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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - Uses, Health Benefits, Dosage, Medicinal Properties

curcuma longa natural herbs

English: Turmeric
Hindi: Haldi
Sanskrit: Haridra

In the 16th century it was known as Crocus indicus, Turmeracke and Curcuma and Oioscorides originally referred to it as Cyperus. The name comes from kurkum, the Arabic name for these plants. There are several varieties, of which Bengal turmeric is considered best for dyeing silk and wool. The orange-yellow robes of Buddhists are often dyed with it. It is considered to be auspicious for Hindus and is a part of all religious occasions.


It is native to south Asia, especially India, but is cultivated in many of the warmer regions of the world. It is found in all states of India but particularly in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

Botanical description

It is a perennial, stemless herb, reaching up to 1.5 m in height, with large, pale green, elongated and tufted leaves (Plate 22). The rhizome is short, branched and bright yellow within. The pale yellow flowers are present in dense, cylindrical inflorescences, 10-15 cm long, which develop in the centre of the leaves.

Parts used

Rhizomes, leaves Traditional and modem use It is used as a general tonic and blood purifier and as an antiinflammatory agent and analgesic in arthritis and rheumatism and for the common cold. It finds a particular use in diseases of the liver such as jaundice and as a cholagogue and has also been used as an anodyne, antimalarial, antiepileptic, aperitif, carminative, diuretic and vermifuge. Externally it can be applied to insect bites and wounds as an antiseptic.

Ethnoveterinary usage

The rhizome of the plant is used as an application for abscesses, ulcers, ticks, castration wounds, bleeding, eye disorders and fungal diseases. It is also used to treat diarrhoea, rheumatism, intestinal worms in poultry, constipation, udder infection and swollen teats, sprains, coughs and colds in ruminants and poultry, jaundice. The rhizome is used in digestive disorders including E. coli bacillosis, glossitis, threadworm, indigestion, as well as irregular growth of teeth, holes in the hard palate, loss of appetite and colic. It has been used in respiratory disorders, swelling in the throat, tonsillitis, leeches in the nostrils, asthma, pneumonia and renal disorders such as polyurea. Other minor indications are lumbar and compound fractures, haemorrhagic septicaemia, rinder pest, sprain, haematuria, anthrax and baldness.

Major chemical constituents

Curcumin, the main active principle, is present as 2-5 % dry weight in the rhizome. Curcumenone, curlone, bis-desmethoxycurcumin, bis-(para- hydroxy-cinnamoyl) methane, L-a-curcumene, cyclocurcumin, curcumenol, curdione, curzerenone, dehydroturmerone, dihydrocurcumin, eugenol, turmerin, turmerone, turmeronol and others are present.


More than 20 components have been identified from the leaf oil of Curcuma langa, of which the major monoterpenes are a-phellandrene, 1 ,8-cineole, p-cymene and ?-pinene. Others are a-terpinene, y-terpinene and terpinolene.


Ukonans A,B,C and D.


Zingiberene, bisabolol, germacrone, sabinene and others.


Arabinose, ascorbic acid, a and y-atlantone, ortho and p-coumaric acid, phytosterols, etc.

Medicinal and pharmacological activities

Antiallergic activity: Antiallergic activity in Curcuma extract has been reported.

Antiinflammatory activity: Antiinflammatory activity has been exhibited by several fractions.s In carrageenan-induced rat paw oedema, the volatile oil at a dose of 1.6 mUkg exhibited activity comparable to that of phenylbutazone at 100 mg/kg" Isolated.curcumin also showed significant activity in carrageenan-induced rat paw oedema, equivalent to phenylbutazone; however, it was only half as potent in chronic models. Clinically, patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were subjected to a short-term double-blind trial where curcumin was compared with phenylbutazone. A significant improvement in symptoms was observed with curcumin, although phenylbutazone was more potent, probably because it also has analgesic action. In a postoperative inflammation model for evaluating antiinflammatory activity, curcumin was found to have greater activiry than phenylbutazone or placebo in a double. blind clinical trial.

Antimicrobial activity: The essential oil showed activity against Gram-negative bacteria and pathogenic fungi at a dilution of 1 :32.9 The alcoholic extract and curcumin inhibited the growth of Gram-positive bacteria in several in vitro studies.

Antimutagenic activity: Antimutagenic activity has been observed for C. longa extract and the isolated curcumins in a number of assays,' for example against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)an thracene- ind uced mutagenesis in Salmonella typhimurium TA 98. The most active was the isomer curcumin III. A para hydroxy group in the benzene ring seems to be essential and additional hydroxyl groups add to the activity."'?Curcumin also showed a dose-dependent inhibition of the in vitro mutagenicity of cayenne extract and capsaicin.

