Turmeric: 20 Health Benefits and Its Risks and Complications



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Everyone today is health conscious; either trying to adopt a healthy diet or either finding herbal supplements that can help prevent diseases or herbal remedies they can take instead of taking prescribed medication. One plant that is being used as a herbal remedy and supplement is the yellow ginger or more commonly known as turmeric, the Golden Spice. This spice has resurfaced due to its active ingredient curcumin which gives its vast healing abilities and unlike over-the-counter and prescribed medications has a few side effects.

Turmeric root (sci. name Curcuma longa, Curcuma xanthorrhiza Naves, Curcuma domestica Valeton, Jiang huang (Chin.)), a well known yellowish-orange spice and aromatic rhizome, is gaining popularity due to its vast range of health benefits. In the Philippines, tumerik is also known as luyang dilaw in Filipino,  angay in Pampanga, lampuyang in Bisaya, kunig in Ilokano, and Yu-chin in Chinese. I sometimes drink turmeric tea when I'm suffering from a sore throat. The hot spicy liquid that tastes like conventional salabat (Filipino term for ginger tea) helps relieve the scratchy feeling deep in my throat. Plus, it's really cheap- you can buy 180g of turmeric tea for under a dollar.
Dried Rhizomes of Turmeric.
Image credit: Pixabay

It is a plant similar to ginger as it is part of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). When fully grown, this plant reaches almost 3 feet in height and produces a flower and an underground stem called a rhizome. The powdered rhizome of this plant is used commonly for flavoring, food coloring and dye. Mainly grown in tropical countries in South Asia, the turmeric plant grows in temperatures ranging from 20°-30°C in places where there is much rainfall and is harvested annually for its rhizome. Since the ancient times, India has been the largest producer of turmeric.

The harvested rhizomes are boiled for a few hours then dried in a kiln. After drying, the dried rhizomes are then pulverized to a yellow powder.  This yellow powder is used as a spice for many food dishes mainly curry in South Asia and the Middle East, cloth dye, and as food coloring in the condiment mustard. Yes, the yellow color in mustard is from turmeric.

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin that has a somewhat earthy, bitter, black pepper-like taste and a mustard-like smell.

Turmeric has been used medicinally for over 4,500 years proving that turmeric is a great medicinal plant. Pots dating back to 2500 B.C. discovered by archeologists near New Delhi showed residue from turmeric, ginger, and garlic. By 500 B.C., turmeric was being used as part of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda, coined from 2 words Ayur meaning "life" and Veda "science of knowledge", translates to "the science of life" and is an ancient Indian system of natural healing. Ayurvedic literature shows evidence of the use of turmeric, containing over 100 various terms for turmeric- Jayanti for " one who is victorious over diseases" and matrimanika for "as beautiful as moonlight".

During the Middle Ages, mainly in Europe and Palestine, it was known as the Saffron from India and was used as a substitute for the more expensive Saffron. The Phoenicians, on the other hand, used turmeric and safflower to obtain a yellow dye.

Situated in the southern portion of the Maharashtra State of India is a town called Sangli which is the largest and most important place for the trade of turmeric in Asia.
Turmeric Spice.
Image credit: Pixabay

Flavenoid curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is currently the subject of many laboratory experiments testing its anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antiseptic/antibacterial, and antioxidant properties as well as its properties to combat Alzheimer's disease.

Uses of Turmeric

In Cooking
Used in drinks, oven-cooked food, ice cream, sauces, roasted food and as a spice in many Asian dishes particularly Indian curry.  May also be used raw like regular ginger. When used as a food additive it is known as E-100 and protects processed food from sunlight. Paired with annatto (E160b), serves as the dye in cheese, yogurt, salad dressing, margarine, and butter.

Dye
Not popular as a dye because it is not lightfast ( the ability of the dye to withstand sunlight) but is still being used in India on garments such as the sari. During the Onam festival of Kerala state, children are given turmeric-dyed clothing to wear for the festivities. In addition to this, Buddhists wear saffron-hued robes that have been dyed using turmeric.

