Scientific name: Curcuma longa, synonym Curcuma domestica; Curcuma aromatica

Other common name(s): Indian saffron, turmeric, turmeric root, the golden spice1

Description: Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, originates from Southeast Asia and is cultivated on a commercial scale, mainly in India.1 Its underground stem, known as a rhizome, serves both culinary and traditional medicinal purposes.1 The stem is ground up into a fine powder and most often used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.1

The term “turmeric” originates from the Latin phrase “terra merita,” translating to “meritorious earth.”2 This name alludes to the bright yellow color of ground turmeric, which bears a resemblance to certain mineral pigments.2 Possessing a warm and slightly bitter flavor, turmeric is a common ingredient used to add taste and color to curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses.3

Throughout history, turmeric held a significant place in Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, and other traditional medical systems throughout Eastern Asia, such as traditional Chinese medicine.1 In Indian culture as far back as 4,000 years ago, it was traditionally employed to address issues related to the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and the digestive system.1

In the present day, turmeric is widely advocated as a dietary supplement to address a range of health conditions, including arthritis (chronic joint inflammation), digestion problems, respiratory infections, allergies, liver disorders, and depression.1 These dietary supplements are formulated from dried rhizomes and generally include a blend of curcuminoids.1 Additionally, turmeric is transformed into a paste for topical application to treat skin-related concerns.1

The vast majority of global turmeric production takes place in India, where the country itself consumes approximately 80 percent of the produced amount.2

Nutrients: Turmeric has bioactive components with medicinal attributes.5 These bioactive agents are referred to as curcuminoids, with the primary and most significant compound being curcumin.5 Curcumin exhibits potent anti-inflammatory properties and serves as a robust antioxidant.5

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon (tbsp) of turmeric powder contains:

  • 29 calories
  • 0.91 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.31 g of fat
  • 6.31 g of carbohydrates
  • 2.1 g of fiber
  • 0.3 g of sugar

That same 1-tbsp serving provides:

  • 26% of daily manganese needs
  • 16% of daily iron
  • 5% of daily potassium
  • 3% of daily vitamin C

Geographic origin: The cultivation of turmeric can be traced back almost 4,000 years to Southeast India and Indonesia, where it both served as a culinary spice and was used in religious festivals as a symbol of prosperity and fertility.2 

It is believed that its presence extended to China around 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica during the eighteenth century.2 In 1280, Marco Polo documented his fascination with the spice, marveling at its resemblance to saffron in terms of color and flavoring.2

Current form of consumption: Turmeric can be consumed as a capsule, powder, tea, or extract.4 

History of use as medicine: Turmeric has been a part of folk medicine across various geographic regions throughout history.2 In Ayurvedic practices, it holds multiple medicinal attributes, including enhancing overall energy, alleviating gas, expelling worms, aiding digestion, regulating menstruation, dissolving gallstones, and relieving arthritis.2 Many South Asian nations used and still utilize it as an antiseptic for wounds, burns, and bruises, as well as an antibacterial agent.2

In Pakistan, turmeric serves as an anti-inflammatory agent and a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort related to irritable bowel syndrome and digestive disorders.2 In Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is used to cleanse and heal wounds by applying it on burnt cloth placed over the wound.2 Indians utilize turmeric to purify blood, treat skin disorders, and even to remove excess hair by applying a paste.2 In certain parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, turmeric paste is applied to the skin of brides and grooms before marriage to enhance skin radiance and ward off harmful bacteria.2

Ayurvedic medicine extensively utilizes turmeric to address respiratory conditions, liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism, and more.2 In traditional Chinese medicine, it is employed to relieve abdominal pain.2 Ancient practices have prescribed turmeric for treating sprains and swelling.2 Both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine value turmeric for its digestive and gas-relieving properties.2 Unani is a type of traditional medicine practiced in South Asia. Practitioners use it to clear phlegm, improve blood circulation, and stimulate bile production to improve digestion of fats.2 It is incorporated into foods to enhance digestion and reduce gas, and taken with milk or water for intestinal issues, colds, and sore throats.2

Current Uses and Scientific Literature Review: 

Note: Before reviewing the literature, it is important to note that many peer-reviewed studies may be biased because of industry-funded research to promote product sales, and a conflict of interest is not always disclosed (see information from biologist and nutritionist Marion Nestle on sponsored research here). In this article, we have done our best not to include any industry-funded studies. As discussed in the Food as Medicine Report (on page 158, specifically), there is a need for more government funding for food as medicine initiatives. 

Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relief: Curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory properties have led to its investigation for conditions like osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune inflammation disease). It is believed to help reduce pain and improve joint function.

  • Calebin A’s Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Mueller et al. (2022) found the compound Calebin A, which is present in turmeric, has a regulatory effect on inflammation in tenocytes (cells in tendons). This regulation is achieved by influencing a signaling pathway involving NF-κB and scleraxis, which are proteins that play roles in immune responses, inflammation, and tendon development. Calebin A may have anti-inflammatory properties in tendons through its effects on specific signaling pathways, specifically for those experiencing tendinitis.

Tyagi et al. (2017) discovered Calebin A stops a process called NF-κB activation, which happens when cells react to different triggers. It does this by preventing a certain part of NF-κB (called p65) from attaching to DNA. When Calebin A stops NF-κB, it causes proteins that cause inflammation to be less active. 

  • Reduced Muscle Inflammation: Faria et al. (2020) gave 28 healthy men 3,500mg of turmeric extract capsules or a placebo for a month before running a half-marathon. As a result, men who took the turmeric capsules showed increased levels of an anti-inflammatory protein called IL-10 and lower levels of myoglobin, a muscle-related protein, when compared to the group who did not take the turmeric extract. The turmeric extract helped to reduce inflammation and muscle strain caused by running. 
  • Generalized Reduction in Inflammation: Li et al. (2019) conducted a review in which it was explained that curcuminoids, aromatic compounds found in turmeric, may have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect on various conditions including atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in arteries), cardiac hypertrophy (enlarged heart due to stress), hypertension (high blood pressure), ischemia/reperfusion injury (inadequate blood pumping by the heart), and complications related to cardiovascular health in diabetes.
  • Pain Reduction: Fattori et al. (2015) discovered that curcumin (a compound from turmeric) reduced pain-like reactions and recruited immune cells quickly, only to the inflammation site. This happened because curcumin increased a protein called Nrf2 and decreased another one called NF-κB. The curcumin was given to subjects under the skin at a dose of 10mg per kilogram of body weight.

Cancer Prevention: Some studies have explored curcumin’s potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent certain types of cancer, although more research is needed to fully understand its effects.

  • Targeting Breast Cancer Cells: San et al. (2022) found that tiny capsules of turmeric oil could make breast cancer treatment more powerful when consumed at a level of 3.6 grams per day.
  • Curcumin and Cancer (Literature Review): Almatroodi et al. (2021) found a growing body of evidence strongly indicates that curcumin possesses the capacity to impede the proliferation of cancer cells, trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis), and influence diverse cellular signaling pathway components.
  • Calebin A and Colorectal Cancer: Burhmann et al. (2019) found Calebin A can counteract processes involving a protein complex (NF-κB) that contribute to the growth, spread, and movement of colorectal cancer cells. This study focused on colorectal cancer triggered by a substance called TNF-β or lymphotoxin, which causes inflammation and cell changes. The findings indicate that Calebin A might have potential to counter these cancer-related processes when applied in dose-dependent amounts.

Apoptosis (cell death) of Colorectal Cancer Cells: The above research group performed follow-up studies in 2020 to investigate whether Calebin A can hinder the aggressive behavior and spread of colorectal cancer cells that are in a cancerous environment. They found that calebin A stops a pathway involving a protein complex called NF-κB, which is associated with inflammation and cancer development.

  • Calebin A and Cancer Treatment: Nair et al. (2019) further researched the effects of Calebin A and colorectal cell death and came to similar conclusions. Calebin A could be used to treat inflammation and prevent the growth of colorectal cancer cells triggered by certain factors, similar to TNF-β. It works by reducing their spread, survival, and growth. This could be a helpful approach against inflammation and colorectal cancer development.

Tyagi et al. (2017) Calebin A, a newly discovered component of turmeric, has the ability to inhibit cancer cell growth by suppressing the activity of NF-κB, a protein complex involved in cell survival and immune responses. Calebin A also makes cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, potentially enhancing the impact of chemotherapy to reduce cancer cell growth.

