Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a relative of ginger, is a culinary herb used in households around the world to add color and flavor to curries and stews. But this beautiful yellow spice is more than just an ingredient in curry, as hundreds of modern, peer-reviewed studies now reveal. In fact, Turmeric shows great promise for treating many modern diseases and health issues. Here are just a few of the things Turmeric can help with:
Alzheimer’s disease: Studies show that turmeric contains agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are responsible for the obstruction of normal brain function in Alzheimer’s disease. One such study, published by the National Institute of Health, states that “Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved.” UCLA neurology has also published guidelines for dosing when taking the herb for Alzheimer’s disease.
Arthritis: Turmeric contains many anti-inflammatory compounds, including several COX-2-inhibitors. COX-2 enzymes increase pain and inflammation, and by blocking them, many of the painful symptoms of arthritis are alleviated. Many studies have demonstrated marked improvement in patients (even out-performing western pharmaceuticals) while undergoing trials of turmeric extract. Turmeric extracts also protect arthritic joints by stopping bone degeneration.
Cancer: In over 700 studies, turmeric and its extract curcumin have been shown to be both preventative of cancer, and capable of treating existing cancers. One study at the National Institute of Health states that “Overall, our review shows that curcumin can kill a wide variety of tumor cell types through diverse mechanisms. Because of numerous mechanisms of cell death employed by curcumin, it is possible that cells may not develop resistance to curcumin-induced cell death. Furthermore, its ability to kill tumor cells and not normal cells makes curcumin an attractive candidate…”
Detoxification: Turmeric has a significant effect on the liver’s ability to clear toxins, including mercury, pesticides, and environmental estrogens. As well, it shows promise for preventing future damage from past exposure to toxins. It is thought to do this by increasing the activity of enzymes for detoxification such as glutathione.
Weight Gain: By inhibiting growth of new blood-vessels, known as angiogenesis, Turmeric makes it harder for the body to create, and feed new fat cells. This is also one of the mechanisms by which it helps to fight certain cancers. As well, Turmeric lowers blood glucose, and may also decrease insulin resistance and leptin resistance, which are both prominent factors in weight gain, and the onset of type II diabetes.
It’s due to these reported positive effects that I recommend turmeric to many of my patients. Typically, I ask them to take 1200mg a day in three 400 mg doses or two 600mg doses. Turmeric is best taken between meals with almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk, as the fats in these drinks assist with absorption.
While turmeric is a common food used safely in the kitchens of millions of people around the world, there are a few things to keep in mind: turmeric may act as a mild blood thinner, and should be avoided by those on blood thinning medications and anti-coagulants. It should not be taken during pregnancy. Those on medications for diabetes should use caution, and monitor their blood sugar while on turmeric. It’s wise to check with your doctor before taking turmeric (or any supplement) if you are currently on medication.
The information provided above is educational only and is not meant to act as, or substitute for, medical advice. Seek advice from a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist when considering using herbal medicine.
Warmest and Best,
Craig Swogger, L.Ac
 Dr. Duke’s Essential Herbs, James A Duke, PhD. Pages 235 to 246.