- Mercy Nurse
- Symptom Navigator
- Levitt Medical Library
- Health Information
- Body Guide
- Multimedia Encyclopedia
- In-Depth Health Reports
- Complementary & Alternative Medicine
- Drug Information Center
- Drug Interactions
- Wellness Tools
- Today's Medical News
- Pregnancy Health Center
- Recursos EspaÃ±oles De la Salud
- Enciclopedia Multimedia
- Centro de Information sobre el Embarazo
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. Studies show that turmeric may help fight infections and some cancers, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive problems, and it has gotten a lot of press lately.
But remember several facts when you hear news reports about turmeric. First, many studies have taken place in test tubes and animals, and turmeric may not work as well in humans. Second, some studies have used an injectable form of curcumin, the active substance in turmeric. Finally, some of the studies show conflicting evidence.
Turmeric is widely used in cooking and gives Indian curry its flavor and yellow color. It is also used in mustard and to color butter and cheese. Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.
Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
In addition, curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. It also stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.
Research suggests that turmeric may be helpful for the following conditions:
Indigestion or Dyspepsia
Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which some people think may help improve digestion. The German Commission E, which determines which herbs can be safely prescribed in Germany, has approved turmeric for digestive problems. And one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric reduced symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion.
Turmeric may help people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the digestive tract where symptoms tend to come and go. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people whose ulcerative colitis was in remission took either curcumin or placebo, along with conventional medical treatment, for 6 months. Those who took curcumin had a relapse rate much lower than those who took placebo.
Turmeric does not seem to help treat stomach ulcers. In fact, there is some evidence that it may increase stomach acid, making existing ulcers worse. (See "Precautions" section.)
Because of its ability to reduce inflammation, researchers have wondered if turmeric may help relieve osteoarthritis pain. One study found that people using an Ayurvedic formula of herbs and minerals with turmeric, winter cherry (Withinia somnifera), boswellia (Boswellia serrata), and zinc had less pain and disability. But it’s impossible to know whether it was turmeric or one of the other supplements -- or all of them together -- that was responsible.
Early studies suggested that turmeric may help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque that can block arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL "bad" cholesterol from building up in blood vessels. Because it stops platelets from clumping together, turmeric may also prevent blood clots from building up along the walls of arteries. But a double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking curcumin, the active ingredient in turrmeric, at a dose of up to 4 g per day did not improve cholesterol levels.
There has been a great deal of research on turmeric's anti-cancer properties, but results are still very early. Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. Its preventive effects may be because it is a strong antioxidant, protecting cells from damage. More research is needed. Cancer should be treated with conventional medications. Don’t use alternative therapies alone to treat cancer. If you choose to use complementary therapies along with your cancer treatment, make sure you tell all your doctors.
Bacterial and Viral Infections
Test tube and animal studies suggest turmeric may kill bacteria and viruses. But researchers don’t know whether it would work in people.
A preliminary study suggests curcumin may help treat uveitis, an inflammation of the eye’s iris. In one study of 32 people with chronic anterior uveitis, curcumin was effective as corticosteroids, the type of medication usually prescribed. More research is needed.
A relative of ginger, turmeric is a perennial plant that grows 5 - 6 feet high in the tropical regions of Southern Asia, with trumpet-shaped, dull yellow flowers. Its roots are bulbs that also produce rhizomes, which then produce stems and roots for new plants. Turmeric is fragrant and has a bitter, somewhat sharp taste. Although it grows in many tropical locations, the majority of turmeric is grown in India, where it is used as a main ingredient in curry.
The roots, or rhizomes and bulbs, are used in medicine and food. They are generally boiled and then dried, turning into the familiar yellow powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient, has antioxidant properties. Other substances in this herb have antioxidant properties as well.
Turmeric is available in the following forms:
Because bromelain increases the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, it is often combined with turmeric products.
How to Take It
Turmeric supplements haven’t been studied in children, so there is no recommended dose.
The following are doses recommended for adults:
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and may interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
Turmeric in food is considered safe.
Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, taking large amounts of turmeric for long periods of time may cause stomach upset and, in extreme cases, ulcers. People who have gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric.
If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before taking turmeric supplements. Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels, and when combined with medications for diabetes could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Although it is safe to eat foods with turmeric, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take turmeric supplements.
Because turmeric may act like a blood-thinner, you should stop taking it at least 2 weeks before surgery. Tell your doctor and surgeon that you have been taking turmeric.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use turmeric or curcumin in medicinal forms without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning Medications -- Turmeric may make the effects of these drugs stronger, raising the risk of bleeding. Blood-thinners include warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin, among others.
