TURMERIC ROOT (Curcuma longa)

Latin: Curcuma longa
Sanskrit: Haridra
Chinese: Jiang huang / Yu jin

WHAT IT DOES: Turmeric root is bitter in taste and warming in action.  It strongly reduces inflammation and mucus in all parts of the body, protects the liver, lungs and intestines, and helps prevent and treat cancer. For medical use, products which concentrate extracts of both curcumin and tumerones are best.


SAFETY ISSUES: Due to mucin-reducing effects, do not use the concentrated extract (curcumin) or oil in high doses, especially if you have bile duct obstruction, gall stones, or stomach ulcers.  Use turmeric as a spice freely.

• Crude powder: 500 mg two to three times per day.

Turmeric is a common tuberous vegetable spice used all over the world.  It stimulates gastric juices, and it is used in Indian households in most vegetable dishes as an anti-food poisoning agent that also reduces mucous formation.
Turmeric root is used externally by TAM doctors to treat skin diseases, and as a plaster to reduce swelling.  It is a valuable anti-inflammatory.  Modern research has shown it to be a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hepatotoxic herb, useful in the treatment of many inflammation-related conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis, arthritis, diarrhea, psoriasis, eczema, asthma and smoking related lung inflammation (Pandey et al., 1996).

Turmeric rhizome is yellow in color and egg-shaped (called jiang huang), with numerous secondary garlic bulb-like projections (called yu jin).  TCM doctors report that these two parts have different medicinal properties.  Though similar in action, the larger jiang huang is used to invigorate the blood, relieve menstrual cramps, and treat the pain and swelling associated with trauma.  The smaller yu jin is cooler in action and used more to break up blood stasis and relieve constrained liver energy with symptoms of internal tension.

Turmeric root can be rendered more effective in treating inflammation by adding a small amount of trikatu (three-pepper compound).  Piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper and long pepper, enhances the bio-availability of turmeric considerably.  For patients low on funds who suffer from arthritis, I suggest purchasing a pound of turmeric from an Indian grocery store, and then adding about three percent trikatu.  This can be taken in half-teaspoon doses three times per day at a cost of less than $10 for a six-month supply.  Based upon traditional use patterns, I think it is better to use this formula for periods of three to four weeks, with a one or two week rest in between.

Research Highlights

• The anti-inflammatory action of turmeric root extract is partially based on its ability to strongly inhibit arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism, which affects the inflammatory enzymes 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase.  This gives it a lower side effect profile than aspirin (reported in Bone, 1991).

• Poor absorption of curcumin in intestine impedes its wide clinical application. Using extracts that include either piperine (black pepper) or tumerones greatly increases absorption and utilization. (Yue et al, 2016)

• Various pharmacological and animal models have shown curcumin and turmeric root to possess cancer, radiation and chemical toxin protective effects (Chun et al., 1999; Singhal et al., 1999; Kang et al., 1999; Bhaumik et al., 1999; Navis et al., 1999; Choudhary et al., 1999; Khar et al., 1999; Kawamori et al., 1999; Lee et al., 1998; Huang et al., 1997).

• In a study of 32 patients with chronic eye inflammation (anterior chamber uveitis), a 375-mg dose of curcumin three times per day for three months showed improvement comparable to the effects seen with a similar cortisone dose (Lal et al., 1999).

• Several studies suggest that turmeric root also has a mild to moderate cholesterol-lowering action (Ramirez-Tortosa et al., 1999, Pandey et al., 1996, Deshpande et al., 1998).

• Because it also has low toxicity as well as anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities, it appears to be a good addition to the diet for long-term prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases (reported in Bone, 1991).

• Slow tissue repair and wound healing are difficult problems for diabetics.  In an animal study done at the Center for Combat Casualty and Life Sustainment Research in Bethesda, Maryland, curcumin was shown to enhance wound repair in diabetes-impaired healing (Sidhu GS et al., 1999).

• It has also been shown to reduce diabetic kidney damage (Suresh et al., 1998)