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A member of the ginger family, Turmeric is a superfood and a spice which has been shown to have the most amazing healing properties in countless research studies and quite rigorous, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Curcumin is the active ingredient (curcuminoid) extracted from the turmeric plant. And, yes, turmeric is the same spice used in curries! It is the roots of the plants that are used. So, just to be clear – turmeric and curcumin are different things. Turmeric is the yellow powder but curcumin is the active ingredient found within turmeric.

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years by many cultures as a medicinal herb and a traditional food in cooking, particularly in India and the Middle East. Ayurvedic medicine, particularly, has used turmeric to treat a wide range of illnesses from heartburn and gut issues to bronchitis, lung infections, headaches, diabetes, colds and cancer. It is such a fragrant spice! And it is the most beautiful bright yellow colour. It is warming, bitter, and peppery with a mild scent reminiscent of ginger. The pure forms of turmeric powder have very high concentrations of Curcumin. Which is what we want if we are using it in a medicinal sense.

One of curcumin’s most important properties is it’s anti-inflammatory action. Chronic inflammation plays a part in many disease processes including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions such as osteo arthritis and fibromyalgia. Because curcumin is such a great anti-inflammatory compound it can match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs in long term chronic disease processes because the active ingredients target multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway. (Weil, 1997)

Curcumin has the following properties:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-cancer agent – may help to keep free-radicals within the body in check
  • anti-depressant
  • anti-platelet
  • rich in nutrients that support good health including fibre, manganese, potassium, iron, copper and vitamin B6.
  • Antioxidant rich, supporting the body to increase its own levels of natural antioxidants such as glutathione, confirmed by the results of many research studies.
  • Infections, swellings, bites and cuts can be treated with turmeric paste
  • supports liver and heart health
  • indicated for peptic ulcer, helicobacter pylori infections, dyspepsia, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and topically for chronic skin disorders (Bone, 2007)

In a recent study undertaken by researchers at the Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Gujarat, India it was shown that curcumin showed potential in anti-depressant activity. The objectives of this trial were to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Results showed that this study provided the first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders. (Sanmukhani, 2014).

If you are interested, PubMed has a raft of interesting studies into the use of turmeric and curcumin.


Bone, K. (2007). The Ultimate Herbal Compendium. Warwick: Phytotherapy Press.

Sanmukhani, J. S. (2014). Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder - a randomised controlled trial. Pytotherapy Review, 28z(4):579-85.

Weil, A. (1997). Spontaneous Healing. St Ives: Clays.

By Joanna Loveys BNatMed HbT

Joanna Loveys
Joanna Loveys