What is Turmeric?

What is Turmeric?

Heart Disease. Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes. Arthritis. Unwanted hair growth. Baldness. Infertility. Erectile dysfunction. Hangovers. Sore Throat. Glaucoma. Cancer.

Name any ailment, and there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere, is studying whether turmeric can treat it.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice with a very long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4000 years. Though it has been used for thousands of years, it continues to surprise researchers in terms of its wide-ranging health benefits. There are more than 15,000 manuscripts published about curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, and about 50 manuscripts added to this collection each week, according to the National Institutes of Health.

While once focused on anti-inflammatory benefits, decreased cancer risk, and support of detoxification, studies on turmeric now include its potential for improving kidney function, cognitive function, blood sugar balance, arthritis and digestive disorders. Turmeric is believed to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and a digestive properties.

The beneficial effects of turmeric are traditionally achieved through dietary consumption, even at low levels, over long periods of time. India produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric crop and consumes 80% of it. With its inherent qualities and high content of the important bioactive compound curcumin, Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world. It is used in food, cosmetic, and medicine. It is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. It gives curry its distinctive yellow colour and flavour. 

According to some estimates, approx. USD $10 billion is spent every year on alternative therapies. Botanical supplements have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, including Ayurveda (science of long life), Chinese medicine, Kampo (Japanese medicine), and Egyptian medicine. Several of the medicines that are traditionally used exhibit anti-inflammatory activities (Garodia et al. 2007; Aggarwal et al. 2006). Turmeric is one such herb.

The Sacred Root that Rejuvenates the Body and Mind – A Brief History

Traditionally Turmeric has been used in therapeutic preparations over the centuries in different parts of the world. In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric is believed to have many medicinal properties including: 

  • strengthening the overall energy of the body, 
  • relieving gas, 
  • dispelling worms, 
  • improving digestion,
  • regulating menstruation, 
  • dissolving gallstones, 
  • relieving arthritis. 
  • antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises, 
  • and as an antibacterial agent.
  • Sore throat and cough 

It is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. Turmeric is used to cleanse wounds and stimulate their recovery. Indians use turmeric, to purify blood and remedy skin conditions. 

Turmeric paste is used by women in some parts of India to remove superfluous hair. Turmeric paste is applied to the skin of the bride and groom before marriage in some parts of India, and it is believed it helps make the skin glow and keep harmful bacteria away from the body. These days Turmeric is used in the formulation of several sunscreens. Several multinational companies are involved in making face creams based on turmeric. 

From ancient times, as prescribed by Ayurveda, turmeric has been used to treat sprains and swelling (Araujo and Leon 2001). Turmeric is also used as an herbal medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments (Dixit, Jain, and Joshi 1988) along with anorexia, rheumatism and diabetic wounds (Araujo and Leon 2001).

Turmeric’s Unique Chemical Profile

Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties. (Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant compounds that boost the healthy functioning of cells, tissues, organs, and systems.) Curcumin has many scientifically-proven health benefits, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. It’s a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis. Traditionally it is used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis since turmeric/curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the target of celecoxib (Celebrex). Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and modifies immune system responses. A 2006 study showed turmeric was more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation. 

  • A 2010 clinical trial found that a turmeric supplement called Meriva (standardized to 75 percent curcumin combined with phosphatidylcholine) provided long-term improvement in pain and function in 100 patients with knee OA.
  • In a small 2012 pilot study, a curcumin product called BCM-95 reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active RA better than diclofenac, an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Turmeric As A Traditional Medicine

In both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is considered a bitter digestive and a carminative. It can be incorporated into foods, including rice and dishes, to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It is a cholagogue, stimulating bile production in the liver and encouraging excretion of bile via the gallbladder, which improves the body’s ability to digest fats. The main clinical targets of turmeric are the digestive organs: in the intestine, for treatment of diseases such as familial adenomatous polyposis (Cruz-Correa et al. 2006); in the bowels, for treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) (Hanai and Sugimoto 2009); and in the colon, for treatment of colon cancer (Naganuma et al. 2006). It also helps reduce flatus, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, and colic; for abdominal pain and distension (Bundy et al. 2004); and for dyspeptic conditions including loss of appetite, postprandial feelings of fullness, and liver and gallbladder complaints. It has anti-inflammatory, choleretic, antimicrobial, and carminative actions (Mills and Bone 2000). In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat diseases associated with abdominal pain (Aggarwal, Ichikawa, and Garodia 2004).

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for various respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma, bronchial hyperactivity, and allergy) Turmeric mixed with milk or water is taken to treat colds and sore throats, runny nose, cough and sinusitis.

A recent study reveals Curcumin helps boost levels of brain hormone BDNF. Neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain they can also multiply and increase in number. One of the main drivers of this process is brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in the brain. Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease (21, 22). Interestingly, curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF (23, 24). Thus, it may be effective in delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function thus helping fight degenerative processes in the brain.

In a nutshell, key benefits of turmeric can be concluded as follows: 

  • Provides Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Encourages Proper Digestion
  • Promotes Fat Loss
  • Cleanses the Liver
  • Manages Arthritis Pain
  • Helps improve Respiratory Conditions
  • Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Help Prevent Heart Disease
  • Prevents Hair Loss
  • Balances Hormone Levels
  • Reduces The Risk Of Cancer

No known interaction of drugs with turmeric has been reported by the monographs of the German regulatory authority, Commission E (Blumenthal, Goldberg, and Brinckmann 2000).


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