encyclopedia

Turmeric

Scientific Names:
Curcuma longa L. (syn. C. domestica Valerton and C. aromatica Salisbury) [Fam. Zingiberaceae]

Forms:
Coarsely cut, dried rhizome for making infusions; powdered turmeric; turmeric tincture; turmeric extracts standardized for curcumin content.

Traditional Usage:
– Anti-inflammatory

– Antioxidant

– Arthritis

– Bile Deficiency

– Bladder Health Maintenance

– Bone and Joint Conditions

– Cellular Regeneration

– Cleansing

– Colic

– Detoxification

– Digestive Disorders

– Dysmenorrhea

– Dyspepsia

– Flatulence

– Gastrointestinal Disorders

– Heart Health Maintenance

– Indigestion

– Inflammation

– Joint Pain

– Liver Health Maintenance

– Poultice

– Skin Problems

– Sprains

– Urinary Tract Problems

– Wounds

Overview:

Turmeric, Curcuma longa L. [Fam. Zingiberaceae], is a popular golden-yellow spice used around the world. The rhizome of the turmeric plant is commonly used in curries and bright yellow prepared mustards. The medicinal uses of turmeric date back many centuries. Turmeric is noted for treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and is a safe food-type herb for preventing many different diseases. Turmeric rhizome was used traditionally for healing liver disease, urinary tract problems and indigestion by early Ayurvedic healers. It was also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating inflammation, dysmenorrhea (menstruation disorders), liver disorders and wounds. The German Commission E approves turmeric for treating dyspepsia and notes that the choleretic (bile stimulating) and anti-inflammatory action of curcumin, turmeric’s main active ingredient, is experimentally well documented. A recently conducted randomized controlled clinical trial of a preparation containing turmeric root (together with one other herb) for treating dyspepsia found significantly positive results. The researchers concluded that the extracts, which have widely been used in daily practice for many decades, have beneficial effects on pain due to biliary dyskinesia. Recent studies on turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, have also found significant potential benefits for people suffering from cystic fibrosis and cancer. According to researcher, Dr. Aggarwal of Houston, Texas, many studies suggest that curcumin has enormous potential in the prevention and therapy of cancer. Evidence suggests that curcumin can suppress tumor initiation, promotion and metastasis. Human clinical trials indicate that curcumin is very safe, having no dose-limiting toxicity when administered at doses up to 10 g/day. Curcumin has also been documented as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial comparing curcumin and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, it was shown that both treatments were significantly better than placebo after 6 days of treatment in people with post-operative inflammation.

Other Positive Clinical Results:

McCaleb, Leigh and Morien report clinical research in The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs that supports the use of turmeric extracts standardized for curcumin content for the treatment and prevention of many different diseases. According to one study, a dosage of 1,200mg curcumin daily was shown to bring significant improvements in morning stiffness, joint swelling and walking ability after 2 weeks of treatment in a double-blind trial in 18 people with rheumatoid arthritis. According to another study, a dosage of 500mg curcumin daily for 7 days was shown to significantly reduce serum lipid peroxides (33 percent) and total serum cholesterol (11.6 percent) in 10 healthy volunteers. This study also documented a significant increase in levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (29 percent). The investigators concluded that because of its antioxidant activity, curcumin might be of value for preventing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).

Active Ingredients:
Fresh turmeric rhizome contains: up to 4% curcumin (drugs should contain not less than 3 percent dicinnamoylmethane derivatives calculated as curcumin and not less than 3% volatile oil, both calculated on a dry weight basis of the drug); volatile oil containing sesquiterpenes such as bisabolene, zingiberene and curcumene; 79-83% carbohydrates; 12-30% protein; 1.8-15% fats; approximately 13.3% water.

Suggested Amount:
Turmeric is generally used liberally as a spice in condiments and curries. According to the German Commission E monograph, unless otherwise prescribed, the average daily dosage of turmeric is 1.5 – 3.0 g of drug. Other preparations can be taken correspondingly. In the double-blind placebo-controlled trial noted above for treating people with post-operative inflammation, the dosage of curcumin was 450mg of curcumin three times daily. This dosage of curcumin was shown to be significantly better than placebo after 6 days of treatment. A dosage of 1,200mg curcumin daily was shown to bring significant improvements in morning stiffness, joint swelling and walking ability after 2 weeks of treatment in a double-blind trial in 18 people with rheumatoid arthritis. A dosage of 500mg curcumin daily for 7 days was shown in another study with 10 healthy volunteers to significantly reduce serum lipid peroxides (33 percent) and total serum cholesterol (11.6 percent) and significant increase levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (29 percent).

Drug Interactions:

None known.

Contraindications:

Turmeric is contraindicated for persons having an obstruction of bile passages. Persons with gallstones should first consult their physician.

Side Effects:
None known.

References:

Aggarwal BB, Kumar A, Bharti AC. Anticancer potential of curcumin: preclinical and clinical studies. Anticancer Res. 2003 Jan-Feb; 23(1A): 363-98. Review.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 222.

Egan ME, Pearson M, Weiner SA, Rajendran V, Rubin D, Glockner-Pagel J, Canny S, Du K, Lukacs GL, Caplan MJ. 2004. Curcumin, a major constituent of turmeric, corrects cystic fibrosis defects. Science. 2004 Apr 23; 304(5670): 600-2.

McCaleb, R., Leigh, E. and K. Morien 2000. The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs. Your Complete Guide to the Leading Medicinal Plants. Published by Prima Health 3000 Lava Ridge Court, Roseville California 95661. Pp. 374-381.

Niederau C, Gopfert E. [The effect of chelidonium- and turmeric root extract on upper abdominal pain due to functional disorders of the biliary system. Results from a placebo-controlled double-blind study]. Med Klin (Munich). 1999 Aug 15; 94(8): 425-30. German.