Common name: Turmeric
Other names: Curcumin
Latin name: Curcuma longa
Affinities: Immune system, digestive system
Actions: Rasayana, Indian tonic, immunomodulator, carminative, laxative, anthelmintic
Specific indications: Hot inflamed joints
Diseases: Osteoarthritis(1), rheumatoid arthritis(2), bowel cancer (prevention)(2), IBS(3), neuralgia(2), Alzheimer’s(2), dementia(2), depression(1), types II diabetes (prevention)(1)
Parts used: Root
Energetics: Warming, drying


Characteristics: Turmeric is a perennial plant with a short stem and large leaves which produces oblong shaped roots that are often branched and brown coloured (Chattopadhyay et al., 2004). The roots have both medicinal and culinary properties. Turmeric is a tropical herb native to Southern Asia and is closely related to ginger. The yellow pigment that gives the root a distinctive muddy yellow colour is called curcumin and is extracted from Turmeric powder for its medicinal properties.

History: Turmeric has had a well-known ancient role in flavouring Indian curries and holds a special place in Ayruveda, India’s traditional medicine. It was traditionally used as a cleanser for the whole body and seen as a symbol of prosperity (Castleman, 2001). Medicinally it was used as a digestive aid, treatment for infections, fever, dysentery, liver problems, and arthritis. The Chinese also used turmeric medicinally, but for liver problems, chest congestion, and menstrual discomfort. The ancient Greeks used turmeric, however, only as a clothing dye and not a medicine.

Current applications: Turmeric may be applied to prevent cancer, especially bowel, cervical, and liver (Kuhn and Winston, 2000). It reduces inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and blends well with ashwagandha, ginger, and boswellia to do this. It reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels and may prevent artheriosclerosis. It also protects the liver and may be applied alongside milk thistle, picrorrhiza, and schisandra to prevent and treat acute and chronic liver disease. It may improve IBS, reduce stomach pains, and heal gastric ulcers.

Science: Turmeric, and its extract curcumin, have well known anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-cancer effects (Chattopadhyay et al., 2004). Curcumin has been shown in rats to have a inhibitory effect on the early stages of colon cancer (Kawamori et al., 2000), therefore may act to prevent the disease in humans. It has been found in experimental models to reduce Alzheimer’s pathology and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain (Lim et al., 2001). Treatment with curcumin in mice with Alzheimer’s over several days reduced existing plaques and provided limited reversal to structural changes related to the disease (Garcia‐Alloza et al., 2007). Curcumin has apparent antinociceptive effects (reduced sensitivity to pain) in animal models inflicted with neuropathic pain when treated over 3 weeks (Zhao et al., 2012). This effect on neuropathic pain in animal models has also been observed by others (Sharma et al., 2006).

As for human studies, reasonable quality human clinical studies using curcumin found significant effects versus a placebo against osteoarthritis (Panahi et al., 2014) and depression (Lopresti et al., 2014). A recent study confirmed the ability of curcumin to significantly improve mood and also demonstrated it is capable of improving other cognitive parameters in healthy older people (Cox et al., 2015), this study was using a patented extract called longvida. A large well controlled study found that curcumin has protective effects against the development of type II diabetes in individuals with prediabetes in a high impact study (Chuengsamarn et al., 2012).

Safety: The safety is turmeric is high. In the osteoarthritis trial, there were no considerable adverse effects in the patients taking the curcuminoids (Panahi et al., 2014). It may be used by the young or elderly, by pregnant women, and whilst breastfeeding.

Dosage: For osteoarthritis; three 500mg capsules of purified curcuminoids daily has been found to be effective after 6 weeks (Panahi et al., 2014). This is also a reasonable dosage to try for other disorders.

Scientific Summary

Research on models

Anti-cancer effects: Turmeric extract and curcumin have been found to reduce the growth of tumours in in vivo models (Kuttan et al., 1985).

Anti-cancer effects(II): An important study in rats found that feeding the animals curcumin during the initiation and postinitiation periods of colon cancer significantly inhibited tumorigenesis (Kawamori et al., 2000).

Anti-oxidant effects: Turmeric has been found to exhibit anti-oxidant properties ex vivo (Selvam et al., 1995).

Anti-inflammatory effects: Turmeric has been found to reduce inflammation, measured by TNF-alpha and IL6, in cancer patients (Panahi et al., 2014).

