetic nephropathy.
Yang et. al have proved that oral intake of curcumin at a dose of 500mg/day for 15-30 days prevents progression of diabetic kidney disease.
Curcumin reduced inflammation, oxidative stress and excretion of albumin in type 2 diabetes patients.
What does this mean?
Diabetes is associated with various kidney disorders and curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties benefit kidney health.
11. It attenuates neuropathic pain
Curcumin is a natural painkiller. (Read How turmeric helps in various kinds of pain)
Research suggests that curcumin attenuates diabetic neuropathic pain by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory protein called Tumor necrosis factor alpha.
It also alleviates oxidative stress to reduce neuropathic pain in diabetes.
A study published in European Journal of Pharmacology, 2014 suggests that perhaps curcumin acts via the endogeneous opioid system to relieve neuropathic pain. (Read Can Turmeric replace opioid painkillers?)
What does this mean?
Curcumin and turmeric are natural analgesics and help attenuate neuropathic pain in diabetes.
12. It helps in diabetes complications
The antoxidant and anti-inflammatory property of curcumin benefits in various complications of diabetes.
Steigerwalt et.al have demonstrated that treatment with 1000mg Meriva (corresponding to 200mg curcumin) for 4 weeks benefits in diabetic retinopathy.
It reduces swelling and improves visual acuity.
Research shows that treatment with Meriva (1g/day) for a month brings about an improvement in microangiopathy in type 2 diabetes patients evidenced by reduction in swelling and improving oxygen diffusion in skin.
The patients involved in this study were suffering from diabetic microangiopathy since 5 years and they were not insulin dependant.
Gastroparesis is a condition affecting diabetes patients where there is delay in movement of the food from stomach to intestine which leads to spike in glucose levels.
Animal study shows curcumin’s ability to alleviate oxidative stress can benefit in diabetic gastroparesis.
A study published in European Journal of Pharmacology,2009 states that curcumin protects bone health in diabetes and prevents loss of bone mineral and weakening of bones.
It prevents bone resorption.
Curcumin extract at a dose of 1890mg/day for 12 weeks is found to bring significant improvement in metabolic syndrome.
The study reported a reduction in LDL cholesterol, elevation in HDL cholesterol (also known as good cholesterol) and also reduced triglyceride levels.
Curcuminoids (1000mg/day) combined with piperine is found to benefit in metabolic syndrome and they reduce cholesterol levels within 8 weeks.
Fatty Liver Disease
Non alcoholic fatty liver disease has been strongly linked with type 2 diabetes. Abnormal insulin function leads to excessive storage of fats in the liver.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research, 2016 demonstrated that 70mg of bioavailable curcumin per day for 8 weeks reduced liver fat content in non alcoholic fatty liver disease and brought about a 78.9% improvement in the disease.
What does this mean?
Curcumin benefits in various disbetic complications such as fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, microangiopathy, retinopathy etc.
Is it safe to take turmeric in diabetes?
Generally as a precaution it is advised not to take turmeric with anti-diabetes medication.
This is because both curcumin as well as anti-diabetes medication reduce blood sugar levels so it is thought that taking the two together could cause abnormally low blood sugar levels and there are chances of drug interaction.
Dietary turmeric is safe for consumption; if you eat a meal containing turmeric that are no chances for drug interactions because turmeric in the meal would be really less for the serving.
Curcumin found in turmeric as well as piperine in black pepper interferes in drug metabolism process. If taken with any drug it may inhibit drug metabolism process and increase the concentration of the drug in the blood. This on long term may cause side effects.
Now here are a couple of studies that investigated the effect of curcumin on drug metabolism of anti-diabetes medication.
An animal study published in Journal of Experimental Pharmacology, 2016 investigated the effect of curcumin administration in combination with anti-diabetes medication, glicalizide. Single dose of curcumin did not affect glicalizide activity.
But in multiple dose interaction study a significant reduction in blood sugar level was observed and scientists concluded that curcumin does affect the activity of glicalizide hence the dose needs to be carefully monitored and regulated when administering the combination.
So the animal study suggests that the combination may have a hypoglycaemic effect so if taking curcumin concomitantly with anti-diabetes medication, then the dose needs to be monitored.
A study in humans was conducted to assess the similar effect of curcumin on other anti-diabetes medication.
A study was published in Phytotherapy Research, 2014 where the effect of curcumin treatment in diabetes patients already undergoing therapy was studied. 8 type 2 diabetes patients taking glyburide treatment (anti-diabetes medication) were enrolled in this study.
Apart from investigating the blood sugar lowering effect of curcumin, the researchers also assessed whether curcumin affects drug metabolism and interferes in the activity of anti-diabetes medication.
The individuals were treated with 5mg glyburide and curcumin for 11 days. Blood sugar levels decreased but no patient experienced hypoglycaemia or abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Maximum concentration of glyburide remained unaffected and curcumin also reduced the lipid levels.
Researchers concluded that co-administration of curcumin with glyburide is beneficial for diabetic patients as it ensures better blood sugar control.
The study in humans showed that curcumin administered concomitantly will anti-diabetes medication did not cause any side effect in the 11 day period and was beneficial.
Consult a health practitioner before taking turmeric/curcumin supplements.
It is advisable to maintain a 3-4 hour gap between taking curcumin supplements and other medications to avoid any drug interaction. And the same is advised with large doses of Golden Paste. (Read Black pepper in GP: Does it cause drug interactions?)
FAQS on Turmeric & Diabetes
Here are some questions regarding turmeric’s benefits in diabetes with answers.
1. Will turmeric lower blood sugar in diabetes?
Turmeric is a natural anti-hyperglycemic agent and can help improve blood sugar control in diabetes.
