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Turmeric is a widely used tropical herb in the ginger family. Its stalk is used both in food and medicine, yielding the familiar yellow ingredient that colors and adds flavor to curry. In the traditional Indian system of herbal medicine known as Ayurveda , turmeric is believed to strengthen the overall energy of the body, relieve gas, dispel worms, improve digestion, regulate menstruation, dissolve gallstones, and relieve arthritis, among other uses.
Modern interest in turmeric began in 1971 when Indian researchers found evidence suggesting that turmeric may possess anti-inflammatory properties. Much of this observed activity appeared to be due to the presence of a constituent called curcumin. 1 Curcumin is also an antioxidant . 2 Many of the studies mentioned in this article used curcumin rather than turmeric.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Turmeric?
A double-blind, placebo controlled study performed in Thailand compared the effects of 500 mg curcumin 4 times daily against placebo, as well as against a locally popular over-the-counter treatment. A total of 116 people were enrolled in the study. After 7 days, 87% percent of the curcumin group experienced full or partial symptom relief from dyspepsia as compared to 53% of the placebo group, and this difference was statistically significant . 3
Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the lower digestive tract marked by alternating periods of quiescence and flare-up. Curcumin has shown some promise for helping to maintain remission and prevent relapse. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 89 people with quiescent ulcerative colitis were given either placebo or curcumin (1 g twice daily) along with standard treatment. 4 Over the six-month treatment period, relapse rate was significantly lower in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group.
For medicinal purposes, turmeric is frequently taken in a form standardized to curcumin content, at a dose that provides 400 to 600 mg of curcumin 3 times daily.
- Ammon HPT, Wahl MA. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Med. 1991;57:1-7.
- Sreejayan N, Rao MNA. Free radical scavenging activity of curcuminoids. Arzneimittelforschung. 1996;46:169-171.
- Thamlikitkul V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Dechatiwongse T, et al. Randomized double blind study of Curcuma domestica Val. for dyspepsia. J Med Assoc Thai. 1989;72:613-620.
- Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, Tsujikawa T, Fujiyama Y, Mitsuyama K, Sata M, Yamada M, Iwaoka Y, Kanke K, Hiraishi H, Hirayama K, Arai H, Yoshii S, Uchijima M, Nagata T, Koide Y. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 4(12):1502-6.