Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Traditional Indications

Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-hyperproliferative, cholagogue, depurative, diuretic, fumitory, haemostatic, hepatoprotective, stomachic, tonic, vulnerary. Turmeric has been used for many conditions in traditional medicine in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to alleviate asthma and coughs. Many of its traditional uses are supported by scientific evidence. In Ayurvedic medicine, Turmeric to used reduce inflammation. Turmeric is also regarded as a 'rasayana' herb, which is a branch of Ayurvedic medicine and is used to counteract ageing processes.

In Unani medicine, turmeric has been used for conditions such as liver obstruction and jaundice and has been applied externally for ulcers and inflammation. Roasted turmeric has been used as an ingredient of a preparation used to treat dysentery. Turmeric has also been used in tooth powder or paste.
A hot water extract of the dried rhizome taken orally was reputed to slow lactation, regulate fat metabolism, help symptoms of diabetes, diarrhoea and liver diseases, and as a tonic calm the stomach. The fresh juice taken regularly on an empty stomach has been used to prevent stomach disorders. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Turmeric is known as Jiang Huang. Jiang Huang is said to be acrid, bitter, warm and to enter the Spleen and Liver channels. Its main actions are to breaks up Blood stasis and moves Qi and unblocks the channels and alleviate pain. (2)


Curcumin, a major yellow pigment and active component of turmeric, has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. (1)

Curcuma longa has been traditionally used in Asian countries as a medical herb due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory (3) antimutagenic, antimicrobial (4) and anticancer. (5)
Curcumin, the main active constituent of turmeric induces apoptosis (programmed cell death). (6)

Curcumin has been verified as an anti-cancer compound via multiple molecular targets. Its effective mechanisms include cell cycle arrest, inducing apoptosis, suppressing oncogenes, and enhancing tumour suppressor genes. Curcumin inhibits angiogenesis via its ability to inhibit receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) pathways. (7)

Evidence supports the regulation of COX and LOX enzymes by curcumin as the key mechanism for its beneficial effects in preventing various inflammatory diseases. (8)

Curcumin inhibits NF-κβ. The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules. NF-κB has long been considered the “holy grail” as a target for new anti-inflammatory drugs. (9)

Curcumin is a polyphenol in turmeric. Curcumin inhibits key pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-1, IL-6 & TNF-α. (10) Suppression of cytokine release correlates with clinical diseases where a cytokine storm plays a significant role in mortality such as pandemic flu.

The immune-stimulatory & anti-inflammatory activities of Curcuma are in part contributed to its ability to increase Interferon (IFN). (11) Interferons (IFNs) are a group of signaling proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of viruses. IFNs are known as cytokines, molecules used for communication between cells to trigger the protective defences of the immune system that help eradicate pathogens. Interferons "interfere" with viral replication: they activate immune cells, such as natural killer cells and macrophages; they increase host defences by up-regulating antigen presentation by virtue of increasing the expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens.

In a study investigating curcuma longa found that the immune-stimulatory and anti-inflammatory activities are due to Curcumin potent inhibitory effect towards release of PGE2 and IL-12 levels. (12)

The diarylheptanoid curcumin inhibits Phase I while inducing Phase II. (13, 14) Curcumin restores depleted glutathione (GSH) to assist glutathione conjugation. (15)
Curcumin induces nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Nrf2 is a leucine zipper (bZIP) protein that regulates expression of antioxidant proteins thereby protecting against oxidative damage triggered by injury & inflammation. (16) Phase-II enzymes are regulated by Nrf2 which is involved in detoxification of AFB1. Aflatoxins B1 are genotoxic & carcinogenic compounds.

C P450 enzymes are responsible for AFB1 bioactivation. Aflatoxins B1 (AFB1) are contaminants of improperly stored foods; they are potent genotoxic and carcinogenic compounds. Curcumin prevents AFB1-induced liver injury by modulating Phase I & Phase II enzymes. (17)


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6. He Y-J, Kuchta K, Lv X, Lin Y, Ye G-R, Liu X-Y, et al. Curcumin, the main active constituent of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), induces apoptosis in hepatic stellate cells by modulating the abundance of apoptosis-related growth factors. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C2015. p. 281.
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11. Fahey AJ, Adrian Robins R, Constantinescu CS. Curcumin modulation of IFN-β and IL-12 signalling and cytokine induction in human T cells. 2007;11(5):1129-37.
12. Chandrasekaran CV, Sundarajan K, Edwin JR, Gururaja GM, Mundkinajeddu D, Agarwal A. Immune-stimulatory and anti-inflammatory activities of Curcuma longa extract and its polysaccharide fraction. Pharmacognosy research. 2013;5(2):71-9.
13. Muhammad I, Wang H, Sun X, Wang X, Han M, Lu Z, et al. Dual Role of Dietary Curcumin Through Attenuating AFB(1)-Induced Oxidative Stress and Liver Injury via Modulating Liver Phase-I and Phase-II Enzymes Involved in AFB(1) Bioactivation and Detoxification. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2018;9:554-.
14. Krishnaswamy K, Goud VK, Sesikeran B, Mukundan MA, Krishna TP. Retardation of experimental tumorigenesis and reduction in DNA adducts by turmeric and curcumin. Nutrition and cancer. 1998;30(2):163-6.
15. Jagatha B, Mythri RB, Vali S, Bharath MM. Curcumin treatment alleviates the effects of glutathione depletion in vitro and in vivo: therapeutic implications for Parkinson's disease explained via in silico studies. Free radical biology & medicine. 2008;44(5):907-17.
16. NFE2L2 protein that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins. Wikipedia2018.
17. Muhammad I, Wang H, Sun X, Wang X, Han M, Lu Z, et al. Dual Role of Dietary Curcumin Through Attenuating AFB1-Induced Oxidative Stress and Liver Injury via Modulating Liver Phase-I and Phase-II Enzymes Involved in AFB1 Bioactivation and Detoxification. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:554.