Turmeric and Diabetes: 10 Ways Turmeric Can Help

One diabetes medicine may lower blood sugar and cholesterol, protect your eyes and kidneys, relieve pain, prevent cancer, and improve your sex life. It also tastes good.


This medicine is turmeric, made from the root Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. About 2% to 5% of turmeric is the yellow/orange powder called curcumin, which gives curry powder its beautiful color. The taste has a bite to it, but with the right recipe, you’ll love it. Or you can take capsules.

Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine. They give it for pain relief, improved digestion and liver function, and for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Curcumin may also help treat aspects of diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2. A scientific paper from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and McGill University reviewed multiple studies of curcumin from around the world. Most of these are studies of diabetic rats and mice. They need to be repeated in humans to gain scientific acceptance, but I’m convinced.

• In many of these studies, curcumin reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

In addition:

• Curcumin prevented liver fat accumulation. Rats who consumed curcumin had reduced liver fat on a high-fat diet compared to rats not consuming curcumin.

• Curcumin suppressed the activities of white blood cells called macrophages that cause inflammation. This action of turmeric/curcumin could potentially slow down many complications of diabetes, in which inflammation plays a role.

• Curcumin improves insulin function. It reduces insulin resistance by helping insulin get into cells, perhaps on the AMPK pathway that exercise also opens up.

In a study of 240 people in Thailand, curcumin prevented prediabetes from progressing to diabetes. Roughly 16% of the 116 people on placebo (inactive treatment) progressed to Type 2 diabetes within nine months. Nobody in the group receiving 250 milligrams daily of “curcuminoids” from supplements progressed.

In a rat version of Type 1, a derivative of curcumin nearly completely reversed the disease over ten months. Islet cells regrew, and insulin levels increased.

• Curcumin protects beta cells, which produce insulin. Studies found that beta cells grew faster and lived longer in rats who consumed curcumin.

• Curcumin supports kidneys. It promotes clearance of creatinine and urea from the blood, which is what kidneys are supposed to do.

• Curcumin fights cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, “It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the strongest effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer, and skin cancer cells.”

• Curcumin improved erection function in rats who had “diabetes-induced erectile dysfunction.” It apparently did this by increasing blood flow to their genitals.

• Curcumin speeded stomach emptying in rats. It improved digestion. This could potentially be a valuable treatment for those with the complication called “gastroparesis,” which we wrote about here.

• Curcumin is an “antioxidant.” Oxygen is needed for life. However, oxygen also corrodes things, as you can see when iron rusts into ferric oxide. Molecules called ROS (reactive oxygen species) can “rust” blood vessels and organs. In some studies, curcumin was found to “scavenge” ROS from the body, thus protecting healthy cells from oxidation.

Turmeric, curcumin, cumin, and curry
What’s the best way to get the benefits of curcumin? It can get confusing.

Turmeric is a root, sold whole or ground up. You can use it to cook with, sprinkle it on food, or buy it in capsules.

Curcumin is the much-studied “active ingredient” in turmeric. Many sellers use the terms “curcumin” and “turmeric” to mean the same thing.

Cumin is a different thing altogether, a spice made from the seeds of a flowering plant. It has no curcumin, but does have antioxidant effects of its own.

Curry powder often contains turmeric, cumin, and other seasonings. If you like the taste, it might be a good way to get your curcumin dose.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed
Curcumin has the disadvantage of being hard for the body to absorb. You don’t get much of it, and it’s quickly cleared from the body.

One reason curry powder is so healthy is that it often contains black pepper. Black pepper contains a chemical called piperine that keeps curcumin in the blood longer. You can also buy turmeric/curcumin capsules that include piperine.

You can cook delicious food with turmeric powder. The website Kitchn suggests adding it to egg scrambles, vegetables, rice, soups, smoothies, or making a tea with milk and honey.

You can make your own curry powder with recipes like these. I can see the advantage of making your own, starting with whole turmeric root, because then you’ll know what you’re getting and can make it more or less spicy for your taste.

