Turmeric, or curcuma longa, is a perennial herb from the ginger family. Like ginger, it is the plump root of the plant that has been used for its delicious flavor and medicinal value for more than 4,000 years. The fleshy rhizome is dried and then ground up into a golden powder frequently incorporated into a variety of dishes, and it provides the main ingredient for most curries. Tumeric has also long been a staple of both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine – and it turns out that it’s called “the holy powder of India” for good reason.

Why It Works

Turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical known to reduce inflammation, which is a major factor in many medical conditions and diseases. Curcumin is also a strong antioxidant, fighting free radicals which cause damage to cell membranes and DNA. Antioxidants can reduce or even help to prevent free radical damage, thus providing powerful protection from a number of cancers and other diseases.

Medical Uses

A number of research studies have found turmeric ingestion to be effective in fighting a wide range of diseases and infections. Turmeric is also applied topically to clean and treat wounds, rashes, and sores as an antibacterial and antifungal remedy. Its purported healing attributes are incredibly numerous, including anti-inflammatory, antiangiogenic (cancer-fighting), antioxidant (cancer prevention) and wound healing.


There are more scientific, evidence-based articles supporting the effectiveness of curcumin against cancer than any other nutrient. It’s potency as an antioxidant provides neuroprotective effects through multiple molecular channels. It has been shown to kill existing cancer cells and prevent new ones from growing. It may also prevent the growth of precancerous cells, thus protecting against the incidence of many forms of cancer.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

Curcumin has been shown to remain in the digestive system where it is absorbed by the cells of the intestinal tract and bowel. For this reason, it is considered effective in alleviating symptoms of Crohn’s disease, gastric inflammation, ulcerative colitis, ulcerative proctitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, and irritable bowel disease, as well as providing relief from indigestion and stomach upset.


Early research suggests that turmeric extract may inhibit the development of diabetes in those with prediabetes, may prevent diabetic retinopathy, may lower glucose in those with type-2 diabetes, may reduce diabetic kidney damage, and more. It could well be a powerful tool in fighting the current epidemic of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes.

High Cholesterol

Some research suggests that taking turmeric extract can reduce the total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and triglycerides in overweight people with high cholesterol. Similar research has also led to its use in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and atherosclerosis.


Research has also shown that the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric can reduce pain and improve overall function for those with osteoarthritis. It is also purported to help with other forms of arthritis as well as a host of additional inflammatory diseases and conditions.

Additional Applications

Some of the many potential additional applications for curcumin include pancreatitis, vitiligo, psoriasis, lupus nephritis, renal conditions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, eye inflammation, wound healing, depression, gingivitis, joint pain, tuberculosis, acne, jaundice, hepatitis, fibromyalgia, and ringworm.

Turmeric’s versatility and appeal as a medicinal herb is clear. If you decide to incorporate turmeric into your diet in order to maximize your ingestion of curcumin, the best source is the fresh or dried herb itself. If you do decide to try turmeric or curcumin supplements, make sure you know The Truth About Supplements.

About The Author

Lydia Whitney

Lydia Whitney is a full-time freelance writer and former English teacher who has a personal passion for health and fitness. A lifelong learner, her goal is to educate herself and others on the many ways to live life to the fullest while being their happiest, healthiest selves. She works diligently to get in her steps every day, hiking in the woods outside her mountain home with her dogs, and enjoys gardening and practicing yoga with the help of her cats. Lydia has worked as a copywriter for a wide range of companies, from Micros eCommerce and Oracle Hospitality to SpeechPro and the Plugin Group. Before that, she taught grades 6-12 in Prince Georges, Montgomery and Frederick Counties in Maryland. She has also published curriculum for a number of educational companies covering Emotional, Cognitive and Logistical Readiness Skills; College Preparation; Career Planning; Technology Preparation; Tattooing and Body Piercing. You can follow her at on Twitter @WhitneyLyd.

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