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Turmeric

Medically reviewed on Jun 7, 2018

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a perennial plant that is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, China, Australia, and the South Pacific. The plant grows to a height of 0.9 to 1.5 m and bears large, oblong leaves and funnel-shaped, dull-yellow flowers. The thick rhizome is yellowish on the outside and deep orange or reddish brown inside. The lateral rhizomes contain more yellow coloring than the bulb. The dried primary bulb and secondary lateral rhizomes are collected, cleaned, boiled, and dried for use in medicinal and food preparations.

Scientific Name(s)

Curcuma longa

Common Name(s)

Turmeric, curcuma, Indian saffron, haldi.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Traditionally, turmeric has been used as a food, cosmetic, and medicine. Tumeric is a spice with a warm and bitter taste used primarily in curry powders and some mustards. Its distinctive yellow color is used to provide color to cheese, butter, and other foods.

Turmeric has been used medicinally over the centuries in different parts of the world. In the traditional Ayurvedic medical system, turmeric is a well-recognized treatment for numerous respiratory conditions (eg, asthma, bronchial spasms, allergies), liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism, diabetic wounds, cough, and sinus infections. In the Indian subcontinent, turmeric is medicinally valued for wound healing. In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is used to treat conditions that cause abdominal pain. Tumeric can reduce inflammation and was used to treat sprains and swelling in ancient Hindu medicine.

General uses

Use of curcumin resin from tumeric as a drug is limited because it is not effectively absorbed by mouth. Turmeric itself is used as a spice in curry powders and mustard. It is marketed with claims of potent antioxidant activity, improving bone and joint health, and reducing inflammation, but clinical trials are limited. Its effectiveness in treating some cancers has been investigated.

What is the recommended dosage?

Curcumin is primarily available in capsule form from commercial manufacturers. The most common regimen is one to three 500 mg capsules daily with or without food. Powdered turmeric root has traditionally been used for indigestion at dosages of 0.5 to 3 g/day. Dosages of 3 to 6 g/day have been investigated to protect against ulcers. Daily oral doses of curcumin 3,600 mg have been typically used in clinical trials, but dosages of curcumin up to 8 g/day have been used. Higher doses are associated with adverse GI effects.

Contraindications

Avoid use if hypersensitive to curcumin. Avoid use during pregnancy and lactation due to induced menstruation and uterine stimulant effects. The herb should not be used in patients with gallstones or bile duct obstruction.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Documented to stimulate menstruation and cause abortion.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Clinical trials report few ill effects. Rare cases of skin reaction and severe, whole-body allergic reaction have been reported.

Toxicology

Limited clinical data are available. The oral median lethal dose of curcumin in rats and mice was higher than 2,000 mg/kg body weight.

References

1. Turmeric. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; September 2012.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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