Turmeric – Know What Herbs Do What

Latin Name – Curcuma longa

Turmeric - Know What Herbs Do What

Botanical Illustration of Curcuma longa from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1887


Turmeric, a shrub related to ginger, is grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and Africa. Known for its warm, bitter taste, turmeric gives curry its distinctive bright yellow color. Turmeric’s finger-like underground stems (rhizomes) are peeled and dried to make a powder and are used in capsules, teas, or liquid extracts. Turmeric is also commonly used to color other food products such as mustard and cheese. It should not be confused with Javanese turmeric.


Traditionally turmeric has been used as an herbal remedy to aid digestion and liver function, relieve arthritis pain, and regulate menstruation and has been applied directly to the skin for eczema and wound healing.


Today, turmeric is used as an herbal remedy in the hope of improving conditions such as heartburn, stomach ulcers, and gallstones. Turmeric is the subject of research into whether it can help to reduce inflammation.


There is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.


Preliminary findings from animal and laboratory studies suggest that a chemical found in turmeric—called curcumin—may have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, but these findings have not been confirmed in people.


NCCAM-funded investigators are studying the active chemicals in turmeric and their effects—particularly anti-inflammatory effects—in people to better understand how turmeric might be used for health purposes.


Side Effects and Cautions Summary

Turmeric - Know What Herbs Do What


  • High doses or long-term use of turmeric may cause indigestion.
  • In animals, high doses of turmeric have caused liver problems.
  • People with gallbladder disease should avoid using turmeric, as it may worsen the condition.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care.  Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.




  • Turmeric. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on December 27, 2006.
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) and curcumin. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on December 28, 2006.
  • Turmeric root. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:379–384.


For More Information


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse


The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Using Dietary Supplements Wisely



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Web site: nccam.nih.gov
E-mail: info@nccam.nih.gov Contact NCCAM


NIH Office of Dietary Supplements

Web site: ods.od.nih.gov


NIH National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Turmeric Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-turmeric.html


Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Turmeric fact sheet, Created March 2007, Updated June 2008


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