Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is commonly used in Asian food. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.

Turmeric is used for arthritis, heartburn (dyspepsia), joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, hemorrhage, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), liver problems, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallbladder disorders, high cholesterol, a skin condition called lichen planus, skin inflammation from radiation treatment, and fatigue.

It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, hay fever, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, itchy skin, recovery after surgery, and cancers. Other uses include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, swelling in the middle layer of the eye (anterior uveitis), diabetes, water retention, worms, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), tuberculosis, urinary bladder inflammation, and kidney problems.

Some people apply turmeric to the skin for pain, ringworm, sprains and swellings, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, acne, psoriasis, inflammatory skin conditions and skin sores, soreness inside of the mouth, infected wounds, and gum disease.

Turmeric is also used as an enema for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

In food and manufacturing, the essential oil of turmeric is used in perfumes, and its resin is used as a flavor and color component in foods.

Don’t confuse turmeric with Javanese turmeric root (Curcuma zedoaria).

How does it work?

Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin. Curcumin and other chemicals in turmeric might decrease swelling (inflammation). Because of this, turmeric might be beneficial for treating conditions that involve inflammation.

Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Hay fever. Taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, seems to reduce hayfever symptoms such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and congestion.
  • Depression. Most available research shows that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, reduces depression symptoms in people already using an antidepressant.
  • High cholesterol. Turmeric seems to lower levels of blood fats called triglycerides. The effects of turmeric on cholesterol levels are conflicting. There are many different turmeric products available. It is not known which ones work best.
  • Liver disease not caused by alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).Research shows that taking turmeric extract reduces markers of liver injury in people who have a liver disease not caused by alcohol. It also seems to help prevent the build-up of more fat in the liver in people with this condition.
  • Osteoarthritis. Some research shows that taking turmeric extracts, alone or in combination with other herbal ingredients, can reduce pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis. In some research, turmeric worked about as well as ibuprofen for reducing osteoarthritis pain. But it does not seem to work as well as diclofenac for improving pain and function in people with osteoarthritis.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Research shows that taking a turmeric extract daily for 7 days before a menstrual period and continuing for 3 days after the period ends improves pain, mood, and behavior in women with PMS.
  • Itching (pruritus). Research suggests that taking turmeric by mouth three times daily for 8 weeks reduces itching in people with long-term kidney disease. Also, early research suggests that taking a specific combination product (C3 Complex, Sami Labs LTD) containing curcumin plus black pepper or long pepper daily for 4 weeks reduces itching severity and improves quality of life in people with chronic itching caused by mustard gas.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis. Some research shows that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, by mouth or as an enema, along with conventional treatments, improves symptoms and increases the number of people who go into remission. For people already in remission, turmeric increases the likelihood of staying in remission when used in combination with conventional treatments.

Possibly Ineffective for

  • Stomach ulcers. Some research suggests that taking turmeric three times daily for 8 weeks does not improve stomach ulcers. Also, taking powdered turmeric four times daily for 6 weeks seems to be less effective than taking a conventional antacid.
  • Skin problems related to radiation cancer treatments. Curcumin is a chemical in turmeric. Taking curcumin does not seem to prevent skin problems during radiation treatment.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Alzheimer’s disease. Early research shows that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, daily for 6 months does not benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Eye inflammation (anterior uveitis). Early research suggests that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, might improve symptoms of long-term inflammation in the middle layer of the eye.
  • Mental function. Curcumin is a chemical in turmeric. Some research shows that curcumin can improve memory and attention in older adults. Some of these adults showed signs of mild mental decline before taking curcumin. But other research shows that curcumin does not improve mental function in older people who don’t show signs of mental decline.
  • Growths in the large intestine (colorectal adenomas). Early research shows that taking a turmeric extract does not reduce the number of growths in the intestines of people with a condition called familial adenomatous polyposis.
  • Colorectal cancer. Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing turmeric extract and Javanese turmeric extract might stabilize some measures of colon cancer. There is also early evidence that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, daily for 30 days can reduce the number of precancerous glands in the colon of people at high risk of cancer.
  • Bypass surgery (coronary artery bypass graft surgery). Early research suggests that taking curcuminoids, which are chemicals found in turmeric, starting 3 days before surgery and continuing for 5 days after surgery can lower the risk of a heart attack following bypass surgery.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease. Some evidence suggests that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, daily for one month can reduce bowel movements, diarrhea, and stomach pain in people with Crohn’s disease.
  • Diabetes. Early research shows that taking turmeric might prevent diabetes in people with prediabetes.
  • Stomach upset (dyspepsia). Some research shows that taking turmeric by mouth four times daily for 7 days might help improve an upset stomach.
  • Gum disease (gingivitis). Early research suggests that using a turmeric mouthwash is as effective as a drug-therapy mouthwash for reducing gum disease and bacteria levels in the mouth of people with gingivitis.
  • Stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) infection. Early research suggests that taking turmeric daily for 4 weeks is less effective than conventional treatment for eliminating certain bacteria (H. pylori) that can cause stomach ulcers. Other research shows that taking turmeric along with conventional treatments for eliminating these bacteria (H. pylori) does not make the conventional treatment more effective. But it may help to reduce stomach upset.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some early research shows that taking a turmeric extract daily for 8 weeks reduces the symptoms of IBS in people with IBS who are otherwise healthy. Other early research shows that taking a capsule containing turmeric and fennel for 30 days improves pain and quality of life in people with IBS.
  • Joint pain. Research shows that taking a specific product containing turmeric and other ingredients three times daily for 8 weeks reduces the severity of joint pain. But it does not appear to help joint stiffness or improve joint function.
  • Skin rash (Lichen planus). Taking a certain product containing chemicals found in turmeric three times daily for 12 days can reduce skin irritation caused by lichen planus.
  • Prostate cancer. Research suggests that taking a formula containing broccoli powder, turmeric powder, pomegranate whole fruit powder, and green tea extract three times daily for 6 months prevents an increase in prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in men with prostate cancer. PSA levels are measured to monitor how well prostate cancer treatment is working. However, it’s not yet known if this formula, or turmeric alone, reduces the risk of prostate cancer progression or recurrence.
  • Psoriasis. Early research shows that applying a turmeric tonic to the scalp improves the appearance and symptoms of psoriasis in people with psoriasis on the scalp.
  • Inflammation in the mouth and/or esophagus from radiation treatment. Early research suggests that swishing a turmeric solution in the mouth six times daily for 6 weeks reduces the risk of inflammation in the mouth and/or esophagus caused by radiation treatment in people with head and neck cancer.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research suggests that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, might reduce some RA symptoms, including pain, morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling. Other research shows that taking a turmeric product twice daily reduces RA symptoms more than conventional medication.
  • Skin cancer. Early research shows that applying a turmeric ointment might help to relieve odor and itching caused by cancer-related wounds.
  • Recover from surgery. Early research suggests that taking curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, daily for up to one week after surgery can reduce pain, fatigue, and the need for pain medications.
  • An inflammatory disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Early research suggests that taking turmeric by mouth three times daily for 3 months can reduce blood pressure and improve kidney function in people with kidney inflammation (lupus nephritis) caused by systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Tuberculosis. Early research suggests that taking a product containing turmeric and Tinospora cordifolia can reduce bacteria levels, improve wound healing, and reduce liver toxicity caused by antituberculosis therapy in people with tuberculosis who are receiving antituberculosis therapy.
  • Acne.
  • Bruising.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Headache.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Jaundice.
  • Liver and gallbladder problems.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Pain.
  • Ringworm.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate turmeric for these uses.