Turmeric is an extract derived from the root and rhizomes of Curcuma longa, a tropical plant native to India and southeast Asia. Also known as curcumin, turmeric is a pungent spice that has been employed in Ayurveda, Chinese, Siddha, Unani, and other traditional medical systems for centuries. Various ailments including stomach problems, liver diseases, kidney and bladder inflammation, infections, and swelling have been treated with this flowering plant. Current research is confirming its traditional use, finding that turmeric may have far-reaching health benefits, including; anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and hypocholesterolemic effects. [1-4]
Research suggests that curcuminoids, the active components in turmeric, may relieve inflammation by blocking the activation of lipoxygenase (LOX) and the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor) and IL-1 beta (interleukin). [3-5] Research has also found that curcuminoids may suppress the growth and metastasis of tumor cells by inhibiting transcription factors NF-KappaB and AP-1, fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), and gelatinase B in the angiogenic process. [3, 6]
Further research has suggested that curcuminoids may act as free-radical scavengers that inhibit lipid peroxidation (including LDL cholesterol oxidation), and protect polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from damage induced by toxic free radical molecules. [3, 7, 8] In addition, in vitro studies show curcuminoids may have anti-HIV effects, by blocking HIV-1 and HIV-2 proteases, HIV-1 LTR (long terminal repeat)-directed gene expression, Tat-mediated transactivation of HIV-1-LTR, and HIV-1 integrase. [3-9]
Turmeric may be used for its anti-inflammatory benefits, similar to those of commonly prescribed medications used to treat conditions such as arthritis. Studies suggest that turmeric supplementation may improve the symptoms of arthritis without the harmful side effects associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) and other arthritic drugs. [10-13] In fact, one particular study found a decrease in pain and disability in 42 osteoarthritis patients treated with an herbomineral formula containing turmeric. 
Turmeric may have anticancerous properties as well. Several preliminary studies have shown that turmeric may help inhibit tumor cell growth of breast, colon, skin, pancreatic, and leukemia cancer cells. [14-19] Other studies indicate that turmeric may help diminish the toxic effects of various cancer drugs, with potential neurological, hepatic, and pulmonary protective benefit. [20-23] However, more studies are needed to determine turmeric’s anticancer benefits in humans.
Turmeric may be used to support cardiovascular health by lowering serum lipids and inhibiting platelet aggregation. A study of ten healthy human volunteers found that supplementation with 500 milligrams (mg) of turmeric over a 7 day period resulted in a 33% decrease in serum lipid peroxides, a 29% increase in HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, and a 11.63% decrease in total serum cholesterol.  Additionally, other studies suggest that turmeric may help lower cholesterol levels and improve platelet dysfunction. [7, 25]
Preliminary in vitro studies suggest that turmeric may have HIV inhibiting effects. [9-26] More human studies are needed to determine turmeric’s anti-HIV benefits.
Turmeric may also be useful for the treatment of cataracts, uveitis, and wounds, although more human studies are needed to determine its benefits. [3, 27, 28]
- For turmeric capsules: 300mg (standardized to 95% curcuminoids), 3 times daily with meals. [2, 4]
- For turmeric liquid: 10 drops of a 1:10 ratio tincture, 2 times daily in beverage.
- For turmeric tea: steep 0.5 - 1 gm of powdered herb in boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain. Drink 2-3 cups of the tea daily.
Delivery Forms: Capsules, liquid, powdered herb.
Turmeric should not be taken by those individuals with biliary obstruction, gallstones, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or bleeding disorders (such as a peptic ulcer). Pregnant, lactating women, and/or children should not take supplemental turmeric, unless recommended by a health care provider. Turmeric should not be taken at least 14 days prior to any type of surgery or dental work.
Side effects may include stomach problems and nausea. Turmeric supplements must be taken with food. Gastritis and/or peptic ulcer disease may result if taken on an empty stomach.
Due to its potential interactions, individuals should avoid combining turmeric with the following medications and nutritional supplements, unless under medical supervision:
- Anti-platelet drugs
- Chemotherapeutic agents
- Anti-coagulant Medications
Always inform your health care provider about the dietary supplements you are taking, as there is potential for side effects, interactions, or allergy.
