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Turmeric (Curcumin)

 

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • 1-(3-Cyclopentylpropyl)-2,4-dimethylbenzene, 1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione, 1,8-cineole, 2-(2'-methyl-1'-propenyl)-4,6-dimethyl-7-hydroxyquinoline, 2,5-dihydroxybisabola-3,10-diene, 4''-(4'''-hydroxyphenyl)-2''-oxo-3''-butenyl-3-(4'-hydroxyphenyl-3'-methoxy)-propenoate, 4''-(4'''-hydroxyphenyl-3'''-methoxy)-2''-oxo-3''-butenyl-3-(4'-hydroxyphenyl)-propenoate, 4,5-dihydroxybisabola-2,10-diene, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-formylphenyl)-2-hepten-4-one, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2-hepten-4-one, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4-hydroxyphenyl-3-methyl)-2-hepten-4-one, alantone, alpha-curcumene, alpha-turmerone, alpha-zingiberene, Amomum curcuma, anlatone (constituent), ar-curcumene, ar-tumerone, ar-turmerone, atlantone, BCM-95® (Biocurcumax™), beta-bisabolene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-curcumene, beta-sesquiphellandrene, beta-turmerin, beta-turmerone, bisacurone, bisacurone A, bisacurone B, bisacurone C, bisdemethoxycurcumin, calebin, C.I. 75300, C.I. Natural Yellow 3, CUR, Curcuma, Curcuma aromatica, Curcuma aromatica Salisbury, Curcuma domestica, Curcuma domestica Valeton, curcuma long oil, Curcuma longa, Curcuma longa Linn., Curcuma longa oils, Curcuma longa rhizoma, curcuma oil, curcumin, curcuminoids, curlone, dehydrozingerone, demethoxycurcumin, diaryl heptanoids, diferuloylmethane, E 100, e zhu, Gelbwurzel (German), germacrene, gurkemeje (Danish), haidr, halad (Marathi), haldar (Gujarati), haldi (Dogri, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Urdu), halud (Bengali), haridra (Sanskrit), HSDB 4334, Indian saffron, Indian yellow root, jiang huang (Mandarin Chinese), jianghuang, kacha haldi, kunir (Indonesian), kunyit (Indonesian), Kurkumawurzelstock (German), kurkumin, kyoo (Japanese), merita earth, NMXCC95™, Number Ten (NT), oil of turmeric, olena, radix Zedoaria longa, resveratrol, rhizome de curcuma, safran des Indes (French), sesquiterpenoids, shati, souchet, tumeric, tumerone, turmeric oil, turmeric root, turmeric yellow, turmerone, turmeronol A, ukon (Japanese), ukonan A, ukonan B, ukonan C, ukonan D, yellow ginger, yellow root, yellowroot, yo-kin, yujin, zedoary, zerumbone, zingerone, Zingiberaceae (family), zingiberene, zingiberone, Zitterwurzel (German), zlut prirodni 3.

Background

  • Turmeric is a spice, commonly used in Asian food, derived from the root of the turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant. Curcumin is the yellow-colored primary active constituent derived from turmeric and is commonly used to color foods and cosmetics.
  • The rhizome (root) of turmeric has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gastrointestinal upset, arthritic pain, and "low energy." Although not well studied in humans, turmeric and its constituent curcumin have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nerve-protective, insecticidal, and anticancer properties. Preliminary human evidence suggests possible efficacy for dyspepsia (heartburn), Helicobacter pylori infection, pain relief, leukoplakia (patches in the mouth), osteoarthritis, and high cholesterol.

Evidence

 

Uses based on scientific evidence 

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.

Grade* 

Alzheimer's disease 

Early research does not support the use of curcumin or turmeric for Alzheimer's disease. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Antioxidant 

Early research suggests that turmeric may have antioxidant effects. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Blood clot prevention 

Early research suggests that turmeric may prevent the formation of blood clots. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Cancer 

Several early studies have reported the anticancer (colon, skin, breast) properties of curcumin. Many mechanisms have been considered, including antioxidant activity, prevention of new blood vessel growth, and direct effects on cancer cells. Currently it remains unclear if turmeric or curcumin has a role in preventing or treating human cancers. There are several ongoing studies in this area.

