Turmeric is an orange-yellow spice used in many Asian dishes, as well as for medicinal purposes. Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners today continue to use turmeric for inflammation in the body, and the spice is sometimes used to prevent inflammation from starting in the first place. More scientific studies are needed to back up claims that turmeric for inflammation is truly effective, but it is believed that one of its chemical components, a substance called curcumin, may be responsible for its touted ability to treat inflammation. Uses of the spice include treatments for certain eye inflammations, colitis and osteoarthritis, as well as non-localized types of inflammation.
It is believed that turmeric for inflammation may be beneficial for several reasons. The spice possesses antioxidant abilities that protect the body’s cells, and it also contains substances called volatile oils that contribute to its ability to guard against inflammation. Moreover, curcumin is thought to have the ability to block inflammation-causing substances found in the body called leukotrienes.
Turmeric is a perennial shrub that is indigenous to Africa and India. Its flavor makes it popular in cooking, especially in some mustards and curry powder, and its color has made it useful as a fabric dye. People in Asia have been using this spice for more than 2,000 years, and agricultural historians believe its popularity as a dye came before its use in foods. In India, the spice has been used cosmetically and as an antimicrobial agent. As a paste, it is employed to remove unwanted hair.
Some scientific studies have shown that using turmeric for inflammation gives a protective benefit to the liver, and the popular spice also is believed to have many other beneficial uses. It possesses properties that make it useful against bacteria, fungi, ulcers and maybe some types of cancer. Anecdotal evidence suggests the spice even keeps ants away, and it contains an oil that fights snake venom.
Known also as Curcuma longa, turmeric has been used to treat a number of additional ailments, including colic, bruises, jaundice, flatulence, toothache and menstrual problems. Some studies have shown that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory action is similar to hydrocortisone and some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Unlike those medicines, however, turmeric has not shown any potential for toxicity.
A common synonym for turmeric is Indian saffron, a name that comes from its color, which is very similar to saffron. The spice is obtained from the plant’s root. It is a cousin of the spice ginger, and it tastes somewhat peppery.