You will have to ask to find out what ingredients a particular curry powder or turmeric capsule contains. If you buy capsules, the supplement website Smarter Reviews says the top ingredient on the label should be “pure turmeric curcumin.” Some capsules are full of fillers and don’t have much curcumin at all.

Vani Hari, the “Food Babe,” says “buy organic high-quality ground turmeric or fresh turmeric root from the produce section,” not some random powder in a bottle.

The prices of capsules vary dramatically. I saw prices online ranging from $8.00 for 100 capsules up to $45 for 60 capsules. I’m sure quality varies sharply as well.

This could be a healing cooking adventure for you. I hope you will try more turmeric in food, or take the capsules (after checking with your doctor) and let us know how it goes.

Looking to learn about more foods that may help with diabetes? Read Bitter Melon, Diabetes,” “Leaves and Fruits for Diabetes,” “Vinegar for Diabetes? Yes!” and “Cinnamon and Diabetes: An Update.”

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
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    Thanks for another great insight. I’ve been taking turmeric capsules for inflammation and found it helpful. I’ve been curious about dosage but haven’t had time to research it so I’ve been following the recommendation on the bottle. The information about the study in Thailand is useful, as is the info on black pepper. Since I take these with meals I’ll be sure to be generous with the pepper.

  • Grumpyoldfart

    I use a thumb size piece of fresh turmeric in a smoothie with one and a half carrots, half a green apple, half a teaspoon of garlic and ginger and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. I then top it up with water and refrigerate before drinking. It has a bite but it is nice when cold.

    • Christopher Loch

      Turmeric root is only 2-5% curcuminoids to begin with, and your body has a hard time absorbing that. Your best bet is to find a high-quality curcumin supplement with a delivery mechanism (like liposomes) that allow more of the curcuminoids to get into your bloodstream.

      • Rose Willing

        Where do you find this?

        • satya

          Amazon…search for curcumin supplements

  • Devak Ananda Das

    My first capsule of Turmeric reduced my blood sugar by 50 points within a few hours.


    Gotta love how the article refers to “slowing down the complications of diabetes’ as if thats some huge accomplishment..lol..sure, lets write an entire article about an ingredient that doesnt cure diabetes, but only “slows down” the rate at which you go blind, have your legs amputated and wind up on dialysis, as if its some miracle drug..lol…gotta love those low standards of that first world healthcare system

    • Brad

      Do you have a cure?


        Am I a doctor who gets paid to heal people?

        • Linda Aguilar

          Your attitude alone would be cause for illness in most people. Diabetes sufferers can generally limit their harmful symptoms if they are more interested in healing and have an open mind that can aid them in finding solutions.

    • LMTD, you must know that “slowing down the complications” is exactly how all the prescription diabetes drugs are advertised. But I rarely use that language, so I went back and looked, and there’s nothing like that line in my article. I have written several articles about reversing Type 2 diabetes on this site. Here’s one you might like.


        Exactly..here is somebody who gets it…CURE or REVERSE should be the only headlines written about…period…everything else about “treating” and “developing therapies” and “slowing down complications” are nothing but comfort words used to lower the expectations of diabetics and sugarcoat a problem that still isnt fixed, and a problem that is still deteriorating until a cure or reversal has bern found.

        Can you imagine an article about anything other than a cure, being written about HIV/AIDS or Cancer and then being spun as some sort of groundbreaking breakthrough?

        “Medical Breakthrough: Nutmeg slows down the complications of AIDS!..whoop dee doo!”

        +1 for you sir

  • Rob

    52-year diabetic here. After I started turmeric, my kidney function tests have improved to a normal range and I do see better blood sugar control. Less overall stiffness as well. Seems to be doing something or it’s a great placebo!

  • Linda Aguilar

    Try Golden Paste- so convenient. I just pour 1/2 cup hot h2o and add teaspoon of the paste about 3 times a day. So far, so good! https://deeprootsathome.com/how-to-make-use-turmeric-golden-paste/?fbclid=IwAR0gnAjAJLcTNoFHO-TWJkoZHuiyYgGtwfU4RR2wQ1LXEOI62jTLSApz5lc