2. Does turmeric only reduce symptoms or does it heal diabetes?
Primarily turmeric reduces blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity and improves metabolic health in diabetes. It helps manage diabetes effectively.
Research does show that turmeric may benefit in type 1 diabetes by regenerating pancreas cells and this is very promising but still to be studied in humans.
3. Can turmeric used topically for wound healing in diabetes?
There is no study to prove this but turmeric has been used topically for wound healing in other instances Please refer to the dosage section below for instructions
4. What dose of turmeric should I take for diabetes?
This depends on the form of turmeric you take. We recommend taking Golden Paste and the details have been highlighted in the Dosage section below.
5. Should I take whole turmeric or curcumin for diabetes?
We recommend whole turmeric or turmeric powder for diabetes over curcumin as it contains curcumin as well as other therapeutic compounds that can benefit in diabetes.
Readers have reported better management of blood sugar control after taking Golden Paste.
6. Is it safe to take turmeric/Golden Paste with turmeric supplements in diabetes?
Yes it is safe to take Golden Paste or turmeric in diet when taking supplements; however it is advisable to limit to low doses say 1-2 teaspoon in a day to avoid gastric discomfort.
7. Can I take turmeric with anti-diabetes medications?
Yes it is safe to take turmeric in diet when taking anti-diabetes medications. If taking Golden Paste (high doses) avoid taking it close to the time of taking other medicines. Maintain a 3-4 hour gap. Consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
8. Can I discontinue anti-diabetes medications by taking turmeric?
Turmeric is not meant to replace professional medical advice and treatment. It is best to consult a doctor before discontinuing any medication.
9. How long does it take for turmeric to benefit in diabetes?
This depends on the individual, severity of the disease, dosage as well as form of turmeric you are taking. At a dose of 1 teaspoon of Golden Paste 2-3 times a day benefits should be evidenced within 1-2 weeks.
10. I have taken turmeric for a month or more but I still see no improvement in diabetes?
If its been a month since you have taken Golden Paste at a dose of 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day and you see no improvement, then here are a few things you could do:
•Check whether you are using good quality organic turmeric powder. (For help click here)
•Up the dose.
Lastly you can seek help from a health practitioner about turmeric supplements. Read Taking Turmeric But See No Benefits
12. Are there any side effects or precautions to note about turmeric?
Turmeric when taken in diet in moderate doses is safe. However there are a certain precautions that you should be aware of and these have been discussed below in Precautions section.
13. Should turmeric be avoided in gout?
Low doses of turmeric in diet can be used in gout but for a therapeutic purpose it is preferable to take turmeric supplements. Please read Precautions section.
14. I am taking a blood thinner, can I take turmeric?
Turmeric in small amounts in diet is safe but turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of bleeding/clotting disorder. It is advisable to discuss this with your doctor.
Dosage of Turmeric For Diabetes
Including turmeric in diet and cooking is the best way to start taking turmeric. You could add it to soups, sprinkle it over salads, add it to juices. If taking fresh roots, ½ inch piece consumed daily is safe.
Turmeric is poorly absorbed in the body. So it is advised to take it with black pepper and healthy fats so as to increase its absorption. (Read How to improve Turmeric’s absorption)
The Golden Paste does exactly this. Start with ¼-1/2 tsp a day for a week and if no side effects are observed increase the dose by ¼-1/2 tsp every week. The ideal recommended dose is 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day (precisely 1 tsp 3 times a day).
Avoid taking it on an empty stomach (Does turmeric cause acid reflux?) and close to the time of taking other medicines (Black pepper in Gp: Does it cause drug interactions?). Maintain a 3-4 hour gap.
If opting for supplements consult a health practitioner prior.
…. Yes I am including turmeric in my food and I am also drinking the turmeric tea. I must say I am very happy with the results. I am diabetic and I take Metforman 500 tablets twice a day.
Yesterday morning my reading was a bit high and I took the turmeric tea later.
Then we got invited to a birthday party where we ate of everything including sweet
things. I was a bit concerned of my blood sugar levels an decided to take half a cup of
turmeric tea before going to bed.
I must say I was so pleasantly surprised when I took my reading this morning and my sugar levels were substantially lower than yesterday morning.
How to apply turmeric topically for wound healing?
Yes turmeric can be applied topically for wound healing.Make sure you use organic turmeric powder and conduct a patch test prior.
Mix adequate amount of turmeric powder in extra virgin olive or coconut oil to form a paste. You can slightly warm the oil prior to use.
Apply this paste to affected area. Cover this with a gauze and let it be for as long as possible say 30 mins to an hour. Cleanse with cool water.
You can do this procedure 2-3 times in a day. Effects should be visible in as a much as a week or two’s time.
Turmeric in dietary quantities does not pose any risk. Doses up to 8g have found to be safe but high doses can cause gastric side effects in real life.
Turmeric supplements should be opted for only after consulting a doctor. In conditions like gout or if you are at high risk of developing kidney stones limit intake of turmeric as a spice.
Turmeric supplements should be avoided in pregnancy and lactation. Discontinue use of turmeric supplements 2 weeks prior to surgery. Avoid supplements if you are suffering from gallbladder obstruction.
When on blood thinners, avoid curcumin supplements. In such a condition it is best to discuss this with your doctor.
Turmeric supplements may have drug interaction with stomach acid reducing drugs, blood sugar lowering drugs and blood thinners. Consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements.
387 million people are estimated to be suffering from diabetes worldwide in 2014 and it is estimated to rise to 592 million by 2035.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of the cases. The global economic burden due to diabetes in 2014 is estimated to be $ 612 billion USD.
Turmeric is a proven anti-diabetic agent. This article covers only a few selected studies from the numerous studies that explore the effect of turmeric on various aspects of diabetes.It is clear that turmeric can play a part in prevention of diabetes and also help people who are diabetic.