Antioxidant activity: Various extracts of the rhizome are active as antioxidants and the curcuminoids are the main active compounds.' Curcumin was the most potent when tested against air oxidation of linoleic acid and showed better activity than dl-a-tocopherol at the same concentration." Another antioxidant principle is a heat-stable protein isolated from the water extract; it has an approximate molecular weight of 24000 Da.'2 Three curcuminoids from turmeric, namely curcumin, demethoxy curcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin, were found to protect PC12 rat phaeochromocytoma and normal human umbilical vein endothelial cells from?-amyloid (1-42) insult, as measured by the 3- [4,5-dimethylthiazol- 2-yl] - 2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide reduction assay. Oxidative stress induced by ?-amyloid is a well-established pathway of neuronal cell death in Alzheimer's disease.

Antispasmodic activity: Curcumin exhibited antispasmodic action.

Antiulcer activity: Ethanolic extracts of C. longa were given to rats with ulceration induced by hypothermic restraint stress, pyloric ligation, indomethacin and reserpine. The extract showed significant antiulcer action, thought to be by increasing gastric mucus and restoring non-protein sulfhydryl content in the stomach.

Antiviral activity: Curcumin showed inhibitory activity against purified human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase.

Hepatoprotective activity: Curcumin and turmeric were tested against CCI., aflatoxin-B 1, paracetamol, iron and cyclophosphamide-induced liver damage in the mouse, rat and ducklings. Administration over 10 days was found to be protective. C. longa also prevented Cel.-induced liver damage when given in combination with Phyllanthus niruri and Eclipta alba. Elevated levels of lipids in the liver and serum bilirubin were decreased to normal but an increase in levels of serum triglycerides, pre-?-lipoproteins and cholesterol was noted, together with levels of glycogen.

Hypoglycaemic activity: A 50% ethanolic extract of the rhizome produced a lowering of blood sugar (by 37.2% and 54.5% at 3 and 6 hours after administration) in alloxan-diabetic rats. When given together with Momordica charantia and Phyllanthus emblica (all in powder form), it exhibited an even more pronounced antidiabetic action.

lmmunostimulant activity: Ukonans A, B, C and D, glycans isolated from a hot water extract of C. longa, exhibited reticuloendothelial system-potentiating activity in a carbon clearance test Another immunostimulant polysaccharide, similar to bacterial lipopolysaccharide, has also been isolated.

Antiasthmatic activity: Oral administration of the volatile oil was found to be clinically effective in cases of bronchial asthma.'! A protective effect by curcumin (200 mg/kg for 7 days) on rat lung, against toxicity induced by cyclophosphamide, has been observed.

Hypocholesterolaemic effects: A clinical trial carried out on 16 patients in China showed that administration of an extract equivalent to 50 g/day of rhizome for 12 weeks lowered plasma cholesterol levels by 49 mg/dl and triglyceride by 62 mg/dl. This therapeutic efficacy was almost equivalent to clofibrate. Another study on 90 subjects showed the reduction of cholesterol and triglycerides in nearly all cases. Both studies also showed an amelioration of the symptoms of angina pectoris.

Safety profile

Safe for oral use as per Commission E monograph. The use is contraindicated in biliary obstruction, duodenal and gastric ulcers. Use with caution during pregnancy. It can cause contact allergy; in one case a positive patch test was observed which was most intense at 48 hours. The maximum tolerated dose of a 50% ethanolic extract of rhizome was 250 mg/kg and the LOso was 500 mg/kg when given IP to adult mice. The oral LOso in mice, however, was more than 2.0 g/kg.


  • Infusion: 5-10 ml
  • Powder: 1-4 g

Ayurvedic properties

  • Rasa: Tikta (bitter), katu (pungent)
  • Guna: Laghu (light),
  • ruksha (dry)
  • Veerya: Ushna (hot)
  • Vipaka: Katu (pungent)
  • Dosha: Balances tridosha

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In the 16th century it was known as Crocus indicus, Turmeracke and Curcuma and Oioscorides originally referred to it as Cyperus. The name comes from kurkum, the Arabic name for these plants. There are several varieties, of which Bengal turmeric is considered best for dyeing silk and wool. The orange-yellow robes of Buddhists are often dyed with it. It is considered to be auspicious for Hindus and is a part of all religious occasions. Read more

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