Turmeric – proven health benefits, uses


The scientific name of the turmeric is Curcuma longa Linn. It is also known as long turmeric. Other names include

ARABIC: Aqîd hindî, Hurd, Kurkum, Timmer (Egypt).
BRUNEI: Kunyit, temu kuning, temu kunyit.
BURMESE: Sa nwin.
CAMBODIA: Ro miet.
CHINESE: Yu jin, Jiang huang, Huang jiang, Yu chiu, Yu jin.
DANISH : Gurkemeje.
DUTCH: Geelwortel, Indaansche saffraan, Kurkuma.
FINNISH: Maustekurkuma.
FRENCH: Arrow-root de l’Inde, Curcuma long, safran des Indes, turmeric, Safran du pays, Safran-cooli.
GERMAN: Gelbwurzel, Gelbwurz, Gilber Ingwer, Gilbwurzel, Indischer Safran, Kurkuma.
INDONESIA: Kunyit, kunir, koneng.
ITALIAN: Croco indiano, Curcuma di Levante, Curcuma lunga, Radice gialla, Safferano dell Indie.
JAPANESE: Taamerikku, Ukon.
LAOTIAN: Khi min, ‘khmin ‘khun.
MALAYSIA: Kunyit, temu kunyit, tius.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Lavar, tamaravirua.
PERSIAN: Zard-chobah.
POLISH: Kurkumal, Klacze kurkumy.
RUSSIAN: Kurkuma dlinnaia, Kurkuma domashniaia, Kurkumy koren’, Turmerik.
SPANISH: Azafrán de la India.
THAILAND: Khamin, khamin kaeng, khamin chan, Kha min hua.
TURKISH: Hind zafrani, Kurkim, Kurkum, Zerdé djavé.
VIETNAMESE: Khuong hoàng, Nghe, Uâtkim.

Turmeric  is a leafy plant, 1 to 1.5 meters tall, with 5 to 6 leaves. Rhizomes are bright yellow inside, thick and cylindric. Leaf blade is green, oblong, 30 to 45 centimeters long and 10 to 20 centimeters wide. Petiole is as long as the blade. Peduncle is 15 centimeters or more in length, borne within the tuft of leaves. Spikes are 10 to 20 centimeters in length and about 5 centimeters in diameter. Floral bracts are pale green, ovate, 3 to 4 centimeters long, the comabracts tinged with pink. Flowers are pale yellow, as long as the bracts. Fruits are capsules.

It is native to India and now grown in many places all around the world.

Part utilized

· Rhizome, leaves.

· Collect the whole year round.

· Rinse, removes roots, section into pieces, steam and sun-dry.


– Active constituents are flavonoid curcumin (diferuloylmethane) and various volatile oils, including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone.
– Volatile oil, 3-5% – tumerol (alcohol), d-alpha phellandrene, carvone, camphor, curcumone; fat, 3%; starch, 30%; resin; curcumin (pigment).

– Yields three curcuminoids – curcumin (diferuloylmethane, the primary constituent, responsible for the vibrant yellow color), demothoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin – plus volatile oils (tumerone, atiantone and zingiberone), sugars, proteins, and resins.

– Yellow orange color comes from yellow pigment in the rhizomes called curcumin.

– A good source of phosphorus and iron; but hardly a fair source of calcium.

Medicinal properties of turmeric

– Pungent and bitter tasting, warming, carminative.

– In Chinese medicine, believed to Improve Ch’i circulation.

– Studies have demonstrated various therapeutics effects: antioxidant, antiinflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, and anticarcinogenic activity.

– Antiinflammatory activity has been compared to topical hydrocortisone.

– Antiseptic, anti -contusion, antibacterial, antifungal.

– Aromatic, stimulant, tonic, cordial, emmenagogue and astringent.

– Rhizomes are used medicinally, as powder, paste, ointment, oil, lotion, inhalant, and confection.

Culinary / Nutritional

• Condiment, ingredient of curry powder, and coloring for food.

