As a therapeutic medicine, fresh, raw turmeric can be used in a variety of herbal preparations, such as golden milk and turmeric tea, whereas ground turmeric can be make into a paste, and turmeric supplements, also known as curcumin supplements, can come in the form of capsules and extracts. The medicinal uses of turmeric are meant to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as gas, indigestion, inflammation, and rheumatic pain. Scientific knowledge of turmeric's benefits often consider its everyday culinary use as a way of consuming its active ingredient, curcumin, which is thought to be responsible for most of its healing properties.
Main Benefits of Turmeric
The following health benefits of turmeric have been established by traditional uses and validated by numerous scientific studies, including human clinical trials.
Treating arthritis and other rheumatic illnesses. Numerous studies have highlighted the anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric, which play an active role in healing joint pain.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research (2012) supports the use of turmeric for inflammation. It claims the superiority of curcumin over diclofenac sodium for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients treated with curcumin alone showed great improvement in the reduction of joint swelling, pain, and overall disease activity scores, as compared to patients who received diclofenac treatment or a combination of both diclofenac and curcumin.
CURCUMIN SEEMS TO BE A SAFER, MORE VIABLE OPTION THAN SOME OTHER NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDS), WHICH ARE KNOWN TO CAUSE ADVERSE REACTIONS.
Relieving digestive and gastrointestinal illnesses. Turmeric has proven effective in treating certain ailments related to the gastrointestinal system. In a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2004), patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome were treated with turmeric extract and experienced decreased abdominal pain and discomfort over an eight-week period. Turmeric has also been shown to increase bowel motility and shorten transit time.
The effectiveness of turmeric for liver health seems to be based on its choleric properties, which stimulate bile production in the liver and support bile secretion from the gallbladder. In 1999, the journal of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics published a study that points to turmeric's ability to significantly reduce the size of the human gallbladder over a period of several weeks.
Secondary Benefits of Turmeric
Other healing benefits of turmeric have been suggested but are yet to be proved and, while supported by some research, they require further investigation and more conclusive clinical trials.
Preventing age-related illness. Studies indicate that certain compounds found in turmeric produce a powerful antioxidant effect, which may prove useful in the prevention of some age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
A clinical study published in The Official Journal of the American Aging Association (1995) reported a decrease in lipid peroxides in patients treated with turmeric extract over a 45-day period. These peroxides are believed to thwart the growth and division of cells, therefore promoting the aging process, also known as senescence.
Though turmeric can protect against the effects of oxidative stress, the exact mechanisms of action of Alzheimer's and other geriatric illnesses are still being studied. More research is needed to conclude turmeric's effectiveness in both their prevention and treatment.
Treating cardiovascular disease. Because inflammation often goes hand-in-hand with many cardiovascular diseases, turmeric has been of much interest in the treatment and prevention of these illnesses. Such is the case with atherosclerosis, which is characterized by the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins.
A study published in Atherosclerosis (1999) provides early evidence of curcumin's health benefits. It concludes that oral consumption of curcumin effectively lowers cholesterol levels by inhibiting oxidation. Further studies suggest turmeric's ability to stabilize blood pressure, allowing room for more clinical observations on its effects on human cardiovascular parameters.
Treating common skin ailments. The effectiveness of turmeric for skin conditions is thought to lie on its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be useful in minimizing symptoms of flare-ups, and protecting skin from free radical damage.
As early as the 1950's, preclinical trials have studied the benefits of turmeric for wound healing. However, additional research need to be conducted on turmeric's healing properties as they pertain to specific skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and vitiligo.
A study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery (2010), for example, suggests curcumin's effectiveness in the repigmentation of vitiligo patients in combination with other creams and medicinal applications. Meanwhile, research on the dietary and cosmetic advantages of turmeric for acne patients has been quite limited in its scope.
Unconfirmed Benefits of Turmeric
Some alleged turmeric benefits remain unconfirmed and very little scientific research have been realized to verify them. Such is the case of the popular use of turmeric for:
Regulating menstruation. Though commonly used in traditional Indian medicine to induce menstruation and relieve cramps, turmeric's potential benefits for menstruating women have not been widely studied.
The medicinal benefits of turmeric has been reaped for thousands of years, and many of them have been confirmed by modern science. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties seem to serve as the cornerstone of its various health benefits. Yet, despite extensive research on its active ingredients, much is still left to be discovered about turmeric benefits and the herb's mechanisms of action.
- Herbal Medicine, Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, Chapter 13, Turmeric, the golden spice
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study, 2004
- Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, The effect of curcumin and placebo on human gall-bladder function: an ultrasound study, 1999
- Phytotherapy Research, A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, 2012
- Atherosclerosis, Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis, 1999
- Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, Tetrahydrocurcuminoid cream plus targeted narrowband UVB phototherapy for vitiligo: A Preliminary randomized controlled study, 2010
- The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases, 2009