Medical Benefits of Turmeric

by Sharon Perkins

About Sharon Perkins

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.


Turmeric, an Asian spice that gives curry its yellow color, is also used as an herbal medicine. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, may have value in treating a number of medical conditions, but clinical studies are lacking. Do not take turmeric without discussing its use first with your medical practitioner, particularly if you have a serious medical condition.

Stomach Problems

Turmeric is part of the ginger family. Like ginger, turmeric may help settle an upset stomach. Turmeric has also been used to treat stomach ulcers. However, people with gallbladder disease should not take turmeric because it may worsen the condition. Taking high doses or taking the supplement long term could also worsen stomach problems, causing nausea, diarrhea or indigestion. The dose suggested by MedlinePlus is 500mg four times a day for stomach upset.


Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has shown several benefits in laboratory testing that could benefit people with cancer. Curcumin induced apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells grown in the lab. In animal studies, curcumin inhibited that growth of cancer cells from the stomach, liver and colon as well as oral cancers. Ongoing studies are evaluating curcumin as an anti-cancer agent in pancreatic cancer as well as breast and prostate cancer. Turmeric ointment applied to skin cancers may reduce itching and odor. Do not use this herb to treat cancer without your doctor’s approval.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Turmeric appears to reduce inflammation and may have value as an anti-inflammatory in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. In a study of 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, taking 1200mg daily of curcumin was as effective as taking 300mg per day of phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, for reducing morning stiffness and joint swelling.


In an Indian study conducted by the King George’s Medical College and reported in the 1999 issue of “Phytotherapy Research,” curcumin was as effective as corticosteroids in treating uveitis, an inflammatory eye condition. Since corticosteroids have serious side effects, unlike curcumin, the supplement may have value in treating uveitis, B. Lal of the Department of Ophthalmology concluded. Two groups took curcumin, with one group taking just curcumin and the other taking curcumin plus anti-tubercular drugs to treat a positive tuberculosis test. During the three year follow-up period, 55 percent of the group that took curcumin alone experienced a recurrence of the disease compared to 36 percent in the group that took curcumin along with an anti-tubercular drug. Both groups had similar vision loss.

Photo Credits:

  • Turmeric in Blue Bowl: 3 image by Leena Damle from

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or