• In dried or powdered form, used like ginger.

• Good source of phosphorus and iron, a fair source of calcium.

• Rhizomes commonly sold in Manila markets. dried

• In Java, flour is made from the plant is the same way as cassava and arrowroot, used for all kinds of dainties.

Folkloric traditional remedies and uses of turmeric

· Decoction of rhizome, as tea, used for fevers, dysentery, abdominal pain, flatulence, abdominal spasm, arthritis.

· In the Philippines, rhizomes with coconut oil used as stomachic and vulnerary.

· Internally, juice of fresh rhizome used as anthelmintic.

· Used for menstrual irregularities, contusions and associated painful swelling.

· Antiseptic for wounds: Crush rhizome and apply to wounds.

· Externally, rhizomes are applied to insect bites, ringworm, bleeding.

· A 1:20 decoction used in catarrhal and purulent ophthalmia.

· In India, used as antiseptic for cuts. Used for leprosy, liver problems, swelling, insect bites, wounds, whooping cough, pimples. Sweetened milk boiled with tumeric is popular as a remedy for colds and cough. Juice of fresh rhizome used externally on wounds, bruises and leech-bites.

· Tumeric paste mixed with a little lime and saltpeter is applied hot to sprains and bruises.

· For smallpox and chicken pox, coating of tumeric powder or thin paste applied externally to facilitate scabbing.

· Paste made from flowers used for ringworm and other parasitic skin infections.

· Ointment used in neuralgia and rheumatism.

· Rhizomes with coconut oil used as stomachic and vulnerary.

· Rhizome used for intermittent fevers, flatulence,, dyspepsia.

· In Ayurveda, use as stomach and liver tonic and blood purifier.

· Malays use it as carminative and for dispelling flatulence.

· In China used for colic, amenorrhea, congestions.

· Fumes of burning turmeric used as inhalation in catarrh and severe head colds.

· For flatulence in children, used with garlic or onions.

· Used as carminative and antispasmodic, and in diarrhea and dysentery.

Other uses

• Dye: Tumeric is one of the best known of material dyes, used for dyeing silk, wool and cotton. Rhizomes used for dyeing mats in the Philippines.

• Cosmetic: In Sudan, rhizome used as cosmetic.

– Improves Qi (chi) circulation. Chi is the basis of traditional Eastern medicine. In Chinese parlance, chi means ‘spirit.’ In new-age speak, good health is synonymous with free-flowing energy through meridian pathways. A blocked Qi flow is associated with disease or ill-health.

– Approved by German health authorities for the treatment of dyspeptic complaints.

Recent uses and preparation

Recipe to make turmeric oil Ointment: Wash the unpeeled ginger and/or  turmeric. Chop the rhizomes to fill half a glass of water. Sauté with one glass of coconut oil on low heat for five minutes. Place in a clean bottle and label.

Antiseptic for wounds: Extract juice of the fresh rhizome and apply directly on the wound or swelling.

Gas pain in adults: Decoction from thumb-sized rhizome in a glass of water reduced to half.

Turmeric for cough:

  • Drink hot water mixed with turmeric.
  • Roast the turmeric root and ground it in to powder. Take about 1-2 gm of this roasted turmeric powder along with honey thrice a day to obtain relief from dry persistent cough.
  • Mix 1-2 tsp of pure curcumin powder in warm milk, take twice a day.
  • Add pure turmeric powder to boiling water and inhale the vapors. It helps to relieve cough and sinus congestion.

Scientific proven health benefits  and uses of turmeric

Biologic Activities:

An overview of the biologic activities lists in vitro anti-parasitic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and gastrointestinal effects; also, inhibition of carcinogenesis and cancer growth. In vivo, studies show anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory potency of curcumin and extracts in animal models.


Curcumin Suppresses Metastasis in a Human Breast Cancer Xenograft Model: The dietary administration to mice of curcumin and curcumin plus Taxol significantly decreased the incidence of breast cancer metastasis to the lung. The results indicate that curcumin has a potential for breast cancer therapy.

