Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a tropical perennial that grows between two and three and a half feet tall. It has bright green leaves that resemble those on a lily, and pale yellow flower clusters. This plant requires a hot moist climate and light soil.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Turmeric is used as a mild digestive aid. Studies have shown curcumin, the active compound in the herb to be active against Staphylococcus aureus. It is used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. The herb is currently under study for its effects on Alzheimer's disease and other current studies are looking at its effect on cancer. Curcumin may speed up the rate that certain types of cancer cells die by damaging the DNA in these cells.
The herb is a good source of antioxidants and is a traditional herbal remedy for bronchitis and many other respiratory problems. It also shows promise as a remedy for cystic fibrosis if studies show that it really thins mucous so it is easier to eliminate from the body.
Externally Turmeric is antiseptic, and works well in an ointment for bruises, burns and cuts. It can also be used on acne, diaper rash, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Other Uses The herb is used as a food dye for ice cream, yogurt, cakes, beverages and other foods. It is used to dye fabric in India, even though it is not very light fast. It also is a common culinary spice. One other use that is not widely known is its ability to deter ants. Water from the herb is used as a cosmetic in Asia to give the complexion a golden glow.
Roots The root or rhizome is the medicinal portion of the plant. The herb is always used as a powder.
Turmeric that is used topically will generally leave a yellow color on the skin. It may increase stomach acid production if you use high doses. This could make ulcers worse, so if you suffer from stomach ulcers, it is probably best to avoid this herb. It may also increase the body's production of bile, so if you have gall bladder problems, do not take as it may cause blocked bile ducts.
Pregnant women should not take because it may cause bleeding and a tightening of the uterus, which may cause miscarriage. Culinary amounts are not large enough to be of any effect, but medicinal doses can cause problems.
Consuming large quantities may cause stomach upset. Allergic reactions may occur that include redness, swelling, itching, sneezing, runny nose, water eyes and breathing problems or throat swelling.
Turmeric may interact with anticoagulants and antiplatelet medications. It may interfere with diabetic medications. It may also interact with other medications or herbs. Check with your physician before taking.
Preparation and Dosage
While dosage recommendations may differ, in general, turmeric taken orally in either extracts or powdered form are preferred to teas, since many of the active compounds in the herb do not dissolve in water. Studies have been done on oral doses ranging from 500 mg to 8,000 mg taken on a daily basis showed no side effects. When applied topically, ointment or lotion may be applied as frequently as needed.