Neuroprotective effects: Turmeric supplementation in mice reduced oxidative stress in the brain and reduced features of Alzheimer’s pathology, such as the presence of amyloid aggregates (Lim et al., 2001).

Neuroprotective effects(II): Another study also in mice with Alzheimer’s disease found turmeric reduced existing plaques and provided limited reversal to structural changes that occured because of the disease (Garcia‐Alloza et al., 2007).

Antinociceptive effects: Curcumin has been found to reduce neuropathic pain in animals when treated with curcumin over 3 weeks, notably curcumin’s effect on pain was not immediate, but was longer term (Zhao et al., 2012). The authors thought the delta- and mu-opioid receptors are could be downstream targets.

Antinociceptive effects(II): In another related study, curcumin was found to reduce pain sensation in a mouse model of diabetic neuropathic pain (Sharma et al., 2006). Curcumin was found to decrease TNF-α and NO and this is a candidate mechanism for how it has an antinociceptive effect.

Research on humans

Osteoarthrtis: A study (n = 40, double blind placebo controlled) used an extract of curcuminoids, a purified extract of turmeric on patients with osteoarthritis and found statistically less pain in the treatment group after 6 weeks (Panahi et al., 2014). Curcuminoids were administrated 3 times daily in 500mg capsules containing 5mg Bioperine.

Depression: A study (n = 56, double blind placebo controlled) examining major depression found a significant difference in curcumin treated patients after 8 weeks (Lopresti et al., 2014). Patients took two 500mg capsules per day which consisted of purified curcumin in a patented extract called BCM-95.

Type II diabetes prevention: One study (n = 240, double blind placebo controlled) found that treatment of patients with prediabetes with curcumin for 9 months (6 capsules containing 250mg of curcumin per day) prevented the development of type II diabetes significantly versus the placebo (Chuengsamarn et al., 2012).

Improvement of cognitive parameters: A study (n = 60, double blind placebo controlled) found treatment of healthy older people (60-85 years old) with longvida curcumin extract at 400mg per day improved cognitive parameters immediately after administration and also after long term administration (Cox et al., 2015). Significant improvements were noted in attention, memory tasks, and mood.


Castleman, Michael. “The new healing herbs.” Bantam Book, New York (2001): 465-471.

Chattopadhyay, Ishita, et al. “Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 87 (2004): 44-53.

Chattopadhyay, Ishita, et al. “Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 87 (2004): 44-53.

Chuengsamarn, Somlak, et al. “Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 35.11 (2012): 2121-2127.

Cox, Katherine HM, Andrew Pipingas, and Andrew B. Scholey. “Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.” Journal of psychopharmacology 29.5 (2015): 642-651.

Garcia‐Alloza, M., et al. “Curcumin labels amyloid pathology in vivo, disrupts existing plaques, and partially restores distorted neurites in an Alzheimer mouse model.” Journal of neurochemistry 102.4 (2007): 1095-1104.

Kawamori, Toshihiko, et al. “Chemopreventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer.” Cancer research 59.3 (1999): 597-601.

Kuhn, Merrily A., and David Winston. Herbal therapy and supplements: a scientific and traditional approach. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000.

Kuttan, Ramadasan, et al. “Potential anticancer activity of turmeric (Curcuma longa).” Cancer letters 29.2 (1985): 197-202.

Lim, Giselle P., et al. “The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse.” Journal of Neuroscience 21.21 (2001): 8370-8377.

Lopresti, Adrian L., et al. “Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study.” Journal of affective disorders 167 (2014): 368-375.

Panahi, Yunes, et al. “Adjuvant Therapy with Bioavailability‐Boosted Curcuminoids Suppresses Systemic Inflammation and Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Solid Tumors: A Randomized Double‐Blind Placebo‐Controlled Trial.” Phytotherapy Research 28.10 (2014): 1461-1467.

Panahi, Yunes, et al. “Curcuminoid Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double‐Blind Placebo‐Controlled Trial.” Phytotherapy Research 28.11 (2014): 1625-1631.

Sharma, Sameer, et al. “Curcumin attenuates thermal hyperalgesia in a diabetic mouse model of neuropathic pain.” European journal of pharmacology 536.3 (2006): 256-261.

Selvam, R., et al. “The anti-oxidant activity of turmeric (Curcuma longa).” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 47.2 (1995): 59-67.

Zhao, Xin, et al. “Curcumin exerts antinociceptive effects in a mouse model of neuropathic pain: descending monoamine system and opioid receptors are differentially involved.” Neuropharmacology 62.2 (2012): 843-854.