Anti-Cancer / Rhizomes:

Study on the anticancer activity of the rhizomes of tumeric in invitro tissue culture and in vivo in mice showed cytotoxicity to lymphocytes and Dalton’s lymphoma cells. The active constituent was found to be “curcumin.” Results showed the tumeric extract and curcumin reduced the development of animal tumors.

Hepatoprotective/ good for liver health: The study suggests the ethanolic extract of C. longa has potent hepatoprotective effect against paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats and validates its use as a hepatoprotectant agent.


The study on the ethanolic extracts of Curcuma longa and Alpinia galanga exhibited excellent phytotoxic activity against Lemna minor and good antifungal activities against Trichophyton longifusus.


Study showed the essential oil fraction from tumeric possesses significant antibacterial activity against pathogenic Staph aureus bacteria and suggests a potential for use of the essential oil as antiseptic in prevention and treatment of bacterial infections.

Hypoglycemic / Hypolipidemic / Antioxidant:

Study of Curcuma longa and Abroma augusta found them to be efficient antioxidants and showed significant reduction in blood glucose. Study showed the combination of herbal extracts showed better efficacy compared to individual plant extracts.


In study investigating the mechanism of free radical-induced tissue damage in inflammatory disease that involved pathogenic processes similar to periodontal disease, Curcuma longa was studied for antioxidation activity. Results showed CL to be effective protection from free radical-induced tissue damage.

Tobacco Chewer and Chronic Smoker De-Addiction :

Study showed the control arm to continue the same addiction dependency while the 63.6% of the study arm patients completely gave up smoking or tobacco chewing. 14.3% decreased smoking to <10 cigarettes per day and 10.6% of tobacco chewers decreased from 10 to < 2 times per day. The difference is statistically significant.

Curcumin / Anti-Inflammatory:

Curcumin, a highly pleiotropic molecule, acts on many targets involved with inflammation. It modulates the inflammatory response by down-regulating the activity of COX-2, lipoxygenase, and iNOS enzymes; inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukins 1,2,6,8 and 12, and down-regulates mitogen-activated and Janus kinases.

Tumeric Oil / Safety Study in Healthy Human Volunteers (2003):

Study in human volunteers showed no clinical, hematological, renal or hepato-toxicity at 1 and 3 months. Tumeric extract and tumeric oil have shown chemoprotective effect against chemically-induced malignancies in experimental animals. It’s potential for reversing oral submucous fibrosis, a precancerous condition for oral cancer, a Phase II trial was recommended.

Analgesic / pain relief/  Non-Antipyretic:

Study of rhizome extracts showed analgesic but no antipyretic effect.

Lipid Effects/ Anti-Atherosclerosis:

Study of hydroalcoholic extract of Curcuma longa showed significant reduction of LDL and apo B with increases in HDL and apo A of healthy subjects. Results suggest the curcuma lipid-lowering extract might be a specially useful anti-atherogenic agent.


Study evaluated the radioprotective effect of a rhizome extract on radiation-induced chromosomal aberrations in cancer treatment. Results showed pre-radiotherapy treatment with CL extract lead to a decrease in all types of chromosomal aberrations, and suggests a potential application as adjuvant to radiotherapy in cancer therapy.

Gastrointestinal Effects:

C. longa exert several protective effects on the gastrointestinal tract:

(1) Sodium curcuminate inhibited intestinal spasm

(2) p-tolymethylcarbinol, a tumeric component, increase gastrin, secretin, bicarbonate, and pancreatic enzyme secretion.

(3) An antiulcer effect with significant increase of gastric wall mucus in rats subjected to a variety of gastrointestinal insults.

Hepatic Regenerative Effect on Passive Smoking-Induced Liver Damage:

Study evaluated the regenerative effect of C. longa rhizome extract on passive smoking induced liver damage in rats. Results showed a regenerative effect on liver cell changes and also a regenerative effect on TNF-a expression.