Drugs that reduce stomach acid -- Turmeric may interfere with the action of these drugs, increasing the production of stomach acid:
Diabetes Medications -- Turmeric may make the effects of these drugs stronger, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, Malani N, Ichikawa H. Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:1-75.
Asai A, Miyazawa T. Dietary curcuminoids prevent high-fat diet-induced lipid accumulation in rat liver and epididymal adipose tissue. J Nutr. 2001;131(11):2932-2935.
Baum L, et al. Curcumin effects on blood lipid profile in a 6-month human study. Pharmacol Res. 2007;56(6):509-14.
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:379-384.
Curcuma longa (turmeric). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6 Suppl:S62-S66.
Darvesh AS, Aggarwal BB, Bishayee A. Curcumin and Liver Cancer: A Review. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2011 Apr 5. [Epub ahead of print]
Davis JM, Murphy EA, Carmichael MD, Zielinski MR, Groschwitz CM, Brown AS, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Mar 1 [Epub ahead of print]
Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, Buttyan R, Katz AE. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo. Prostate. 2001;47(4):293-303.
Dorai T, Gehani N, Katz A. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. II. Curcumin inhibits tyrosine kinase activity of epidermal growth factor receptor and depletes the protein. Mol Urol. 2000;4(1):1-6.
Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Kuscuoglu N, Wilson J, McCaffrey G, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64.
Gautam SC, Gao X, Dulchavsky S. Immunodilation by curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:321-41.
Gescher A J, Sharma R A, Steward W P. Cancer chemoprevention by dietary constituents: a tale of failure and promise. Lancet Oncol. 2001;2(6):371-379.
Goel A, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin as "Curecumin": from kitchen to clinic. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008;75(4):787-809.
Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, et al. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6.
Handler N, Jaeger W, Puschacher H, Leisser K, Erker T. Synthesis of novel curcumin analogues and their evaluation as selective cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibitors. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Jan;55(1):64-71.
Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.
Jagetia GC, Aggarwal BB. "Spicing up" of the immune system by curcumin. J Clin Immunol. 2007;27(1):19-35.
Johnson JJ, Mukhtar H. Curcumin for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Cancer Lett. 2007 Apr 18; [Epub ahead of print]
Kim MS, Kang HJ, Moon A. Inhibition of invasion and induction of apoptosis by curcumin in H-ras-transformed MCF10A human breast epithelial cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2001;24(4):349-354.
Krishnaswamy K. Traditional Indian spices and their health significance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:265-8.
Pari L, Tewas D, Eckel J. Role of curcumin in health and disease. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2008;114(2):127-49.
Phan TT, See P, Lee ST, Chan SY. Protective effects of curcumin against oxidative damage on skin cells in vitro: its implication for wound healing. J Trauma 2001;51(5):927-931.
Rakel D. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008;80.
Rao CV. Regulation of COX and LOX by curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:213-26.
Sharma RA, Ireson CR, Verschoyle RD. Effects of dietary curcumin on glutathione S-Transferase and Malondialdehyde-DNA adducts in rat liver and colon mucosa: relationship with drug levels. Clin Cancer Res. 2001;7:1452-1458.
Sharma RA, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:453-70.
Shehzad A, Khan S, Shehzad O, Lee YS. Curcumin therapeutic promises and bioavailability in colorectal cancer. Drugs Today (Barc). 2010 Jul;46(7):523-32. Review.
Shishodia S, Singh T, Chaturvedi MM. Modulation of transcription factors by curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:127-48.
Su CC, Lin JG, Li TM, Chung JG, Yang JS, Ip SW, et al. Curcumin-induced apoptosis of human colon cancer colo 205 cells through the production of ROS, Ca2+ and the activation of caspase-3. Anticancer Res. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6B):4379-89.
Suryanarayana P, Satyanarayana A, Balakrishna N, Kumar PU, Reddy GB. Effect of turmeric and curcumin on oxidative stress and antioxidant enzymes in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat. Med Sci Monit. 2007;13(12):BR286-92.
White B, Judkins DZ. Clinical Inquiry. Does turmeric relieve inflammatory conditions? J Fam Pract. 2011 Mar;60(3):155-6. Review.
Zafir A, Banu N. Antioxidant potential of fluoxetine in comparison to Curcuma longa in restraint-stressed rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2007;572(1):23-31.
Review Date: 5/4/2011
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.