Herbs & Botanicals
Turmeric (jiang huang)
What is turmeric? What is it used for?
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It has been used for thousands
of years in India as a spice and food additive, helping give many curries
color and flavor. The plants root and rhizome, or underground stem,
are used medicinally.
Historically, turmeric has been prescribed to treat a wide range of conditions,
from skin diseases and constipation to poor vision and rheumatism. More
current research has found it to be beneficial in patients with indigestion
and ulcers; a double-blind trial conducted in 1986 found it to be superior
than pharmaceuticals for treating postsurgical inflammation.
The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, which has been
shown to have a variety of beneficial properties. Among its documented
actions, it acts as an antioxidant and protects against damage from free
radicals; reduces inflammation by lowering histamine levels; protects
the liver from toxic compounds; and reduces platelets from clumping together,
which improves circulation and helps protect against atherosclerosis.
Anecdotal evidence has shown that curcumin may fight cancer and inhibit
HIV from spreading, although further studies need to be conducted to determine
its true effectiveness.
How much turmeric should I take?
The German Commission E recommends a daily dose of 1.5-3 grams of turmeric
root. Some practitioners also recommend a standardized turmeric extract
containing 400-600mg of curcumin three times per day in capsule or tablet
What forms of turmeric are available?
Whole, cut and powdered turmeric root is available in a variety of forms,
the most common of which are capsules and coated tablets. Turmeric tinctures
and compound preparations are also available.
What can happen if I take too much turmeric?
Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should
Used as recommended, turmeric is generally safe; however, some anecdotal
reports have linked to extended use and overdosing. It should not be used
by pregnant or lactating women. In addition, patients with gallstones
or obstructed bile ducts should avoid turmeric unless approved by a health
There are currently no well-known drug interactions with turmeric.
- Asai A, Nakagawa K, Miyazawa T. Antioxidative effects
of turmeric, rosemary and capsicum extracts on membrane phospholipid
peroxidation and liver lipid metabolism in mice. Biosci Biotechnol
Biochem Dec 1999;63(12):2118-22.
- Barthelemy S, Vergnes L, Moynier M, et al. Curcumin
and curcumin derivatives inhibit tat-mediated transactivation of type
1 human immunodeficiency virus long terminal repeat. Res Virol
- Grant KL, Schneider CD. Turmeric. Am J Health Syst
Pharm Jun 15 2000;57(12):1121-2.
- Pal A, Pal AK. Studies on the genotoxicity of turmeric
extracts in bacterial system. Int J Antimicrob Agents Dec 2000;16(4):415-7.
- Van Dau N, Ngoc Ham N, Huy Khac D, et al. The effects
of traditional drug, turmeric (curcuma longa), and placebo on
the healing of duodenal ulcer. Phytomedicine 1998;5:2934