1. Balch JF, and Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd ed. New York: Penguin Putnam Avery, 2000: 754-762.
2. Turmeric, Dietary Supplement Information Bureau:
3. Curcuminoids, PDR Health:
4. Turmeric, PDR Health:
5. Kang BY, Song YJ, Kim KM, et al. Curcumin inhibits Th1 cytokine profile in CD4+ T cells by suppressing interleukin-12 production in macrophages. BR J Pharmacol. 1999:128:380-384.
6. Chan MM-Y. Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor by curcumin, a phytochemical. Biochem Pharmacol. 1995; 49:1551-1556.
7. Khopde SM, Priyadarsini KI, Guha SN, et al. Inhibition of radiation-induced lipid peroxidation by tetrahydrocurcumin: possible mechanisms by pulse radiolysis. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000; 64:503-509.
8. Reddy AC, et al. Effect of Dietary Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Iron-induced Lipid Peroxidation in the Rat Liver. Food Chem Toxicol. Mar1994;32(3):279-83.
9. Barthelmy 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. 1998; 149:43-52.
10. Ammon HP, et al. Mechanism of Anti-inflammatory Actions of Curcumin and Boswellic Acids. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993;38:113.
11. Srivastava V, et al. Effect of Curcumin on Platelet Aggregation and Vascular Prostacyclin Synthesis. Arzneim Forsch/Drug Res. 1986;36:715-17.
12. Ammon HP, et al. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Med. Feb1991;57(1):1-7.
13. Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, Gandage SG, Patwardhan B. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol. May1991;33(1-2):91-5.
14. Mehta K, et al. Antiproliferative Effect of Curcumin (Diferuloylmethane) against Human Breast Tumor Cell Line. Anticancer Drugs. Jun1997;8(5):470-81.
15. Hidaka H, Ishiko T, Furuhashi T, Kamohara H, Suzuki S, Miyazaki M, et al. Curcumin inhibits interleukin 8 production and enhances interleukin 8 receptor expression on the cell surface:impact on human pancreatic carcinoma cell growth by autocrine regulation. Cancer. Sep2002;95(6):1206-14.
16. Arbiser JL, Klauber N, Rohan R, et al. Curcumin is an in vivo inhibitor of angiogenesis. Mol Med. 1998; 4:376-383.
17. Mohan R, Sivak J, Ashton P, et al. Curcuminoids inhibit the angiogenic response stimulated by fibroblast growth factor-2, including expression of matrix metalloproteinase gelatinase B. J Biol Chem. 2000; 275:10405-10412.
18. Huang MT, Newmark HL, Fenkel K. Inhibitory effects of curcumin on tumorigenesis in mice. J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1997; 27:26-34.
19. Kuo ML, Huang TS, Lin JK. Curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-tumor promoter, induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1996; 1317:95-100.
20. Kawamori T, et al. Chemopreventive Effect of Curcumin, A Naturally Occurring Anti-inflammatory Agent, During the Promotion/Progression Stages of Colon Cancer. Cancer Res. Feb1999;59(3):597-601.
21. Venkatesan N, Punithavathi D, Arumugam V. Curcumin prevents adriamycin nephrotoxicity in rats. Br J Pharmacol. 2000; 129:231-234.
22. Venkatesan N. Pulmonary protective effects of curcumin against paraquat toxicity. Life Sci. 2000; 66:PL21-PL28.
23. Park EJ, Jeon CH, Ko G, et al. Protective effect of curcumin in rat liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2000; 52:437-440.
24. Soni KB, et al. Effect of Oral Curcumin Administration on Serum Peroxides and Cholesterol Levels in Human Volunteers. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. Oct1992;36(4):273-75.
25. Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Mesa MD, Aguilera MC, et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. 1999; 147:371-378.
26. Mazumder A, Raghavan K, Weinstein J, et al. Inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 integrase by curcumin. Biochem Pharmacol. 1995; 49:1165-1170.
27. Pandya U, Saini MK, Jin GF, et al. Dietary curcumin prevents ocular toxicity of naphthalene in rats. Toxicol Lett. 2000; 115:195-204.
28. Sidhu GS, Mani H, Gaddipati JP, et al. Curcumin enhances wound healing in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats and genetically diabetic mice. Wound Rep Reg. 1999; 7:362-374.