Turmeric and Curcumin : Health Benefits
The rhizome (root) of turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gastrointestinal upset, arthritic pain, and “low energy.” Laboratory and animal research has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of turmeric and its constituent curcumin. Preliminary human evidence, albeit poor quality, suggests possible efficacy in the management of dyspepsia (heartburn), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and scabies (when used on the skin). However, due to methodological weaknesses in the available studies, an evidence-based recommendation cannot be made regarding the use of turmeric or curcumin for any specific indication.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Uses based on scientific evidence
Several early animal and laboratory studies report anti-cancer (colon, skin, breast) properties of curcumin. Many mechanisms have been considered, including antioxidant activity, anti-angiogenesis (prevention of new blood vessel growth), and direct effects on cancer cells. Currently it remains unclear if turmeric or curcumin has a role in preventing or treating human cancers. There are several ongoing studies in this area.
Turmeric has been traditionally used to treat stomach problems (like indigestion from a fatty meal). There is preliminary evidence that turmeric may offer some relief from these stomach problems. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually irritate or upset the stomach. Reliable human research is necessary before a recommendation can be made.
Peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcer)
Turmeric has been used historically to treat stomach and duodenal ulcers. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually further irritate or upset the stomach. In animals, turmeric taken by mouth protects against ulcers caused by irritating drugs or chemicals, and increases protective mucus. Currently, there is not enough human evidence to make a firm recommendation, and well-designed studies comparing turmeric with standard medical therapies are needed.Notably, the bacteria H. pylori are a common cause of ulcers, and treatment for these bacteria should be considered by people with ulcers, in consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.
Gallstone prevention/bile flow stimulant
It has been said that there are fewer people with gallstones in India, which is sometimes credited to turmeric in the diet. Early animal studies report that curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, may decrease the occurrence of gallstones. Limited human research suggests that curcumin may stimulate squeezing (contraction) of the gallbladder and stimulate bile flow. However, reliable human studies are lacking in this area. The use of turmeric may be inadvisable in patients with active gallstones.
Animal studies suggest that turmeric may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”) and total cholesterol in the blood. Preliminary human research suggests a possible similar effect in people. Better human studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Laboratory and animal studies show anti-inflammatory activity of turmeric and its constituent curcumin. Reliable human research is lacking.
Turmeric has been used historically to treat rheumatic conditions. Laboratory and animal studies show anti-inflammatory activity of turmeric and its constituent curcumin, which may be beneficial in people with osteoarthritis. Reliable human research is lacking.
Turmeric has been used historically to treat rheumatic conditions, and based on animal research may reduce inflammation. Reliable human studies are necessary before a recommendation can be made in this area.
Historically, turmeric has been used on the skin to treat chronic skin ulcers and scabies. It has also been used in combination with the leaves of the herb Azadirachta indica ADR or “Neem.” Preliminary research reports that this combination may help in treatment of scabies. It remains unclear if turmeric alone has beneficial effects. More research is necessary before a firm recommendation can be made.
Several laboratory studies suggest that curcumin, a component of turmeric, may have activity against HIV. However, reliable human studies are lacking in this area.
Uveitis (eye inflammation)
Laboratory and animal studies show anti-inflammatory activity of turmeric and its constituent curcumin. A poorly designed human study suggests a possible benefit of curcumin in the treatment of uveitis. Reliable human research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Alzheimer’s disease, antifungal, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-venom, appetite stimulant, asthma, bleeding, bloating, boils, bruises, cataracts, cervical cancer, colic, contraception, cough, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, diarrhea, dizziness, increased sperm count/motility, epilepsy, gallstones, gas, gastric cancer, gonorrhea, heart damage from doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Doxil®), Helicobacter pylori-infected epithelial cells, hepatitis, hepatoprotection, high blood pressure, human papillomavirus (HPV), insect bites, insect repellent, jaundice, kidney disease, lactation stimulant, leprosy, liver protection, menstrual pain, menstrual period problems/lack of menstrual period, liver damage from toxins/drugs, multidrug resistance, neurodegenerative disorders, ovary cancer, pain, prostate cancer, parasites, ringworm, scarring, scleroderma.