Turmeric (Curcuma longa, C. domestica) is one of my favorite spices for both its flavor and its amazing health benefits. The rhizomes of this perennial tropical plant have been used as a spice, dye, and medicine for nearly 4,000 years, particularly in India.1
Modern researchers have been intently studying turmeric and its chief active component, curcumin, with more than 3,000 publications written on turmeric or curcumin over the last 30 years.1 Turmeric has been used therapeutically for a wide range of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, chicken pox, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments.2
In my experience, this history of widely varied therapeutic use is often regarded not as a virtue, but as cause for skepticism. Modern clinicians, and particularly specialists, are trained to match specific health conditions with specific pharmaceutical drugs. The concept that a single herbal medicine – in this case, turmeric – could prevent or alleviate a wide variety of conditions seems unlikely from their perspective. This is even further complicated by the fact that turmeric and its active components are not well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and what is absorbed is purported to be rapidly “inactivated.” So how could this one rhizome be of benefit for even a fraction of the conditions it is purported to help?
Research has shown taking supplemental turmeric or curcumin is associated with mitigating symptoms of a wide range of conditions. A small sampling includes: