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Powerful Therapeutic Spices in Medicine

Course Number: 549A

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

ce549 - Content - Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - Figure 1

Turmeric is an ancient spice dating back to 600 BC, used as medicine, a condiment, and in flavoring foods.17 It is a member of the ginger family of herbs, cultivated in south-east Asia.17 The most active component of turmeric is curcumin, which gives the spice its vibrate orange-yellow color.8 Today, turmeric is known for a variety of health promoting properties as well as treatment of inflammatory conditions.17 Curcumin also has a chemopreventive effect on oral precancerous lesions like oral leukoplakia, oral lichen planus and oral fibrosis.6 It is currently being studied in human clinical trials for colon and pancreatic cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.10

Turmeric has blood thinning properties; therefore, patients who take warfarin or Coumadin should not supplement with turmeric.8 Patients with active liver disease or gallstones should also use caution because of turmeric’s potential to stimulate contractions and bile secretions.8 Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not take turmeric due to the lack of safety data available.8

In India, turmeric is one of the most extensively used spices. In the United States, it is used as a coloring agent in cheese, mustard, cereal, soups, ice cream and yogurt. Turmeric has a wide variety of culinary uses. It makes a great addition to legumes of any type while improving their digestibility.8 Mix it into salad dressing, marinade, soups, and smoothies to enhance nutrient density.17