Antifertility Effect / Curcumin:

Study evaluated ovulatory effects of curcumin, the active principle present in turmeric, in control and curcumin treated albino rats. Results showed curcumin has an antiovulatory effect probably through its antiestrogenic activity through suppression of negative feedback effect of estrogen on the pituitary.

Cardioprotective Effect Against Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity:

Study showed CL extracts showed resiliency against doxorubicin-induced toxicity in rats due to polyphenolic contents and suggests a potential novel adjuvant therapy with doxorubicin.

Tumerin / Effect / Anti-Snake Venom: Study evaluated tumerin, a turmeric protein, for its ability to prevent oxidative damage against Naja naja venom phospholipase A2 in male Swiss wistar mice. Tumerin showed to be a potent antioxidant against NV-PLA2 induced free radical formation in plasma and organs, preventing tissue damage and neutralizing lethality.

Freeze Dried Rhizome Power in Milk / Triple Effect:

Study showed antidiabetic, hypolipidemic and hepatoprotective effects of C. longa freeze dried powder dissolved in milk. Results suggest a potential for an effective and safe antidiabetic dietary supplement.

Essential Oils / Antioxidant:

Study of essential oil showed the major compounds to be ar-turmerone (43.04%), humulene oxide (16.59%) and ß-selinene (10.18%) for C. longa. In comparative antioxidant activity with C. sichuanensis and C. aromatica, C longa showed the highest EC50 value on antioxidant activities.

Ileum and Colon Myorelaxant Effect / Anti-Spasmolytic:

Curcuma extract showed a direct and indirect myorelaxant effect on mouse ileum and colon. The indirect effect is reversible and non-competitive with the cholinergic agent. Results suggest use as an anti-spasmolytic.

Curcumin / Control of Oxidative Stress in Diabetic Rats:

Study showed feeding of curcumin to diabetic rats controlled oxidative stress by inhibiting the increase of TBARS and protein carbonyls and reversing altered antioxidant systems despite unaltered hyperglycemic status.

Hypolipdemic / Double-blind Study:

In a double-blind study, an aqueous extract of tumeric showed lipid lowering properties in overweight hyperlipidemic patients.

Decreased Oxidative Stress in Diabetic:

Study evaluated the protective effect of C. longa on STZ-induced oxidative stress in various tissues of rats. The elevated parameters and enzymatic activities induced by hyperglycemia were restored to near normal levels by oral administration of oral curcumin. The ethanol extract provided more potent protective action than the water extract. Results suggest beneficial effects in preventing diabetes-induced oxidative states in rats despite unaltered hyperglycemic status.


Studies have identified a number of different molecules involved in inflammation that are inhibited by curcumin, including phospholipase, lipooxy- genase, COX-2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, MCP-1, interferon-inducible protein, tumor necrosis factor, and in- terleukin-12.

Curcumin / Safety / Anti-Inflammatory:

Tumeric yields three curcuminoids: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Studies have shown anti-inflammatory activity through inhibition of different molecules involved in inflammation. Six human trials have also showed curcumin to be safe.

Analgesic / Curcumin:

Study evaluated different extracts at three different doses for their analgesic activity using different animal models of analgesia. The extracts showed significant reduction of the number of writhes in mice. It is postulated curcumin exerts anti-nociceptive action through activation of both opioid and non-opioid mediating systems.

Curcumin / Uses / Biological Basis of Medical Efficacy:

Study reports on its potential therapeutic applications, with increasing data in animal and human models. Convergence with some mechanisms known for standard antidepressants is recognized, together with the overlapping of its anti-depressant pharmacology with those of other disease states. A key hurdle to the development of curcumin for disease treatment and prevention is overcoming its low oral bioavailability.

Antimicrobial / Rhizome / Staphylococcus aureus:

Study evaluated the in vitro antimicrobial activity of different fractions of rhizome of C. longa against standard strain and clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus. Results showed inhibition in growth of the test pathogen indicating a broad spectrum antimicrobial potential.

Antidermatophytic / Turmeric Oil / Cream Formulation:

Study evaluated tumeric creams containing 6 and 10% w/w turmeric oil against clinical strains of dermatophytes. Minimal fungicidal concentrations were found to be 312 µg/mL. Ar-turmerone, a major compound from turmeric oil, showed more effective antidermatophytic activity. 6% w/w turmeric oil in cream showed to be a suitable antidermatophytic formulation.

Protective Effect on Acetaminophen Induced Nephrotoxicity:

Study showed C. longa extract may protect the kidney against acetaminophen induced tubular necrosis in mice.

Immunomodulatory Potential:

This review suggests curcumin meets the criterion of a drug that can attack multiple pathways while being pharmacologically safe. Curcumin suppresses the proliferation of a wide variety of tumor cells, induces apoptosis by downregulation of antiapoptotic protein, modulates the immune system by suppressing T-cells, proliferating B-cells reducing proliferation of immature B-cell lymphoma cells, inhibits production of cytokines, among others. There is renewed scientific interest in its immunomodulatory potential to prevent and treat and wide range of diseases.

Therapeutic Applications in Dentistry:

Review suggests a promising future for therapeutic applications of Curcuma longa in dentistry: mouth wash, fissure sealant, dental plaque detection, anticariogenic property, prevention of plaque and gingivitis, surgical wound healing, use in oral lichen planus and oral submucous fibrosis, among others.

Myocardium Protective:

Study showed C. longa could attenuate myocardial infarction in isoproterenol (ISP)-treated rat model via myocardial adaptation by maintaining cardiac function and augmenting endogenous antioxidant enzymes.

Peptic Ulcer Healing / Clinical Trial:

Study examined 45 patients, 24 males and 21 females, aged 16-60, who had symptoms indicating peptic ulcer. Twenty five patients, 18 males and 7 females, were endoscoped and found to have ulcers in the duodenal bulb or gastric angulus. Four weeks after treatment with tumeric capsules 48% or 12 cases were ulcer free; eight weeks after treatment, 18 cases showed absence of ulcer. The report presents possible preventive and therapeutic effects of turmeric on peptic ulcer treatment.

Antithrombotic Activity / Curcuma Oil:

Curcuma oil was evaluated on various thrombosis models. CO mediated antithrombotic effects appear to be due to inhibition of platelet activiation. The inhibition seem to be competitive against ADP and non-competitive against thrombin. CO seems to be a potential candidate drug molecute for stroke and antithrombotic activity. in addition to neuroprotective action.

Antiplatelet Effects / Curcuma Oil:

Study evaluated the effect of curcuma oil against myocardial ischemia-reperfusion induced injury in a rat model. Although Curcuma oil failed to confer protection against cardiac injury, there was significant reversal of ADP induced platelet aggregation (p<0.05) was evident in the same animals. There was collagen and thrombin induced platelet aggregation and suppression of tyrosine phosphorylation of various proteins in activated platelets. It showed no significant effects on coagulation parameters. Results suggest C. oil to be an efficacious and safe anti-platelet agent which was protective against intravascular thrombosis.

Effect on Arsenic Toxicity / Powder:

Study evaluated the protective effect of turmeric powder on arsenic toxicity in an albino mice model. Turmeric reversed the sodium arsenite-induced elevation of BUN, glucose, triglyceride and ALT and prevented the Sa-induced alterations of serum butyryl cholinesterase (CChE) activity. The ameliorating effect of turmeric suggest a potential application to reduce or prevent arsenic toxicity in human.

Renoprotective/ good for kidneys:

Study investigated the effect of pre-treatment with turmeric powder on kidney histopathology and function markers in renal ischemia / reperfusion (IR) induced injury in rats. Results showed turmeric powder significantly prevented renal I/R induced functional and histological injuries.


Rhizomes commonly sold in markets.
Essential oils and capsules from the market.

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