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Turmeric for Skin Health
Turmeric: An Age-Old Spice with Modern Applications
As one of the most heavily researched natural products in the world, turmeric has been shown to help with everything from adrenal health to the Zika virus, and nearly every health condition in-between – including acne and psoriasis. (Dattner, 2015).
In fact, extensive research within the last century has demonstrated that curcumin has “an unprecedented number of molecular targets giving it a unique power to control many molecular pathways that could leave to disease processes.” But that’s not all! By affecting these pathways, curcumin has shown “great potential not only for the treatment of skin diseases but also for their prevention” (Gonzalez & Sethi, 2012).
As this systematic review of the research shows, evidence is rolling in that the active component of turmeric, curcumin, may be used medically to treat a variety of dermatologic conditions.
Historically, the digestive and immune systems were viewed as entirely separate entities. Today, however, we know that the gastrointestinal (GI) and all other organ systems, including our cutaneous (skin) system, are closely linked. In fact, it is getting clearer all the time (pun intended!) that skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and many other dermatological problems may be caused by imbalances in the microscopic life that calls our gut home (Knight, 2015); likely, a result of the inflammation brought about by an immune system that’s off-kilter.
Simply put, an unbalanced gut equals a suboptimal immune system which, in turn, translates to rampant systemic inflammation and that can mean - you guessed it! - skin problems.
Turmeric for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy dry patches. Uncomfortable and unsightly, it can have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life. Research has shown that psoriasis has been linked to systemic inflammation and curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. In fact, a study published in the January-February 2013 issue of the journal BioFactors found that curcumin works in several ways to help improve a whole host of inflammatory diseases.
Thought to be an immune system problem, common treatments for psoriasis include topical ointments, light therapy, and medications. Forward-thinking practitioners, however, like Board-Certified Holistic Dermatologist Alan M. Dattner, believe that radiant skin comes from the inside out. He, like a growing number of conventional practitioners, states that curcumin “has a number of protective effects on the skin (Dattner, 2015), especially those conditions with an inflammatory component.
For example, one study found that curcumin, with its antioxidative property, may reduce the oxidative stress of psoriatic lesions. Another found that curcumin’s therapeutic efficacy against psoriasis might also be related to its ability in inhibiting phosphorylase kinases, which are elevated in psoriatic patients. In plain speak, these “anti-proliferative” effects of curcumin are good news for psoriasis patients, who suffer from the build-up of itchy, scaly patches on their skin.
And evidence is mounting that curcumin is not only useful when it comes to improving psoriasis, but desirable when compared to medications due to its status of “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a win-win for those preferring a more natural approach. Indeed, results suggest that curcumin may represent “a low-cost, well-tolerated, effective agent in the treatment of skin diseases.”
Turmeric for Acne
If you’ve never had problems with acne, count yourself among the lucky few. A skin condition characterized by pimples, redness, blackheads – or, in its worst form, deep and painful cysts – acne is most common in teenagers in the throes of hormonal turmoil but most anyone can get it at any time. In particular, women approaching perimenopause often complain of the appearance of acne, many for the first times in their lives, just as their own children are heading into adolescence. For some, the condition becomes severe enough to impact their self-esteem, presenting immeasurable emotional consequences.
What causes acne? Although different types of acne likely have a variety of causes, as Dr. Dattner reminds us, skin conditions are the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong inside and “how your skin looks is a direct reflection of how well your body is functioning” (2015).
A quick Internet search will tell you that acne is commonly treated with over-the-counter creams and cleanser, as well as prescription antibiotics. As the Mayo Clinic points out, “usually the first choice for treating acne is tetracycline – such as minocycline or doxycycline – or a macrolide.” They go on to add, however, that “oral antibiotics should be used for the shortest time possible to prevent antibiotic resistance.”
What Else Can We Try?
People worried about the long-term effects of antibiotics on their health (particularly their gut health) will be interested to know that before the development of antibiotics such as tetracycline in the 1950s, it was routine to treat acne by paying attention to the diet, stressing eating patterns that we today know will help to balance the gut, boost the immune system, and put the brakes on inflammation. During the 1960s, however, the diet-acne connection fell out of favor.
Now, researchers have begun revisiting the topic of medical nutrition therapy for acne, a logical progression following the realization that the food we eat is capable of triggering cascading events within our bodies, both positive and negative, and that our immune system (and its ability to modulate inflammation) is tightly interconnected with our digestive system.
Conventional healthcare practitioners have begun to see the value of ancient remedies and have begun focusing on lifestyle changes as first line of defense in acne remediation. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, in his book The Acne Prescription, does exactly that, stressing a three-tiered program focused on an anti-inflammatory diet, nutritional supplements (including turmeric), and topical anti-inflammatories (2003).
While best known for its general anti-inflammatory properties, not many studies have been conducted yet that look specifically at the effects of turmeric on acne. However, there’s some indication that turmeric may help reduce the inflammation of acne, either when taken orally or used topically.
In addition, curcumin can also accelerate the healing of skin wounds, which is great news for anyone whose condition leaves them with angry red marks even after the lesions have resolved.
If you have a skin condition, consult your doctor about supplementing with curcumin. The importance of ruling out undetected health problems cannot be overstated.
And never forget that your most powerful defense against any type of chronic condition is the one that is most wholly within your power: living a healthy lifestyle.
A high-quality diet, lots of movement, fresh air, natural sunlight, plenty of relaxation, restful sleep, and a solid stress-management plan is your best bet for leading a long and happy life.
In addition to those behavior changes, consider adding a high potency turmeric supplement like Active Atoms Turmeric to your daily routine.
Active Atoms contains all Turmeric Extract containing a higher concentration of curcumin and more health benefits than Turmeric Powder. While many other brands contain only 50 mg of Turmeric Extract per capsule, Active Atoms contains 750 mg per capsule.
Since studies show 500-1500 mg of Turmeric Extract per day is ideal to fight inflammation, 1-2 capsules of Active Atoms daily can be an excellent option to promote healthy skin and support your body with anti-aging benefits.
By: Dr. Shari Youngblood | Shari is a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) & Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) who writes on all manner of nutrition topics, particularly those related to natural foods, food cultures, dietary supplements, integrative health, and functional medicine. You can find her at www.nutritionwriting.com | May 21, 2020