WHAT WE KNOW
Turmeric is one of the most studied natural ingredients in the world. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, there are volumes of research on turmeric, so much so that it’s recognized by Health Canada as a powerful anti-inflammatory and joint pain reliever, an antioxidant, and a potential treatment for minor skin wounds and irritations.
Additionally, turmeric is currently being studied for its effects on cholesterol, diabetes, weight loss, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's and ulcerative colitis), depression, neurodegenerative conditions, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, as a preventative cancer agent, and as a mitigator of conventional cancer treatment side effects.
Cautions and warnings
Consult a health care practitioner prior to use if you are pregnant, have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction, stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid.
Consult a health care practitioner if symptoms persist or worsen.
Anti-inflammatory and Joint Pain Reliever
Turmeric was tested on patients to determine the bioavailability of herbs and spices after human consumption. In this study, researchers concluded that “turmeric showed protective capacity by both oxidative protection and inflammation measures."
S. S. Percival, J. P. V. Heuvel, C. J. Nieves, C. Montero, A. J. Migliaccio, J. Meadors. Bioavailability of herbs and spices in humans as determined by ex vivo inflammatory suppression and DNA strand breaks. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 31(4):288–294.
In a study of 80 patients with solid tumours who were undergoing conventional chemotherapy treatments, curcumin was shown to reduce inflammatory markers and improve quality of life outcomes.
Panahi Y., Saadat A., Beiraghdar F. and Sahebkar A. (2014), Adjuvant Therapy with Bioavailability-Boosted Curcuminoids Suppresses Systemic Inflammation and Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Solid Tumors: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial, Phytotherapy Research, 28, pages 1461–1467, doi: 10.1002/ptr.5149
Nineteen patients with osteoarthritis were given curcumin for six weeks in this study. There were significant improvements in pain and function scores after the test period and no adverse effects reported.
Panahi Y., Rahimnia A.-R., Sharafi M., Alishiri G., Saburi A. and Sahebkar A. (2014),Curcuminoid Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial, Phytother. Res., 28, pages 1625–1631. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5174
In this study, curcumin domestic extracts were compared with ibuprofen in a test on patients with knee osteoarthritis. The research concludes that “curcumin domestica extracts are as effective as ibuprofen for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis."
Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:451–8.
Forty-five patients with rheumatoid arthritis were divided into three groups: patients received curcumin, diclofenac (anti-inflammatory medication) alone or in combination. The group that took curcumin showed the highest percentage of improvement in disease activity score and in tenderness and swelling of joints.
Chandran, B. and Goel, A. (2012), A Randomized, Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Patients with Active Rheumatoid Arthritis. Phytother. Res., 26: 1719–1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639
The clinical efficacy of some herbomineral formulations including Curcuma longa, was evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study in patients with osteoarthritis. The research concludes that “the herbomineral formulation produced a significant drop in severity of pain."
Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, Gandage SG, Patwardhan B. 1991. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 33:91-95.
In this study, researchers investigated effect(s) of oral curcumin supplementation on patients suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis. They concluded that “short-term turmeric supplementation can decrease proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure in patients suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis and can be used as an adjuvant safe therapy for such patients."
Khajehdehi P, Zanjaninejad B, A$ aki E, et al. Oral supplementation of turmeric decreases proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure in patients suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis: a randomized and placebo-controlled study. J Ren Nutr. 2012;22(1):50–7.
This review summarizes a literature of data surrounding curcumin as ananti-inflammatory and antioxidant in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), by trying to understand the different effects in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
In this study, researchers assessed the effects of turmeric extract on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptomology in otherwise healthy adults. The research concluded that “turmeric may help reduce IBS symptomology."
Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, et al. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomatology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. Dec 2004;10(6):10151018.
This review provides an aggregation of research from clinical trials that found promising effects in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases, among other various human diseases.
This article collates some of the research that focuses on “curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties and its use for inflammatory conditions."
Alternative Medicine Review Volume 14, Number 2 2009. Anti-inflammatory Properties of Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Curcuma Longa: A Review of (n.d.)
In this study, some pharmacological actions of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) were examined in rats, mice and cats. The researchers concluded that “the compound possesses significant anti-inflammatory activity in acute as well as in chronic models of inflammation.”
