Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant (Curcuma longa) of the ginger family. The turmeric plant needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Curcuma longa has been traditionally used in Asian countries as a medical herb due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. Curcumin, a polyphenol, has been shown to target multiple signaling molecules while also demonstrating activity at the cellular level, which has helped to support its multiple health benefits. It has been shown to benefit inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, pain, and to help in the management of inflammatory and degenerative eye conditions. In addition, it has been shown to benefit the kidneys. While there appear to be countless therapeutic benefits to curcumin supplementation, most of these benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. One of the major problems with ingesting curcumin by itself is its poor bioavailability, which appears to be primarily due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination.
Curcumin is being recognized and used worldwide in many different forms for multiple potential health benefits. For example, in India, turmeric—containing curcumin—has been used in curries; in Japan, it is served in tea; in Thailand, it is used in cosmetics; in China, it is used as a colorant; in Korea, it is served in drinks; in Malaysia, it is used as an antiseptic; in Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent; and in the United States, it is used in mustard sauce, cheese, butter, and chips, as a preservative and a colouring agent, in addition to capsules and powder forms. Curcumin has been shown to improve systemic markers of oxidative stress. There is evidence that it can increase serum activities of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD). These benefits are best achieved when curcumin is combined with agents such as piperine, which increase its bioavailability significantly. Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people. In addition, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions.
Nutritional analysis showed that 100 g of turmeric (a tsp of turmeric powder equates 2- 3g) contains 390 kcal, 10 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g calcium, 0.26 g phosphorous, 10 mg sodium, 2500 mg potassium, 47.5 mg iron, 0.9 mg thiamine, 0.19 mg riboflavin, 4.8 mg niacin, 50 mg ascorbic acid, 69.9 g total carbohydrates, 21 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugars, and 8 g protein.
Turmeric is also a good source of the omega-3 fatty acid and α-linolenic acid.
Further health benefits and recommendations
Turmeric is used as an herbal medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, small pox, chicken pox, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments. It is also used for digestive disorders; to reduce flatus, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, and colic; for abdominal pain and distension and for dyspeptic conditions including loss of appetite, postprandial feelings of fullness, and liver and gallbladder complaints. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and carminative actions. For arthritis, dosages of 8–60 g of fresh turmeric root (different dosage for turmeric powder: 1 to 2g of the powder per day) three times daily have been recommended. For dyspepsia, 1.3–3.0 g of turmeric root is recommended.
Turmeric, its essential oils, and oleoresins are generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration. A similar designation for curcuminoids has not yet been published by the Food and Drug Administration. Studies in animals indicate that curcuminoids have relatively low potential for toxicity. In humans, the intake of turmeric powder as high as 8 g/d has apparently been tolerated with only minor adverse consequences, mainly gastrointestinal distress. However, safe doses of more bioavailable formulations have not been established and possibly may be different and substantially less. Thus, more careful documentation in human trials of adverse effects of these novel curcuminoid delivery methods will be compiled.