Common name: Turmeric
Other Names: Haldi, Jiang Huang, Shati, Indian Saffron
Latin Binomial: Curcuma longa
Parts Used: Rhizome
Turmeric has long been used in India and Southern Asia to treat digestive and liver problems. Its popularity began to spread in the 15th century, when trade routes opened between Europe and Asia. Its usage for easing stomach pain was due to its antispasmodic ability in relaxing smooth muscle tissue, which lines the stomach. Its reputation for alleviating liver problems was more precisely due to its use in the treatment of jaundice, its cholagogic action in the stimulation of the release of bile from the gallbladder. It could be due to this long history that turmeric is one of the relatively few herbs whose traditional usage has been largely confirmed by modern scientific research.
It is through this research that other benefits of turmeric, or more specifically, the curcumin constituent, have been uncovered. Chief among these is its powerful anti-inflammatory effect (Aggarwal, et.al., 2013). Turmeric has also been found to have cholesterol-lowering and anti-coagulant capabilities. In the last few decades choleretic action (which indicates a stimulation of the liver’s production of bile) has been confirmed in a close relative, Java turmeric, that is used medicinally in the same way. When applied topically, turmeric has been found to be effective in the treatment of psoriasis and pre-cancerous lesions. The curcumin constituent of turmeric has demonstrated anti-cancer benefits in vitro but more testing must be done to determine if these benefits will replicate themselves within the human body (Schaffer, 2015).
• Volatile oils (including, sesquiterpenes which contain the bitter principle beneficial for digestive system)
• Tannins (provides astringency)
• Resin (oleoresin with characteristic pungent taste and exhibiting hepatoprotective, antifungal, and cholagogic impact) (Pengelly, 2004).
• Cholagogue (stimulates secretion of bile from the gallbladder)
• Choleretic (stimulates the liver’s production of bile)
• Antispasmodic (eases pain, especially in the stomach)
Body Organs Acted Upon
When and How to Use It
Turmeric can be prepared as a decoction, tincture (liquid extract), or mixed into food using either the dried or fresh rhizome or as capsules using the dried, powdered rhizome.
The dosage for a 1:1 tincture using 45% or more alcohol is 5-14 ml per day, spread out into 4-5 dosages per day. To mix into food or take by capsule, at least 1 teaspoon of powdered rhizome, taken three times per day is sufficient. As a decoction, also use 1 teaspoon per cup; therefore, increase the amount of liquid to account for evaporation and to achieve a final yield of 1 cup. This will vary depending on the liquid used. Most importantly, when taking turmeric in any form, combine it with some sort of fat content like milk or avocados in a smoothie.
Turmeric is considered safe and there are no known cases of adverse reactions. According to the German Commission E, it is contraindicated in the case of gallstones that are obstructing the cystic duct or common bile duct. Do not use topically in any area where hair loss would be an undesirable affect; it has been used in India as a depilatory. Also, discontinue long-term use when taking other medications that may cause antiplatelet or anti-coagulant activity (Bone and Mills, 2013).
There has been some evidence to show that turmeric may lower fertility in women. No adverse impact has been identified with women who are pregnant, however, care should be taken as more testing needs to be done. When taking turmeric at a medicinal dosage level for a week or more, there may be some photosensitivity to sunlight that could cause skin irritation (Chevallier, 2000), therefore, take precaution by using sunblock.
Aggarwal, B.B., Gupta, S.C., and Sung, B. (2013). Curcumin: an orally bioavailable blocker of TNF and other pro-inflammatory biomarkers. British Journal of Pharmacology. 169(8):1672-92.
Bone, Kerry and Mills, Simon (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Ltd. China.
Chevallier, Andrew (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: The definitive reference to 550 herbs and remedies for common ailments, 2nd ed. Dorling Kindersley. New York, NY.
Pengelly, Andrew (2004). The constituents of medicinal plants: An introduction to the chemistry and therapeutics of herbal medicine, 2nd ed. CABI Publishing. Oxfordshire, UK and Boston, MA.
Schaffer, M., Schaffer, P.M., and Bar-Sela, G. (2015). An update on Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 18(6):605-11. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000227