Turmeric is a widely used tropical herb in the ginger family. Its stalk is used both in food and medicine, yielding the familiar yellow ingredient that colors and adds flavor to curry. In the traditional Indian system of herbal medicine known as
Modern interest in turmeric began in 1971 when Indian researchers found evidence suggesting that turmeric may possess anti-inflammatory properties. Much of this observed activity appeared to be due to the presence of a constituent called curcumin.
What Is Turmeric Used for Today?
Turmeric's antioxidant abilities make it a good food preservative, provided that the food is already yellow in color, and it is widely used for this purpose.
Turmeric has been proposed as a treatment for dyspepsia
In Europe, dyspepsia is commonly attributed to inadequate bile flow from the gallbladder. While this has not been proven, turmeric does appear to stimulate the gallbladder.
Other proposed uses of turmeric or curcumin have little supporting evidence.
Contrary to some reports, turmeric does not appear to be effective for
Some researchers have reported evidence that curcumin or turmeric might generally help
On the basis of even weaker evidence, curcumin or turmeric have also been recommended for preventing
One preliminary study failed to find curcumin helpful for lichen planus, a disease of the skin and mucous membranes.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Turmeric?
For medicinal purposes, turmeric is frequently taken in a form standardized to curcumin content, at a dose that provides 400 to 600 mg of curcumin 3 times daily.
Turmeric is on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list, and curcumin, too, is believed to be fairly nontoxic. 1,16 Reported side effects are uncommon and are generally limited to mild stomach distress.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that turmeric extracts can be toxic to the liver when taken in high doses or for a prolonged period of time.
In addition, due to curcumin's stimulating effects on the gallbladder, individuals with gallbladder disease should use curcumin only on the advice of a physician. However, safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, and those with severe kidney disease have also not been established.
18. Satoskar RR, Shah SJ, Shenoy SG. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory property of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) in patients with postoperative inflammation. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1986;24:651-654.
22. Deshpande SS, Ingle AD, Maru GB. Chemopreventive efficacy of curcumin-free aqueous turmeric extract in 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced rat mammary tumorigenesis. Cancer Lett. 1998;123:35-40.
23. Dorai T, Gehani N, Katz A. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. Curcumin inhibits tyrosine kinase activity of epidermal growth factor receptor and depletes the protein. Mol Urol. 2000;4:1-6.
27. Smith WA, Freeman JW, Gupta RC. Effect of chemopreventive agents on DNA adduction induced by the potent mammary carcinogen dibenzo[a,l]pyrene in the human breast cells MCF-7. Mutat Res. 2001;480-481:97-108.
28. Chuang S, Cheng A, Lin J, Kuo M. Inhibition by curcumin of diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatic hyperplasia, inflammation, cellular gene products and cell-cycle related proteins in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2000;38:991-995.
40. Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, et al. Curcumin Maintenance Therapy for Ulcerative Colitis: Randomized, Multicenter, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol . 2006 Nov 10. [Epub ahead of print]
43. Chainani-Wu N, Silverman S Jr, Reingold A, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of curcuminoids in oral lichen planus. Phytomedicine. 2007 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print]
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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