Cardiovascular Health: Some studies suggest that curcumin might help lower cholesterol levels and improve markers of heart health, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

  • Lowering Triglyceride Levels: Adab et al. (2019) found turmeric consumption led to lower serum triglycerides and higher LDL cholesterol levels in people with high lipid levels (n = 80) when taken for eight weeks at a dosage of 2,100 mg per day.
  • Curcumin Provides Heart Stress Protection (Animal Study): Pulido-Moran et al. (2017) studied rats given turmeric capsules with 5 mg per kilogram or 10 mg per kilogram of body weight each day and found curcumin helped protect the heart from oxidative stress, or an imbalance of oxygen in the body. Regularly taking curcumin lowered blood pressure and increased blood flow in the legs.
  • Blood Vessel Improvement (Animal Study): Boonla et al. (2014) found giving curcumin at a dose of 200 mg per kilogram of body weight for six weeks improved blood vessel function by increasing nitric oxide and reducing oxidative stress.
  • Weight Loss: Sukandar et al. (2010) found that using an extract from garlic and turmeric in people with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia, or high cholesterol levels, led to a noticeable reduction in their body mass index (BMI).

Diabetes Management: Curcumin has been studied for its potential to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

  • Quality of Life Improvement in Diabetic Women: Darmian et al. (2022) studied how exercise and turmeric supplements affect the lives of 42 middle-aged women with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. They found that taking 2,100 mg of turmeric daily (a 700 mg turmeric capsule three times a day) led to a noticeable improvement in reported quality of life when compared to a control group. Researchers measured quality of life through surveys where participants shared their feelings throughout the course of the study.
  • Effectiveness and Safety of Turmeric as Diabetes Treatment (Literature Review): Chattopadhyay et al. (2022) conducted an extensive literature review of 219 articles to assess the safety and effectiveness of using turmeric to treat type 2 diabetes. These articles encompassed 199 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), involving a total of 21,191 participants. All of these trials examined 98 Ayurvedic medicines, including turmeric. Their analyses revealed that across various treatment approaches, fasting blood glucose (FBG) levels were reduced by four to 56 mg/dl. This finding highlights the potential impact of different treatment regimens involving turmeric on managing FBG levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight Loss: Adab et al. (2019) discovered that when adults with type 2 diabetes took 2,100 mg of turmeric daily (700 mg capsules, three times a day) for 8 weeks, they saw a noticeable drop in their body weight and BMI. This suggests that turmeric could potentially help reduce diabetes-related problems and excess weight when used alongside other treatments.
  • Reduction in Fasting Plasma Glucose Levels: Maithili et al. (2015) observed a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose levels among diabetic patients (n=60) who were administered two grams of turmeric daily (four 500 mg capsules per day) for four or eight weeks, compared to a control group.
  • Small Vessel Strengthening: Anupunpisit et al. (2015) discovered that when they gave rats with induced type 2 diabetes a daily dose of 200 mg of curcumin per kilogram of body weight for eight or 12 weeks, the small blood vessels in their hearts, called microvessels, grew in size over both time periods. The curcumin supplementation seemed to help repair and improve the damaged microvessels in the hearts of these rats.

Liver Health: Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are being investigated for their potential to protect the liver and improve liver function.

  • Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Treatment: Jarhahzadeh et al. (2021) studied 64 patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and divided them randomly into two groups. One group received turmeric (two grams per day in capsules) and the other group received a placebo for eight weeks. They checked liver enzymes, lipid profiles, and a molecule called MDA before and after the study to compare the effects between the two groups. After the study, the group taking turmeric showed significant improvements. Their liver enzymes decreased, and they had lower levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and MDA compared to when they started. The placebo group did not show such changes. This suggests that taking turmeric, with its active ingredient curcumin, might help manage NAFLD and lower liver enzyme levels.

Similarly, Navekar et al. (2017) discovered that NAFLD patients (n = 23)  who were given turmeric supplementation at a dosage of 3,000 mg (500 mg capsules taken six times a day)  over 12 weeks observed improvements in glucose indicators and levels of the hormone leptin in their blood, compared to a control group (n = 23). These results suggests that turmeric supplementation could be beneficial in managing the complications associated with NAFLD.