Ceremonial Use
Used in rituals such as Gaye holud which literally translates to" yellow/turmeric on the body" is a ceremony observed mostly in the region of Bengal. It is part of an elaborate series of celebrations constituting the Bengali wedding. In Indian culture, turmeric is not only used in dishes and as a herbal remedy but is also seen as sacred by the Hindu. A necklace called the Mangala sutra is a string dyed with yellow turmeric paste and is placed on a bride's neck by her groom on their wedding day. This signifies that the bride is now married and is capable of running a household. This tradition is still being carried out today by the Hindu. Aside from this, likened to the anting-anting of Filipinos, a piece of turmeric rhizome is worn as an amulet by some Indians to protect them from evil spirits.
Turmeric tea and turmeric tea powder.
Image copyright: The Tired Mama-ph

Turmeric Health Benefits
Turmeric is believed to have many therapeutic effects mainly antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antihelmintic, antiviral, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, and anticarcinogenic. It is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Here are 20 health benefits you can get from using turmeric:

1. Having antiseptic and antibacterial properties, it can be used to disinfect abrasions and minor burns. It also speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling damaged skin. Some people even use it for their acne. In addition to this, turmeric may be used as a mouthwash to combat gum disease and gingivitis.

2. A formulation of broccoli powder, turmeric powder, pomegranate powder, and green tea extract helps prevent prostate cancer by preventing the increase of prostate-specific antigen and growth for those with existing disease. Turmeric is prescribed by Indian doctors to patients who have a high risk of prostate cancer as well as breast cancer.

3.Rodent studies conducted by the University of Texas have found that curcumin inhibits the growth of melanoma (skin cancer), causing cancer cells to self-destruct, and also slows the metastasis of breast cancer to the lungs.

4. Naturally detoxifies the liver. According to preliminary research done at the Medical University Graz in Austria, curcumin delays liver damage associated with liver disease.

5. Prevents Alzheimer's disease. Epidemiologists have speculated that the low rate of the disease in India has to do with the daily intake of turmeric in their curry dishes. Studies have also shown that it also slows down the disease by removing the build-up of amyloid plaque in the brain.

6. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is being used to ease the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis without side effects. It is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor. Also, turmeric helps manage uric acid levels.

7. Used in Chinese medicine as a natural antidepressant. According to research, curcumin taken orally twice daily for 6 weeks is as effective as the antidepressant drug fluoxetine.

8. Boosts the immune system even in people who have existing diseases that affect the immune system.

9. Aids in fat metabolism thus helping in weight management as well as lowering cholesterol reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Consuming turmeric extract twice daily for 3 months reduces total cholesterol and bad cholesterol in obese people suffering from high cholesterol.

10. Boosts the effects of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel as well as reducing the side effects of the drug.

11. Turmeric has shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors. Currently being studied on its effects on pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma and has positive feedback as of recent.

12. In rodent studies, has shown to slow down multiple sclerosis.

13. Helps in the treatment of uveitis (inflammation of the uvea) psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. Studies show that curcumin is as effective a treatment as corticosteroids without side effects.

14. Research from Kansas State University finds that when adding turmeric as a spice can reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines which are carcinogenic compounds formed when meats are barbecued, boiled or fried by up to 40%.

15. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it lowers the relapse rates of ulcerative colitis (ulcers of the lower GIT). For patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, turmeric may be used as an enema.

16. Fresh turmeric juice is used as an antihelmintic (deworming).

17. Turmeric solution swished orally 6 times daily for 6 weeks helps reduce inflammation of the mouth and esophagus for patients undergoing radiation treatment for head and neck cancer.

18. For lichen planus, an auto-immune disorder which presents itself as a skin rash, turmeric taken orally 3 times a day for 12 days can reduce skin irritation.

19.Early studies have found that taking turmeric and Tinospora cordifolia can help reduce bacteria level and liver toxicity from antituberculosis treatment in patients suffering from tuberculosis.