This review presents an overview of the pharmacological activities of curcuma longa L. The findings conclude that in vitro, “curcumin exhibits anti-parasitic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and gastrointestinal effects; and also inhibits carcinogenesis and cancer growth. In vivo, “there are experiments showing the anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory potency of curcumin and extracts of curcuma longa L. by parenteral and oral application in animal models.”
This text constitutes a review of pharmacological, clinical and toxicological data on the therapeutic uses of herbal medicines, including turmeric. The research from the text concludes that turmeric is high in anti-oxidants.
There is ongoing research on the effects of turmeric as it relates to the following health concerns:
Skin Wounds and Irritation
In this study, researchers examined the effect of curcumin on pain and postoperative fatigue in patients of laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC). They found that “turmeric (curcumin) improves postoperative pain- and fatigue-related patient-reported outcomes (PROs) following LC."
Agarwal KA, Tripathi CD, Agarwal BB, Saluja S. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double- blind, randomized placebocontrolled study. Surg Endosc. 2011;25(12):3805–10.
Through an aggregation of evidence, this review compares curcumin’s traditional uses to treat such human ailments as acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rash to its pharmaceutical uses for various diseases.
Curcumin supplementation was tested on patients who were suffering from chronic sulphur mustard (SM)-induced pruritic skin lesions. In this study, the researchers concluded that “curcumin supplementation effectively mitigates inflammation in patients suffering from chronic SM-induced cutaneous complications."
Y Panahi, A Sahebkar, S Parvin, A Saadat. A randomized controlled trial on the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin in patients with chronic sulphur mustard-induced cutaneous complications. Ann Clin Biochem. 2012 49(Pt - 6):580–588.
Preventative Cancer Agent
This phase II clinical trial demonstrated that curcumin prevented the growth of precancerous lesions in the intestine.
Carroll, R. E., Benya, R. V., Turgeon, D. K., Vareed, S., Neuman, M., Rodriguez, L., … Brenner, D. E. (2011). Phase IIA Clinical Trial of Curcumin for the Prevention of Colorectal Neoplasia. Cancer Prevention Research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 4(3), 354–364.
The effects of curcumin are broad and impact many pathways involved in the initiation and propagation of cancer cells and tumours. Cell and animal studies have demonstrated the anti-cancer and anti-tumour nature of curcumin in ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, liver, and breast cancers.
Mock, C. D., Jordan, B. C., & Selvam, C. (2015). Recent Advances of Curcumin and its Analogues in Breast Cancer Prevention and Treatment. RSC Advances, 5(92), 75575–75588. http://doi.org/10.1039/C5RA14925H
Study of 44 subjects showed that curcumin administration (in combination with dietary changes) resulted in an additional weight loss ranging from 1.88% to 4.91%.
F. Di Pierro, A. Bressan, D. Ranaldi, G. Rapacioli, L. Giacomelli, A. Bertuccioli
Potential role of bioavailable curcumin in weight loss and omental adipose tissue decrease: preliminary data of a randomized, controlled trial in overweight people with metabolic syndrome. Preliminary study. 2015; Vol. 19 - N. 21:4195-4202.
In this human study, 33 patients with metabolic syndrome took curcumin while 32 patients with metabolic syndrome took placebo for 12 weeks. The curcumin group demonstrated reductions in cholesterol levels (LDL) and triglycerides while improving HDL levels, compared to placebo.
Yang Y.-S., Su Y.-F., Yang H.-W., Lee Y.-H., Chou J. I. and Ueng K.-C. (2014), Lipid-Lowering Effects of Curcumin in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial, Phytother. Res., 28, pages 1770–1777, doi: 10.1002/ptr.5197
One hundred type 2 diabetic patients were assigned to receive curcumin (300mg/day) or placebo for three months. Curcumin supplementation was shown to significantly decrease fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance. The curcumin group also had reductions in triglycerides.
Na, L.-X., Li, Y., Pan, H.-Z., Zhou, X.-L., Sun, D.-J., Meng, M., Li, X.-X. and Sun, C.-H. (2013), Curcuminoids exert glucose-lowering effect in type 2 diabetes by decreasing serum free fatty acids: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 57: 1569–1577. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201200131
In this study, researchers tested the effect of curcumin on histone acetylation and pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion under high-glucose conditions in human monocytes. The results concluded that “curcumin supplementation by reducing vascular inflammation may prevent diabetic complications.”
