Alternative Medicine

How can turmeric be used for therapeutic purposes?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Turmeric is an Indian spice that is used as an ingredient in foods, such as curry and mustard, and in both traditional and alternative medicine. In the latter category, turmeric can function as an anti-inflammatory, and it can also treat various medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research shows that turmeric may become a promising treatment for both Alzheimer's and cancer.

    Every time you breathe, free radicals are introduced to your body. Free radicals -- molecules with unpaired electrons -- are very unstable. A free radical molecule either disposes of an electron or grabs one from another molecule to stabilize itself [source: Health Check Systems]. This causes a chain reaction of molecules grabbing electrons from other molecules (a process known as oxidation) and damaging the body's cells. One ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is an effective antioxidant that stabilizes free radicals and stops the oxidation. Although oxidation occurs naturally -- and is, in fact, necessary for life -- curcumin can slow it down so there is less cell damage.

    Turmeric is also effective at treating bladder infections. A bladder infection is an often painful condition caused by bacteria, most often E. coli -- the same bacteria that causes most cases of food poisoning. When these bacteria enter the bladder, they proliferate very quickly, causing the bladder to become inflamed. Because turmeric is an efficient anti-inflammatory, researchers believe it can stem production of NF kappa-B, which is responsible for bladder inflammation [source: WHFoods]. (Other alternative treatments that could help with a bladder infection include uva ursi, goldenseal and echinacea for the infection; and marshmallow root and couch grass for pain relief.) Turmeric can also be used to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

    You'd have to take an extremely large amount of turmeric to cause any negative side effects, but there are still cautions to heed. It's possible to suffer allergic reactions, so you should test the spice before you ingest it. (Rub some on a small bit of skin and see if a rash develops.) For those undergoing chemical treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes, turmeric may increase the medication's potency, which is dangerous. It can also interact with medicines, herbs and dietary supplements, so ask your doctor or pharmacist before ingesting turmeric. People suffering from biliary obstruction, blood-clotting problems, sensitive stomach and ulcers should be cautious with turmeric. Women who are pregnant should also use it with care.

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