C 

Cholelithiasis prevention/cholagogue 

It has been said that there are fewer people with gallstones in India, which is sometimes credited to turmeric in the diet. Early studies have reported that curcumin, a chemical in turmeric, may decrease the occurrence of gallstones. However, reliable human studies are lacking in this area. The use of turmeric may be inadvisable in patients with active gallstones.

C 

Cognitive function 

Curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and to reduce beta-amyloid and plaque burden in early studies. However, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest the use of curcumin for cognitive performance.

C 

Eczema 

According to preliminary research using a combination herbal formula, turmeric may help lessen symptoms of eczema. However, the effect of turmeric alone has not been examined. Additional research is required before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Eye problems 

According to early research using a combination herbal formula, turmeric may be helpful in the treatment of certain eye problems. Research has indicated that curcumin may also be beneficial. Despite these findings, the data on the efficacy of turmeric alone remain limited.

C 

H. pylori infection 

According to early research, turmeric was not helpful for H. pylori eradication in infected gastritis patients. However, well-designed research is required before conclusions can be drawn.

C 

Heartburn 

Turmeric has been traditionally used to treat stomach problems (such as indigestion from a fatty meal). There is preliminary evidence that turmeric may offer some relief from these stomach problems. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually irritate or upset the stomach. Reliable human research is necessary before a conclusion can be made.

C 

High cholesterol 

Early studies suggest that turmeric may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood. Better human studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Inflammation 

Although not well studied in humans, turmeric and curcumin have both been identified as possessing anti-inflammatory properties. Reliable human research is lacking.

C 

Irritable bowel syndrome 

Preliminary research has suggested that turmeric may lessen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More studies are needed to verify these findings.

C 

Leukoplakia 

Preliminary research has suggested that curcumin may reduce symptoms of oral leukoplakia (white patches in the mouth). Further research is necessary before a definitive assessment can be made.

C 

Liver protection 

In traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used to tone the liver. Early research suggests that turmeric may have a protective effect on the liver, but more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Osteoarthritis 

Turmeric has been used historically to treat rheumatic conditions. Although not well studied in humans, turmeric and its constituent curcumin may relieve symptoms associated with osteoarthritis due to their anti-inflammatory properties. More research in humans is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Early research suggests that curcumin may reduce symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

C 

Scabies 

Historically, turmeric has been used on the skin to treat chronic skin ulcers and scabies. It has also been used in combination with the leaves of the herb Azadirachta indica (neem). More research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be made.

C 

Stomach ulcer 

Turmeric has been used historically to treat stomach and duodenal ulcers. However, at high doses or with prolonged use, turmeric may actually further irritate or upset the stomach. Currently, there is not enough human evidence to make a firm conclusion.

C 

Surgical recovery 

Preliminary evidence suggests that curcumin, alone or as part of a spicy diet, may aid in the reduction of pain associated with surgery. Further research is required.

C 

Uveitis 

Early studies have shown the anti-inflammatory activity of turmeric and its constituent curcumin. Reliable human research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn about the use of turmeric for uveitis (eye inflammation).

C 

Weight loss 

Preliminary human research involving a combination product containing turmeric for weight loss has been conducted. At this time, high-quality studies using turmeric alone for weight loss are lacking. Additional research is required.

C 

 

*Key to grades: 

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

For full grading rationale, click here.