  • Hyperlipidemia Prevention (Animal Study): Wang et al. (2021) took 27 male mice and split them into three groups. One group was fed a normal diet, the second received a high-fat diet, and the third consumed a high-fat diet with added turmeric powder (2.0 percent of the diet). After eight weeks, the mice with turmeric in their diet had notably lower levels of total cholesterol , triglycerides , and LDL cholesterol in their blood compared to the mice fed the high-fat diet without turmeric.
  • Reversing Induced Liver Damage in Rats (Animal Study): Fan et al. (2014) looked at how curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, can help protect the liver from damage caused by reduced blood flow followed by sudden restoration of blood flow in a rat model. They found that rats given curcumin at both 1 mg/kg and 5 mg/kg of their body weight showed a clear improvement in liver damage. This means that curcumin might be helpful in preventing liver damage in situations where blood flow is temporarily disrupted and then restored.

Potential Side Effects: Certain individuals might encounter minor adverse effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, queasiness, lightheadedness, or loose stools.3 Turmeric, while beneficial for digestive health in moderate amounts, can lead to stomach irritation when consumed excessively since it stimulates the production of gastric acid.3 These undesired reactions tend to be more prevalent when turmeric is administered at elevated dosages (more than 3g/day for more than 3 months straight).3

Potential Negative Effects: Those taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin should avoid high doses of turmeric due to potential interactions.3 Turmeric has been associated with the stimulation of contractions, potentially relevant to easing PMS symptoms.3 Pregnant women, however, should avoid turmeric supplements due to its blood-thinning effects.3

Cooking tips/Recipes: Turmeric is used in cooking to add both color and flavor.2 It is typically found in rice dishes, curries, soups and stews, marinades, and in sauces.2

Turmeric never loses its ability to color dishes, but it can lose its flavor over time.2 To keep turmeric potent, it should be placed away from direct sunlight.2 See the following recipes below to learn more about how to use turmeric:

Animal-Based Meals:

Vegetarian Meals:



Learn more:

News articles: 

Peer-reviewed articles: 

Inflammation and Antioxidant Effects:

Cancer Treatment:

Diabetes Treatment:

COVID-19 Treatment:

Other Disease Treatment




Social Media: 





1. 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin. Healthline. Published July 13, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2023.

2. Tyagi AK, Prasad S, Majeed M, Aggarwal BB. Calebin A, a novel component of turmeric, suppresses NF-κB regulated cell survival and inflammatory gene products leading to inhibition of cell growth and chemosensitization. Phytomedicine. 2017;34:171-181. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2017.08.021

3. Pulido-Moran M, Moreno-Fernandez J, Ramirez-Tortosa C, Ramirez-Tortosa Mc. Curcumin and Health. Molecules. 2016;21(3):264. doi:10.3390/molecules21030264

4. Boonla O, Kukongviriyapan U, Pakdeechote P, et al. Curcumin improves endothelial dysfunction and vascular remodeling in 2K-1C hypertensive rats by raising nitric oxide availability and reducing oxidative stress. Nitric Oxide. 2014;42:44-53. doi:10.1016/j.niox.2014.09.001

5. Fattori V, Pinho-Ribeiro FA, Borghi SM, et al. Curcumin inhibits superoxide anion-induced pain-like behavior and leukocyte recruitment by increasing Nrf2 expression and reducing NF-κB activation. Inflamm Res. 2015;64(12):993-1003. doi:10.1007/s00011-015-0885-y

6. Adab Z, Eghtesadi S, Vafa MR, et al. Effect of turmeric on glycemic status, lipid profile, hs-CRP, and total antioxidant capacity in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. Phytotherapy Research. 2019;33(4):1173-1181. doi:10.1002/ptr.6312

7. Chattopadhyay K, Wang H, Kaur J, et al. Effectiveness and Safety of Ayurvedic Medicines in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2022;13. Accessed September 14, 2023.

