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Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a yellow food color and an ingredient in curry powder, has long been used in Asian traditional medicine as a stomach tonic and blood purifier, and for the treatment of skin diseases and wound healing. Today, it is considered potentially beneficial in treating or reducing symptoms associated with a wide range of health conditions, due to its antioxidant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.

Plant Description

Grown in the tropical regions of southern Asia, turmeric is an erect, perennial (returns each year) plant with trumpet-shaped dull yellow flowers. Turmeric is fragrant and has a bitter, somewhat sharp taste similar to ginger.

Parts Used

The dried aboveground and underground stems are used in medicinal and food preparations.

Medicinal Uses/Indications

Turmeric is used to treat the following conditions and symptoms.

bulletDigestive disorders. Curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric, induces the flow of bile, which breaks down fats.
bulletArthritis. Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory agent that relieves the aches and pains associated with arthritis.
bulletCardiovascular conditions. In lab animals, curcumin was shown to decrease cholesterol levels.
bulletCancer. Turmeric decreased symptoms of skin cancers and reduced the incidence of chemically caused breast cancer in lab animals.
bulletBacterial infection. The herb's volatile oil functions as an external antibiotic, preventing bacterial infection in wounds.

Available Forms

Turmeric is commercially available in the following forms.

bulletFluid extracts
bulletEncapsulated powders

How to Take It

The following are recommended doses.

bulletStandardized powder (curcumin): 400 to 600 mg three times daily
bulletTincture (1:2): 3 to 5 ml three times per day


Turmeric and curcumin are considered safe when taken in recommended doses. However, extended or excessive use of curcumin may produce gastrointestinal upset and, in extreme cases, ulcers. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages, consult with your health care provider before using turmeric products.

Possible Interactions

No harmful drug interactions have been reported.

Supporting Research

Arora R, et al. Anti-inflammatory studies on Curcuma longa (turmeric). Indian J of Med Res. 1971; 59: 1289-1295.

Azuine MA, Bhide SV. Chemopreventive effect of turmeric against stomach and skin tumors induced by chemical carcinogens in Swiss mice. Nutr Cancer, 1992; 17(1): 77-83.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998: 222.

Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 25th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 1974.

Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol. II. New York: Dover; 1971:822-823.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Christof J. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998: 786-788.

Murray M. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing; 1995: 327-335.


Nadkarni AK Indian Materia Medica. Bombey: Popular Prakashan; 1976: 414-418.

Nagabhushan N, Bhide SV. Curcumin as an inhibitor of cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992; 11: 192-198.

Polasa K, et al. Effect of turmeric on urinary mutagens in smokers. Mutagenesis. 1992; 7: 107-109.

Piper JT, Singhal SS, Salameh MS, Torman RT, Awasthi YC, Awasthi S. Mechanisms of anticarcinogenic properties of curcumin: the effect of curcumin on glutathione linked detoxification enzymes in rat liver. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1998; 30(4):445-456.

Singletary K, MacDonald C, Iovinelli M, Fisher C, Wallig M. Effect of the beta-diketones diferuloylmethane (curcumin) and dibenzoylmethane on rat mammary DNA adducts and tumors induced by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene. Carcinogenesis. June 1998; 433(3):1039-1043.

Srinivasan K, Samaiah K. The effect of spices on cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity and on serum and hepatic cholesterol levels in the rat. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1991 ; 61: 364-369.

Tyler V. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Haworth; 1994: 61-62.

Verma SP, Salamone E, Goldin B. Curcumin and genistein, plant natural products, show synergistic inhibitory effects on the growth of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells induced by estrogenic pesticides. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1997; 233(3): 692-696.

Copyright 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

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