Can Turmeric Help A Cold? It Can, But It's Not A Surefire Cure

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My fellow millennials, I hate to break it to you, but we’ve all been duped. As much as we’d like to believe social media has the answers to life’s most grueling questions, it’s just not true. Sure, you might come across a valid news article on Twitter, and Pinterest will keep your #lifegoals stunningly picturesque, but when it comes to things like wellness, and trends that actually work in favor of our health, take these posts with a grain of salt. For example, can turmeric help a cold? Social media influencers who enjoy frothy golden milk lattes may boast that the spice is a quick-fix, but according to research, one pretty mug isn’t going to cure all your symptoms overnight.

Once any spice or ingredient is categorized as a “superfood,” people tend to immediately assume it’s going to improve their health just by adding it to one recipe or another. Of course, including turmeric in your diet is going to be more beneficial to your health than if you were to just let it sit pretty on your spice rack, but it’s certainly not going to be the primary cure to any illness. Personally, I’m a firm believer that food is the best medicine for our bodies. But, like anything else, there’s a science to these holistic practices.

Turmeric milk tastes delicious, but you’ll have to drink a lot if you want the spice to ease your cold symptoms.

The benefits of turmeric can be confusing, because there’s such an emphasis on curcumin, the substance that gives the spice its vibrant, orangey-yellow pigment. Still, if you were to separate curcumin from turmeric, the spice itself contains plenty of medicinal properties. According to Turmeric For Health, 20 molecules in the powder are antibiotic, 14 are anti-cancer, 12 anti-tumor, 12 anti-inflammatory, and 10 antioxidant.

Curcumin, however, really is the hub of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits, and can also treat an upset stomach, lower high cholesterol, and reduce symptoms of viral infections. The problem is, curcumin only makes up a dismal two percent of turmeric. In other words, sprinkling a tablespoon of the stuff over vegetables isn’t going to provide all the nutrients your body needs to heal.

As far as turmeric milks and teas, there’s no harm in treating yourself to a cup to boost your spirits (and possibly garner a few likes on Instagram) when you’re feeling under the weather, but one serving won’t do much in terms of recovery. Recipes that call for turmeric generally only require a small amount, and according to LIVESTRONG, those fighting off a viral infection can sip on warm milk with a teaspoon of turmeric three times daily as a preventative health supplement which, to me, sounds a little excessive.

Rather than tossing back multiple cups of turmeric milk a day, a pill supplement might be an easier option.

What really throws people off about taking turmeric is that, even if you’re adding it to your veggies, smoothies, apple cider vinegar shots, and the like, it’s not how much you’re consuming that counts. BioCeuticals nutritionist and herbalist Stephanie Berglin told Huffington Post that what actually matters is how much of the substance your body is absorbing.

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., who specializes in holistic health, dry turmeric spice isn’t super effective for specifically treating illnesses, but adults can take “400 to 600 mg of turmeric extract three times per day or as directed on the product label” to improve your overall health. Additionally, he explained in his blog that both turmeric and curcumin supplements cannot be absorbed properly “unless taken with black pepper or piperine [a natural compound in peppercorns that make black pepper spicy],” so it’s important to read supplement labels and make sure either of these are listed.

Adding turmeric to your diet will certainly improve your health overall, but you shouldn’t rely on it to cure a cold.

First things first, if you have even the slightest hint of an illness, go see a doctor. Winter season is flu season, and the last thing you want is to mistake flu symptoms for a common cold. Once you’ve been checked out and the doc says you, indeed, have a case of the sniffles, there are a few things you can do to get well sooner rather than later.

Your health is precious and should be treated as such, so if you’re coming down with a bug — even if it's just a head cold — the best thing you can do for your body is to stay home and rest. We're all allotted sick days for a reason, friends, and I’m sure your boss or professor would rather you stay in bed than infect your co-workers or classmates.

If you absolutely cannot miss a meeting or lecture for whatever reason, the best thing you can do is avoid physical contact at all costs, thoroughly wash your hands before and after you eat, as well as after using the bathroom. If you can’t make it to the bathroom to wash your hands, make sure to have hand sanitizer at the ready.

Last but not least, be sure to take any and all medications prescribed to you by your doctor. Holistic remedies are fabulous, but sometimes your body simply needs these types of prescribed medications in order to recover quickly and efficiently. Use your best judgment, and above all, listen to your body. It will always tell you exactly what it needs.