Side Effects of Conventional Cancer Treatment
Thirty patients with breast cancer took curcumin throughout their radiation therapy treatments. Compared to placebo, the curcumin group had a reduction in the severity of radiation dermatitis.
Ryan, J. L., Heckler, C. E., Ling, M., Katz, A., Williams, J. P., Pentland, A. P., & Morrow, G. R. (2013). Curcumin for Radiation Dermatitis: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial of Thirty Breast Cancer Patients.Radiation Research, 180(1), 34–43. http://doi.org/10.1667/RR3255.1
In this study, 160 patients undergoing conventional treatment for their cancer (chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy) reported fewer side effects while taking curcumin.
Belcaro, G., Hosoi, M., Pellegrini, L., Appendino, G., Ippolito, E., Ricci, A., Ledda, A., Dugall, M., Cesarone, M. R., Maione, C., Ciammaichella, G., Genovesi, D. and Togni, S. (2014), A Controlled Study of a Lecithinized Delivery System of Curcumin (Meriva®) to Alleviate the Adverse Effects of Cancer Treatment. Phytother. Res., 28: 444–450. doi:10.1002/ptr.5014
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis)
Fifty patients with ulcerative colitis were randomly assigned to receive their medication (mesalamine) with or without curcumin. The group that received curcumin demonstrated improvements in clinical and endoscopic remission with no adverse effects. Fourteen patients receiving curcumin achieved clinical remission in at week four, compared with none of the patients receiving placebo.
Lang, Alon et al. Curcumin in Combination With Mesalamine Induces Remission in Patients With Mild-to-Moderate Ulcerative Colitis in a Randomized Controlled Trial, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2015; Volume 13 , Issue 8 , 1444 - 1449.e1
In this human, double-blind study, curcumin demonstrated efficacy in maintaining remission in patients with ulcerative colitis compared to placebo.
Hanai, Hiroyuki et al. Curcumin Maintenance Therapy for Ulcerative Colitis: Randomized, Multicenter, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2006; Volume 4 , Issue 12 , 15021506
Fifty-sixpatients with major depressive disorder were treated with curcumin (500mg 2x/day) or placebo for eight weeks. After four to eight weeks, the curcumin group demonstrated better scores in depressive and anxiety symptom inventories.
Neurodegenerative Conditions (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Stroke)
Emerging cell and animal studies demonstrate that curcumin may protect against the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.
Cole, G. M., Teter, B., & Frautschy, S. A. (2007). NEUROPROTECTIVE EFFECTS OF CURCUMIN. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology,595, 197–212.
This review of literature concludes that “each component of the curcuminoid mixture plays a distinct role in making curcuminoid mixture useful in Alzheimer’s Disease, and hence, the curcuminoid mixture represents turmeric in its medicinal value better than curcumin alone."
AVAILABLE RESEARCH ON CONTRAINDICATIONS
Kidney Stones & Gallstones
In this study, researchers assessed patients’ urinary oxalate excretion from supplemental doses of cinnamon and turmeric as well as changes in fasting plasma glucose, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations. The study concluded that “the consumption of supplemental doses of turmeric, can significantly increase urinary oxalate levels, thereby increasing risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals."
In this study, the total, soluble and insoluble oxalate contents of 10 different spices (including turmeric) were measured. The researchers found that “some spices [such as turmeric] can supply significant amounts of soluble oxalates and therefore should be used in moderation.”
In this study, researchers compared the effect of 20 mg curcumin or placebo on the gallbladder volume of healthy volunteers. The results concluded that “curcumin induces contraction of the human gallbladder."
Interaction with Other Drugs
This study investigated changes in chemical stability and cytotoxic properties of curcumin and commonly consumed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs including ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), and acetaminophen (APAP) through their interactions. The researchers concluded that “commonly consumed OTC drugs affect chemical stability of curcumin in physiological conditions, and certain bioactivities of curcumin can be altered through their interactions."
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor before adding turmeric to your diet.
In this publication,, which explore various herbs, including turmeric. The appendices include: Herbals to be Used with Caution, Herbal-Drug Interactions, Herbals Contraindicated for Mothers and Children, and Vitamin/Mineral/Drug Interactions.