The Many Benefits of Turmeric


Turmeric is a golden yellow root from which a fine power is minced and used in Indian cooking.  It stains and is even used to color mustard. Its benefits range from anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, to oral health.

The derivatives of turmeric have the ability to not only halt COX2, but NF kappa B and TNF or tumor necrosis factor. This is a powerful three-pronged approach to halt cancer. It has also been shown to suppress STAT3 signal inducer (Kim et al). The STAT3 signal pathway is one way oncologists are interfering with cancer progression (Yue and Turkson). And if you don’t already know, COX2 is upregulated during cancer. COX2 makes inflammatory signals called prostaglandins and NF Kappa-b and TNF both mediate tumors. In fact, NF Kappa-b not only promotes inflammatory molecules, it prevents natural cell death of cancer cells.

The way turmeric works is in its regulation of the calcium ion. It sequesters calcium into its storage places in the cell. In high doses, however, calcium pumps are turned off and calcium floods the cell.  This induces cell death of cancer cells.  This is the activity of turmeric that helps prevent cancer.  Because NF Kappa-b prevents this influx, high doses of turmeric can fight the effects of NF kappa-b and be beneficial to help prevent cancer formation (Phaneuf).

To some extent, turmeric’s anti-cancer properties and anti-inflammatory properties go hand in hand.  This is because it suppresses some of the most notorious inflammatory signalers also inculcated in cancer. Often, the curcuminoids of turmeric are touted as the active compounds but it has been found turmeric whole has the greatest anti-cancer benefit. Doctors are even using turmeric as complementary to chemotherapy treatment. (Kim et al).

But as an anti-oxidant, it is indeed the curcuminoid compounds of turmeric that act as potent free-radical fighters. Specifically, when considering the anti-oxidant capacity of turmeric’s curcuminoid derivatives: curcumin, demothycurcumin, bisdemothycurcumin, curcumin had the greatest capacity in an in vitro study. Anti-oxidant activity too, was greatest by curcumin (Jayaprakasha at al). And not only does turmeric have high anti-oxidant activity, it has low toxicity which makes it a useful tool against atherosclerosis. Data has been shown that daily administration of 20mg of curcumin for 60 days lowered LDL and HDL peroxidation, in vivo (Bosca et al). Injection of the oil, however was found to be toxic in mice (Funk et al).

Turmeric is even used in dentistry. Because of anti-microbial and astringent properties, a review paper sites the use of turmeric as a mouth rinse for instant relief, or to massage the teeth with roasted turmeric powder for pain and swelling.  The paper even suggests a paste made of turmeric, salt, and mustard oil for relief from gingivitis and periodontitis (Chaturvedi).

So, the benefits of turmeric are far reaching.  Not only is it used in cancer treatment, it can help prevent atherosclerosis and act as an oral anti-microbial and astringent.



Janet L. Funk, Jennifer B. Frye, Janice N. Oyarzo, Huaping Zhang and Barbara N. Timmermann. Anti-Arthritic Effects and Toxicity of the Essential Oils of Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010, 58 (2), pp 842–849

Ji H. Kim, Subash C. Gupta, Byoungduck Park, Vivek R. Yadav and Bharat B. Aggarwal. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) inhibits inflammatory nuclear factor (NF)-κB and NF-κB-regulated gene products and induces death receptors leading to suppressed proliferation, induced chemosensitization, and suppressed osteoclastogenesis. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. Volume 56, Issue 3, pages 454–465, March 2012

Peibin Yue, MD PhD and James Turkson, PhD. Targeting STAT3 in cancer: how successful are we? Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs. January 2009, Vol. 18, No. 1, Pages 45-56

G.K. Jayaprakasha, L. Jaganmohan Rao, K.K. Sakariah. Antioxidant activities of curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Food Chemistry. Volume 98, Issue 4, 2006, Pages 720–724

  1. Ramirez Bosca, M. A. Carrión Gutierrez, A. Soler, C. Puerta, A. Diez, E. Quintanilla, A. Bernd, Prof. J. Miquel. Effects of the antioxidant turmeric on lipoprotein peroxides: Implications for the prevention of atherosclerosis. AGE. July 1997, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 165-168

TP Chaturvedi. Uses of turmeric in dentistry: An update. Indian Journal and Dental Research. Year : 2009  Volume : 20 Issue : 1 Page : 107-109.