20. Ingestion of turmeric 3 times daily for 3 months can reduce blood pressure and improve kidney function for people who are diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

In summary:
Turmeric is used as a herbal remedy.
Rhizome part for dysentery, abdominal pain, flatulence, abdominal spasm, arthritis, cuts/wounds/bruises, leprosy, liver problems, swelling, insect bites, pimples, colds, cough, leech-bites, sprain.
Flower part for ringworm and parasitic skin infections
Turmeric (orange) and ginger capsules.
Image credit: Pixabay

Generally, turmeric is safe to take in MODERATION. Recommended turmeric dosage is 2000mg/day if using a supplement; for cooking 1-3g/day (1/2-11/2 tsp.); as a tea 1 or 2 cups/day.
Here's how you can use turmeric:
1. Use it as a spice for a new flavor, most especially when cooking meat.
2. Drink it as a tea. You may try commercially processed tea powder or raw yellow ginger. Wash the ginger (unpeeled) and cut into small pieces. Boil yellow ginger pieces in 3 cups of water for a few minutes. Depending on taste, add water if needed. Drink twice a day.
3. Take it as a supplement in capsule form.
4. Mix it with castor oil for a detoxifying effect. For women, apply on breast and underarms to release harmful toxins from lymph nodes.
5. As ointment: Wash the raw yellow ginger (unpeeled) and cut it into small pieces. Sauté the cut pieces of ginger in coconut oil on low heat for 5 minutes. Set aside cool and then apply to affected areas.
6. When used as an antiseptic, crush rhizome and apply directly to minor burns, cuts or areas of inflamed skin.

Risks and complications: Please consult your physician before taking turmeric.
1. Pregnancy- avoid taking turmeric during pregnancy. It stimulates the uterus and may promote bleeding. It should also be avoided during breastfeeding.
2. Diabetes- turmeric lowers blood sugar. Avoid if diabetes medication is being used. Will result in hypoglycemia.
3. Gallstones/Bile duct obstruction- will worsen with turmeric.
4. Gastrointestinal complications- excess intake of turmeric causes an increase in stomach acid and interferes with antacids. It may aggravate GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Patients with this condition should refrain from taking turmeric.
5.Blood-thinning- may slow blood clotting. Avoid combining with anticoagulants and/or antiplatelet drugs (eg. Ibuprofen, Warfarin, Naproxen) and herbal supplements that slow clotting (garlic, ginger, ginkgo, angelica, clove, Panax ginseng, red clove, and willow). Stop intake of turmeric 2 weeks before any surgical procedure. Should also not be taken by individuals with bleeding disorders.
6. May cause infertility in men as it lowers testosterone levels and decreases sperm movement.
7. May cause problems for hormone-sensitive diseases such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. Although research shows that turmeric may prevent breast cancer and also reduces the effects of estrogen in some hormone-sensitive cancer cells, in theory, curcumin acts like estrogen. Thus, it would be better to consult your physician before taking turmeric.
8. Although turmeric is rich in iron itself and may help reduce iron in conditions like hereditary hemochromatosis, it may cause iron deficiency if taken in high amounts. This is because turmeric can lower ferritin by chelating iron in the body. Those already suffering from iron deficiency should take turmeric with caution.
Turmeric Paste
"Turmeric Body Masque" by thedabblist
is licensed under  CC by 2.0

Turmeric has such wonderful health benefits but of course, too much of a good thing is bad for you. Always take in moderation. For those with any pre-existing conditions, please consult your doctor before taking turmeric in medicinal amounts. Don't take shortcuts. Exercise regularly and adopt a healthy diet.

Stay healthy and happy! (originally published on 9/26/17)

Sources and realted links:
 mindbodygreen.com, healthline.com, memory-improvement-tips.com for research and information. 
Avey, Tori "What is the History of Turmeric?",www.thehistorykitchen.com
"Turmeric-Luyang Dilaw", www.halamang-gamot.blogspot.com
"Turmeric Health Benefits", www.panlasangpinoy.com
"Turmeric",www.webmd.com
"Turmerik", https://tlm.wikipedia.org



Comments

  1. I've tried turmeric...tasted alot like ginger. Will drink once a week. Still like coffee better. Hehehe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an updated blog article. I took the liberty of adding the history of turmeric, as well as its uses. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Will try and remember what I read...seems it can cure almost all.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great tips regarding turmeric and nice to know that it has a long history.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi,


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  7. Did you know #curcumin is the primary active ingredient in turmeric? It's responsible for both #turmeric’s brilliant golden color and many of its health benefits!

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