Introduction to Turmeric

Tumeric and Curcumin Information


General Turmeric

Using Turmeric as a Spice

Turmeric and Alzheimers

Turmeric as an Anti-Inflammatory

Turmeric and Arthritis

Turmeric and Atherosclerosis

Turmeric and Cancer

Turmeric and Cataracts

Turmeric and Cholesterol

Turmeric and Crohns Disease

Turmeric and Cystic Fibrosis

Turmeric and Liver Disease

Turmeric and Psoriasis

Research Updates

Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a flowering perennial that belongs to the Zingiberaceae or ginger family.  Native to South Asia, it is a cultigen and has not yet been found in the wild. However, it is believed to be indigenous to India, where it has long been used both as a spice and as a dye.  From India, it is likely that that plant spread to Southeast Asia and gradually to East Asia, particularly China.  Turmeric is a leafy, stem-less plant with oblong lily-like yellowish leaves. turmeric plant purple flower It typically attains a height of three to five feet and is characterized by its yellow rhizome, or root, as well as its pale clustered flowers.  Other names for this plant include tumeric, curcuma (French, Italian, and Spanish), kunyit (Malay), jiang huang or yu jin (Chinese), taamerikku (Japanese), haldi (Hindi), and khamin (Thai).

It should not, however, be confused with “turmeric root,” a colloquial name for the plant commonly known as Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), which is in the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family and is a popular herbal remedy in its own right.  While both of these plants boast a yellow root, the two species are not related and it should be noted that Goldenseal can be toxic if overused, whereas few adverse effects have been recorded regarding the frequent consumption of turmeric.  Turmeric, whose active ingredient is curcumin, is about as dangerous as garlic, although it is important to adhere to recommended doses at all times if taking turmeric medicinally.

turmeric spice sellerIndeed, turmeric is widely used as a food coloring, as well as being a popular flavoring agent for curries and other South Asian dishes.  However, it also has a long history as a medicinal plant, having been used in both Ayurvedic (a form of medical practice native to the Indian subcontinent) and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Turmeric is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory, particularly for digestive disorders and to promote liver health through the stimulation of bile production.  It has been used to treat certain skin diseases, and is also believed to be effective in improving the function of the gallbladder.  More generally, turmeric has shown itself to be useful in fighting infection and reducing inflammation.  Turmeric contains high amounts of antioxidants, which are thought to reduce the body’s risk of cancer.

Turmeric has been used to treat a variety of ailments.  Those versed in traditional Chinese healing methods recommend turmeric for the relief of chest pains, and localized pain in the stomach, abdomen and the liver, as well as for nosebleeds and heatstroke. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine advocate turmeric as a means of curing or relieving general inflammation, conjunctivitis, itching and skin ulcers, colic, constipation, flatulence, and parasites such as ringworms.

Taken internally, turmeric is used to treat headaches, diarrhea, flatulence, colds and fevers, edema, bronchitis, leprosy, colic, kidney inflammation and cystitis. Externally applied, it is thought to help bruising, eye infections, inflammation of the oral mucosa, skin conditions, and infected wounds.

Regardless of the condition it is meant to alleviate, the herb is prepared in the same fashion. Turmeric is harvested for its roots, or rhizomes.  These are collected from February to April. turmeric root pictureThe rhizomes are then boiled for five to ten minutes and dried before being ground into the bright yellow powder with which most people are familiar.  The powder is used in many herbal remedies, although pieces of the dried root can be used as well.

Most recently, researchers have focused on the possible anti-cancer properties of turmeric, which they attribute to either antioxidant activity or anti-angiogenesis (prevention of new blood vessel growth).  Results, however, have been inconclusive and further trials are required to draw more definitive conclusions.  Another area of exploration has involved turmeric’s applications to arthritic conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, presumably because of its anti-inflammatory properties.  Other studies have focused their attention on turmeric’s traditional role in treating chronic stomach ailments, such as ulcers.  Related research has examined the possibility of using turmeric to relieve heartburn (dyspepsia), and believe that there is some validity to this hypothesis. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has also received attention as a possible candidate for turmeric-related treatment, given its believed efficacy in alleviating the discomforts of gastrointestinal conditions.  However, when taken at high doses, turmeric is likely to exacerbate existing discomfort instead of providing relief.  The prevention and/or decrease of gallstones are another area that has drawn the attention of researchers, as turmeric is thought to stimulate bile production in the liver. Preliminary groundwork has been carried out in a number of areas, with regard to a variety of ailments.  Some studies, such as one suggesting possibility of turmeric as a cholesterol lowering substance, seem more promising than others.  For example, early research suggesting a positive correlation between curcumin and a decrease in the severity of HIV has not been proven and would require further tests to determine a link.

Turmeric is generally thought to be safe, although there is the possibility of negative interactions with other drugs, such as blood-thinning medications or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). All treatments, herbal or pharmaceutical, should only be pursued in consult with a medical professional.

Medicinally, turmeric can be taken in several forms: cut root, dried or powdered root, commercially prepared curcumin powder, fluid extracts, or tinctures. Most dosages for herbal supplements are calculated for a 150 lb. person, and the recommended amount of turmeric for adults is between 1,500 and 3,000 milligrams per day, regardless of the form in which it is ingested.


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