8. Faria FR, Gomes AC, Antunes A, et al. Effects of turmeric extract supplementation on inflammation and muscle damage after a half-marathon race: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020;120(7):1531-1540. doi:10.1007/s00421-020-04385-7

9. Maithili Karpaga Selvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Sripradha R. Efficacy of Turmeric as Adjuvant Therapy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Ind J Clin Biochem. 2015;30(2):180-186. doi:10.1007/s12291-014-0436-2

10. Buhrmann C, Popper B, Kunnumakkara AB, Aggarwal BB, Shakibaei M. Evidence That Calebin A, a Component of Curcuma Longa Suppresses NF-B Mediated Proliferation, Invasion and Metastasis of Human Colorectal Cancer Induced by TNF-β (Lymphotoxin). Nutrients. 2019;11(12):2904. doi:10.3390/nu11122904

11. San HHM, Alcantara KP, Bulatao BPI, et al. Folic Acid-Grafted Chitosan-Alginate Nanocapsules as Effective Targeted Nanocarriers for Delivery of Turmeric Oil for Breast Cancer Therapy. Pharmaceutics. 2023;15(1):110. doi:10.3390/pharmaceutics15010110

12. IJMS | Free Full-Text | Calebin A, a Compound of Turmeric, Down-Regulates Inflammation in Tenocytes by NF-κB/Scleraxis Signaling. Accessed September 14, 2023.

13. Nieman DC, Cialdella-Kam L, Knab AM, Shanely RA. Influence of Red Pepper Spice and Turmeric on Inflammation and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Overweight Females: A Metabolomics Approach. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012;67(4):415-421. doi:10.1007/s11130-012-0325-x

14. Anupunpisit V, Petpiboolthai H, Khimmaktong W. Microvasculature Improvement of Heart in Diabetic Rat with Curcumin Supplementation. J Med Assoc Thai. 2015;98 Suppl 10:S74-83.

15. Nair A, Amalraj A, Jacob J, Kunnumakkara AB, Gopi S. Non-Curcuminoids from Turmeric and Their Potential in Cancer Therapy and Anticancer Drug Delivery Formulations. Biomolecules. 2019;9(1):13. doi:10.3390/biom9010013

16. Almatroodi SA, Syed MA, Rahmani AH. Potential Therapeutic Targets of Curcumin, Most Abundant Active Compound of Turmeric Spice: Role in the Management of Various Types of Cancer. Recent Patents on Anti-Cancer Drug Discovery. 2021;16(1):3-29. doi:10.2174/1574892815999201102214602

17. Wang M, Wang R, Li L, et al. Quantitative proteomics of plasma and liver reveals the mechanism of turmeric in preventing hyperlipidemia in mice. Food Funct. 2021;12(21):10484-10499. doi:10.1039/D1FO01849C

18. Aggarwal BB. Targeting Inflammation-Induced Obesity and Metabolic Diseases by Curcumin and Other Nutraceuticals. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2010;30(1):173-199. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.012809.104755

19. Buhrmann C, Shayan P, Banik K, et al. Targeting NF-κB Signaling by Calebin A, a Compound of Turmeric, in Multicellular Tumor Microenvironment: Potential Role of Apoptosis Induction in CRC Cells. Biomedicines. 2020;8(8):236. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8080236

20. jarhahzadeh M, Alavinejad P, Farsi F, Husain D, Rezazadeh A. The effect of turmeric on lipid profile, malondialdehyde, liver echogenicity and enzymes among patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized double blind clinical trial. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. 2021;13(1):112. doi:10.1186/s13098-021-00731-7

21. Darmian MA, Hoseini R, Amiri E, Golshani S. The Interactive Effect of Home-Based Aerobic Training and Turmeric Supplementation on the Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetic Women. J Kermanshah Univ Med Sci. 2022;26(1). doi:10.5812/jkums-115917

22. Fan Z, Jing H, Yao J, et al. The Protective Effects of Curcumin on Experimental Acute Liver Lesion Induced by Intestinal Ischemia-Reperfusion through Inhibiting the Pathway of NF-κB in a Rat Model. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2014;2014:e191624. doi:10.1155/2014/191624

23. Turmeric. NCCIH. Accessed August 24, 2023.

24. Navekar R, Rafraf M, Ghaffari A, Asghari-Jafarabadi M, Khoshbaten M. Turmeric Supplementation Improves Serum Glucose Indices and Leptin Levels in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2017;36(4):261-267. doi:10.1080/07315724.2016.1267597

25. Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, eds. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Accessed August 24, 2023.

26. Turmeric: Benefits and nutrition. Published May 24, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2023.

27. TURMERIC: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews. Accessed August 24, 2023.

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