The A-Z of Turmeric
Turmeric is a fine, golden-yellow spice with a sharp taste that lingers bitter on the palate. Learn more about its wondrous health benefits of turmeric.
Cooks sometimes refer to turmeric as “poor man's saffron”, because its bright yellow-orange colour resembles the more expensive condiment.
In recent years, turmeric’s value as a curry spice has received far less interest than its medicinal properties. Numerous scientific studies have shown, and continue to show, the healing qualities of the spice for numerous disorders and chronic conditions.
These healing properties may come as a surprise to the Western world, but turmeric has long been administered by traditional Chinese doctors to treat a wide range of ailments. Turmeric is also considered a very prominent herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medics consider turmeric a symbol of prosperity and a cleanser for the entire body.
Turmeric (or Curcuma longa, as it’s biologically known) belongs to the Zingiberaceae family of plants, along with ginger. The perennial plant is a native of Indonesia and India and cultivated in China, Bengal and Java. It’s distinctive by its purple-orange roots that grow two feet long. Above ground, the turmeric plant grows three feet high decorated by long lily-shaped leaves and yellow funnel flowers.
In medical circles, turmeric is best known as a digestive aid and anti-inflammatory as well as for the treatment of fevers, arthritis, jaundice and related liver ailments, as well as for general infections.Scientific studies have shown the active ingredient in turmeric to be curcumin, which stimulates the production of bile and facilitates emptying of the gallbladder.
In animal studies, curcumin has demonstrated more than just anti-inflammatory actions and has shown to protect the liver, prevent tumours and fight certain infections. Turmeric is also showing promise as an antioxidant as well as a cardiovascular strengthening agent through lowering cholesterol levels.
Dried rhizome; tubers
Active compounds in Turmeric
Curcumin is the active constituent in turmeric and has demonstrated a wide range of therapeutic qualities from protection against free radical damage to controlling inflammation – the latter is thought to be the result of curcumin’s ability to reduce histamine levels and possibly increase production of natural cortisone.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and additionally protects the liver from toxic compounds and improves circulation.
Additional compounds include:
- Volatile oil
Medicinal actions of turmeric:
What is turmeric used for?
- Cardiovascular strengthening
- Jaundice and other liver ailments
- Mosquito repellent
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin disorders, wounds and bruises
- Urinary diseases
Available forms of turmeric:
- Capsules containing powder
- Fluid extract
- Tablets or capsules: 400mg three times a day
- Dried powdered root: 1000 to 3000mg daily
- Curcumin powder: 400 to 600mg, three times a day
- Fluid extract (1:1): 30 to 90 drops daily
- Tincture (1:2): 15 to 30 drops, four times a day
Turmeric is considered extremely safe. However, extended of excessive use may cause stomach upset or ulcers.
Turmeric should be avoided in the case of:
- Gallstone problems
- Acute jaundice or hepatitis
Turmeric, and specifically curcumin, may have negative interactions with the following medications (it’s advised to consult with a medical practitioner prior to using the herb medicinally):
- Blood-thinning medications (like warfarin and aspirin)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- Reserpine (an antihypertensive drug)
Reference: US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCAM), MedlinePlus.gov