Get me a ticket to Turmeric!

Fresh turmeric

Want something that is flavorful AND is good for you?  Well turmeric, an ingredient in many delicious dishes, actually meets the ticket! It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and shown promise in preventing and treating a number of conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

Where is in the world is it from?


Most people are familiar with turmeric as a common staple of Indian curries.  It is grown in a number of locations including Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the West Indies. Fortunately it can be found in the United States in the spice section of almost any grocery store, in health food stores and perhaps even in your own cabinet!

Health Benefits

Ayurvedic medical practitioners have used turmeric for years to treat a variety of ailments including stomach upset, joint and skin disorders and sore throat.

More recently, western medicine has taken a more formal approach to understanding the potential health benefits of turmeric.   Studies have focused specifically on one of the principle ingredients of the spice, curcumin, which gives it the characteristic yellow color.

Turmeric and Cancer

Preliminary studies of curcumin have shown positive effects on the prevention and treatment of cancer. Many of these studies are early and include very small groups of people. The results, however, are promising and further research is in progress.

Persons with high turmeric intake have been shown to have a lower incidence of stomach and prostate cancer.  Curcumin plus resveratrol, another substance found in plants, may have some promise in preventing colorectal cancer.  In addition preliminary studies have shown that curcumin can work in concert with many chemotherapy drugs to enhance treatment of multiple myeloma, prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers.

Other Potential Benefits

With its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin is also being studied in reducing lipids (high lipids are shown to be associated with heart disease). In addition, it may help treat certain eye conditions, chronic pain and numerous other inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis, pancreatitis, arthritis and allergic reactions. In animal studies, curcumin was found to reduce the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.


How to take it

One of the biggest problems with curcumin is that it is not absorbed well by our gastrointestinal tracts. The challenge is trying to find a way to deliver it so that it can be most effective in producing results. The optimal dose and duration of therapy to achieve benefits is still being studied.

Studies that evaluated the potential benefits of turmeric in cancer used varying  doses.

 In fact, some of the studies used quite high amounts (up to 4 grams or more in some cases) for limited periods of time. Doses of 8 grams a day for 3 months have been shown to be safe in humans. However, if you take too much at one time,  it can cause stomach upset.


So how does this translate into how much turmeric to take? There are about 6.8 grams of turmeric in a tablespoon of the powder.  In India, the average daily intake of turmeric is 2-2.5 grams/day (1 and a half tablespoons).

Doses of curcumin have been shown to be acceptable at  0.1-3 mg/kg/day.  Turmeric powder has the highest content of curcumin; in a tablespoon of the spice, there is about 136 milligrams of curcumin. So in a 154 pound adult, that is about 70-210 milligrams or ½ to 1 tablespoon a day. It’s best to divide this amount into 3 doses.  This is a lot of tumeric, but fortunately you can take it in many forms including as a pill, tincture or in some of your favorite foods.  Check out some recipes at the end of the post!

Turmeric can interact with some medicines, such as blood thinners and those taken for diabetes, ulcer and heartburn,  so it is always best to check with your doctor about safe doses and potential interactions.

formsof tumeric

Some common sources of curcumin:

  • Turmeric root
  • Turmeric powder
  • Turmeric capsules
  • Curcumin capsules
  • Tincture of curcumin
  • Curcumin fluid extract
  • Yellow mustard
  • Indian, West Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian and middle eastern dishes, (to name a few)

 The Short and Sweet

Turmeric may have some use in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers including prostate, pancreatic and colon cancer. The exact dose and best method of delivery of turmeric for these positive effects is still being studied.

Indian Meal

Recipes with Turmeric

Eating well has a number of great recipes with turmeric. Check them out on the link below:

Eating Well: Recipes with Turmeric 


Chainani Wu N. Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: a component of turmeric.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

 Chendii D, Ranga RS, Meigooni D et al. Curcumin confers radiosensitizing effect in prostate cancer cell line PC-3. Oncogene. 2004 Feb 26;23:1599-607.

Cheng AL, Hsu CH, Lin JK et al. Phase I clinical trial of curcumin, a chemopreventive agent, in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions. Anticancer Res 2001;21:2895–2900.

Gupta SC. Patchva S. Koh W. Aggarwal BB.  Discovery of curcumin, a component of golden spice, and its miraculous biological activities. Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. 39(3):283-99, 2012 Mar.

Klempner SJ. Bubley G Complementary and alternative medicines in prostate cancer: from bench to bedside?. Oncologist. 17(6):830-7, 2012.

Palacios DA, Miyake M, Rosser CJ. Radiosensitization in prostate cancer: mechanisms and targets. BMC Urol. 2013 Jan 26;13(1):4. doi: 10.1186/1471-2490-13-4.

Schaffer M. Schaffer PM. Zidan J. Bar Sela G. Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 14:588-97, 2011 Nov.

Tayyem RF, Heath DD, Al-Delaimy WK, Rock CL. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55:126-31.


3 Responses to Get me a ticket to Turmeric!

  1. doromarketing January 24, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    I LOVE cooking with turmeric. You just have to be cautious with the stains so wear something you don’t mind getting a little yellow or orange on your shirt.

    • jcblancha January 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks for posting! Good point about the stains. One helpful hint for turmeric stains is washing the stain in water and letting a liquid detergent sit on it for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, dab lemon and white vinegar on the stain then wash, put in sun to let dry until the stain is a pale pink. After-put through its normal wash cycle and the stain should come out easier. But wearing something you don’t mind is the best advice!


  1. Mouthwatering Recipe Ideas from Around the Globe for a Healthier Superbowl Sunday | Whole World for the Whole PersonWhole World for the Whole Person - January 31, 2014

    […] favorite of the good old United States of America, baking chicken wings and adding a little turmeric makes it healthier on the heart and adds in the preventive powers of one of out favorite spices.   […]

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