Uses based on tradition or theory 

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional

Abdominal bloating, abscess, acne, aging, alcohol abuse, allergy, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), anthelmintic (expel parasitic worms), antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antivenom, antiviral, appetite stimulant, arthritis (general), asthma, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), boils, bruises, burns, cataracts, chemoprotective, childbirth (umbilical stump care), chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic obstructive lung disease, colic, constipation, contraception, cosmetic uses, cough, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, dementia, dental cavity prevention, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, diagnostic procedure (histological dye), dizziness, dry eye syndrome, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), epilepsy, expectorant (loosens mucus), fever, fistula, flavoring agent, food uses (coloring), gas, gonorrhea, hair growth, heart conditions, heart damage from doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Doxil®), hematuria (blood in the urine), hemorrhage, hepatitis, herpes (cold sores), high blood pressure, human papillomavirus (HPV), immune function, increased sperm count/motility, increasing breast milk, infertility (bovine), insect bites, insect repellent, jaundice, kidney disease, kidney stones, kidney transplant, leprosy, liver disease, lung fibrosis, malaria, menopause, menstrual pain, multidrug resistance, multiple sclerosis, muscle ache, muscle strains/pain, nerve damage, nerve disorders, nutritional support, organ transplantation (immune suppression), pancreatitis, parasites, Parkinson's disease, prostate conditions, protection from tobacco smoke, rabies, radioprotection, respiratory disorders, rheumatic disorders, rhinitis (stuffy nose), ringworm, scar healing, scleroderma, sepsis, skin disorders, snakebite, soft tissue injuries, stroke prevention, toxicity (5-aminosalicyclic acids, 5-ASA), ulcerative colitis, urinary disorders, vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), Wilson's disease, wound healing.


Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to turmeric, its constituents (including curcumin), certain yellow food colorings, or other members of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Turmeric is generally considered safe when used in amounts commonly found in foods.
  • Turmeric may cause delusion, mild fever, throat infection, worsening of arthritis symptoms, skin redness, skin hardness, rash, elevated areas of skin, abdominal fullness and pain, transient complete atrioventricular block (a heart measurement), oxidative stress, hair loss, altered heart beat, thyroid effects, stomach upset, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, induced ulcers, or kidney stones.
  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions
  • Use cautiously in patients with a compromised liver or decreased liver function, as turmeric may increase liver function tests.
  • Use cautiously in patients with immune system deficiencies, as turmeric may weaken the immune system.
  • Use cautiously in men, as extracts of turmeric may decrease the production of sperm and fertility.
  • Use cautiously in smokers or ex-smokers, in patients at risk for iron deficiency or kidney stones, or in patients with acquired metal storage diseases (including hepatitis C), vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), sensitivity to changes in hormone levels, or gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Use cautiously with cholesterol-lowering drugs or medications absorbed by p-glycoprotein.
  • Use cautiously in combination with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors or docetaxel.
  • Use cautiously in patients looking to conceive, due to the potential for antifertility effects.
  • Use cautiously in pregnancy, as turmeric may cause uterine stimulation and stimulate menstrual flow.
  • Avoid curcumin in doses over 8,000 milligrams daily.
  • Avoid in patients with bile duct obstruction or cholelithiasis.
  • Avoid in patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers or with gastric hyperacidity disorders.
  • Avoid in patients allergic to turmeric, any of its constituents (including curcumin), certain yellow food colorings, or other members of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Use cautiously in pregnancy, as turmeric may cause uterine stimulation and stimulate menstrual flow. Turmeric is not recommended in breastfeeding women, due to a lack of safety data.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Turmeric may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a healthcare professional or pharmacist about possible interactions.
  • Turmeric may also interact with acetaminophen, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, amiloride, analgesics, antibiotics, anticancer drugs, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antifungals, anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial drugs, antiobesity agents, antiparasitics, antivirals, bone agents, calcium channel blockers, cardiovascular agents, celecoxib, cholesterol-lowering drugs, ciprofloxacin, cisplatin, cyclodextrin, cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, dimethylsulphoxide, docetaxel, drugs that are toxic to the liver, drugs that affect the immune system, drugs that widen blood vessels, erythromycin, erythropoietin, fluoride, gastrointestinal agents, histone deacetylase inhibitors, hormonal drugs, metronidazole, morphine, muscle relaxants, neurological agents, nifedipine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), norfloxacin, oxaliplatin, p-glycoprotein-regulated drugs, paclitaxel, paracetamol, polyethylene glycosylated curcumin, praziquantel, prulifloxacin, rapamycin, retinol, ritonavir, sulindac sulfone, sulfinosine, tacrolimus, talinolol, tamoxifen, taxol, thalidomide, trichostatin A, vinorelbine, and warfarin.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, some cases with garlic, and fewer cases with saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Turmeric cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Turmeric may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the cytochrome P450 system.
  • Turmeric may also interact with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, analgesics, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, anticonvulsant herbs and supplements, antidepressant herbs and supplements, antifungal herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antimalarial herbs and supplements, antiobesity herbs and supplements, antioxidants, antiparasitic herbs and supplements, antiviral herbs and supplements, beta-carotene, betel leaf extract, bone herbs and supplements, calcium channel blockers, capsaicin, cardiovascular herbs and supplements, casein, catechin, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, cobalt, coffee, copper, danshensu, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), fenugreek, fish oil, garlic, gastrointestinal herbs and supplements, genistein, green tea, herbs and supplements that are toxic to the liver, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that widen blood vessels, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, isoflavones, isothiocyanates, lignin, Monascus pilosus, muscle relaxants, neurological herbs and supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, p-glycoprotein-regulated herbs and supplements, piperine, piplartine, Protandim®, quercetin, resveratrol, retinol, saffron, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

Authors

Selected References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Agarwal, K. A., Tripathi, C. D., Agarwal, B. B., and Saluja, S. Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Surg Endosc. 6-14-2011;
  2. Aggarwal BB, Kunnumakkara AB, Harikumar KB, et al. Potential of spice-derived phytochemicals for cancer prevention. Planta Med 2008 Oct;74(13):1560-9.
  3. Adhvaryu MR, Reddy NM, Vakharia BC. Prevention of hepatotoxicity due to anti tuberculosis treatment: a novel integrative approach. World J Gastroenterol 2008 Aug 14;14(30):4753-62.
  4. Brinkhaus B, Hentschel C, Von Keudell C, et al. Herbal medicine with curcuma and fumitory in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Scand J Gastroenterol 2005 Aug;40(8):936-43.
  5. Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Mar 9. [Epub ahead of print]
  6. Epstein J, Sanderson IR, Macdonald TT. Curcumin as a therapeutic agent: the evidence from in vitro, animal and human studies. Br J Nutr 2010:103(11):1545-57.
  7. Koosirirat, C., Linpisarn, S., Changsom, D., Chawansuntati, K., and Wipasa, J. Investigation of the anti-inflammatory effect of Curcuma longa in Helicobacter pylori-infected patients. Int Immunopharmacol. 2010;10(7):815-818.
  8. Kositchaiwat C, Kositchaiwat S, Havanondha J. Curcuma longa Linn. in the treatment of gastric ulcer comparison to liquid antacid: a controlled clinical trial. J Med Assoc Thai 1993;76(11):601-605.
  9. Limtrakul P, Anuchapreeda S, Buddhasukh D. Modulation of human multidrug-resistance MDR-1 gene by natural curcuminoids. BMC Cancer 4-17-2004;4(1):13.
  10. López-Lázaro M. Anticancer and carcinogenic properties of curcumin: considerations for its clinical development as a cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent. Mol Nutr Food Res 2008 Jun;52 Suppl 1:S103-27.
  11. Prusty BK, Das BC. Constitutive activation of transcription factor AP-1 in cervical cancer and suppression of human papillomavirus (HPV) transcription and AP-1 activity in HeLa cells by curcumin. Int J Cancer 3-1-2005;113(6):951-960.
  12. Rithaporn T, Monga M, Rajasekaran M. Curcumin: a potential vaginal contraceptive. Contraception 2003;68(3):219-223.
  13. Strimpakos AS, Sharma RA. Curcumin: preventive and therapeutic properties in laboratory studies and clinical trials. Antioxid Redox Signal 2008 Mar;10(3):511-45.
  14. Taher MM, Lammering G, Hershey C, et al. Curcumin inhibits ultraviolet light induced human immunodeficiency virus gene expression. Mol Cell Biochem 2003;254(1-2):289-297.
  15. Usharani P, Mateen AA, Naidu MU, et al. Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study. Drugs R D 2008;9(4):243-50.
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