Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology
Journal homepage: http://www.herbmedpharmacol.com
J HerbMed Pharmacol. 2014; 3(1): 5-8.
Turmeric: A spice with multifunctional medicinal properties
*Corresponding author: Mahmoud Raeian-kopaei, Medical Plants
Research Center, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord,
Iran. E-mail: email@example.com
Hamid Nasri1, Najmeh Sahinfard2, Mortaza Raeian3, Samira Raeian4, Maryam Shirzad5,
1Department of Internal Medicine, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
2Medical Plants Research Center, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, Iran
3Isfahan Governer Oce, Isfahan, Iran
4Pharmaceutical Faculty, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
5Department of English Teaching, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Isfahan University, Isfahan, Iran
Medicinal plants have provided a reliable source for
preparation of new drugs as well as combating diseases,
from the dawn of civilization. The extensive survey of
the literature revealed that Curcuma longa L. or turmeric
(from Zingiberaceae family) is highly regarded as a
universal panacea in the herbal medicine with a wide
spectrum of pharmacological activities.
Turmeric is a plant distributed throughout tropical and
subtropical regions of the world. It is widely cultivated
in Asian countries, mainly in China and India. The plant
measures up to 1 m high with a short stem. Turmeric is
an essential spice all over the world with a distinguished
human use particularly among the Eastern people (1).
Apart from the uses as spice, it is used as traditional
medicine in Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh
and Pakistan because of its beneficial properties (2). It
is called turmeric (Zarchooveh in Iran) and has been in
continuous use for its flavoring, and medicinal properties
(3). Current traditional medicine claims its powder against
gastrointestinal diseases, especially for biliary and hepatic
disorder, diabetic wounds, rheumatism, inflammation,
Curcuma longa (Turmeric), belonging to Zingiberaceae family is one of the most useful herbal
medicinal plants. Extensive researches have proven that most of the turmeric activities of the
turmeric are due to curcumin. It has various useful properties with antioxidant activities and is
useful in conditions such as inflammation, ulcer and cancer. It also has antifungal, antimicrobial
renal and hepatoprotective activities. Therefore, it has the potential against various cancer,
diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic and hard curable diseases.
The purpose of this review was to provide a brief summary of the new and current knowledge
of the effects of curcumin. The recently published papers in international cites such as PubMed/
Medline, Science Citation Index and Google Scholar about turmeric were searched. Recent
studies have authenticated the use of turmeric for various diseases especially oxidative stress
induced ones such as cancer, diabetes mellitus and inf lammatory disorders. It also is used as
hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anticoagulant and anti-HIV to combat AIDS. Curcumin, as
a spice, exhibits great promise as a therapeutic agent. It has very low toxicity, too. As the global
scenario is now changing towards the use of non-toxic plant products hav ing traditional medicinal
use, development of modern drugs from turmeric should be emphasized for the control of various
diseases. Further evaluation needs to be carried out on turmeric in order to explore the concealed
areas and their practical clinical applications, which can be used for the welfare of mankind.
A R T I C L E I N F O
Received: 2 March 2014
Accepted: 19 May 2014
ePublished: 1 June 2014
Implication for health policy/practice/research/medical education:
Curcuma longa has the potential against various cancer, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic and
hard curable diseases. Curcumin, as a spice, exhibits great promise as a therapeutic agent. As the global scenario is now changing
towards the use of non-toxic plant products, development of modern drugs from turmeric should be emphasized for the control
of various diseases.
Please cite this paper as: Nasri H, Sahinfard N, Raeian M, Raeian S, Shirzad M, Raeian-kopaei M. Turmeric: A spice with
multifunctional medicinal properties. J HerbMed Plarmacol. 2014; 3(1): 5-8.
A B S T R A C T
Nasri H et al.
Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology, Volume 3, Number 1, June 2014 http://www.herbmedpharmacol.com
sinusitis, anorexia, coryza and cough (4). The coloring
principle of turmeric is called curcumin, which has
yellow color and is the essential component of this
plant (4). Recent studies have authenticated turmeric as
anticancer, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, anti-
inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-fertility, anti-venom,
hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anticoagulant, etc.
The plant has also shown to possess anti HIV activity to
combat AIDS. These medicinal properties of turmeric
caused it to be considered as a spice with multifunctional
Phytocomponents of turmeric
Turmeric contains 69.4% carbohydrates, 6.3% protein,
5.1% fat, 3.5% minerals, and 13.1%. moisture. The
essential oil (5.8%) obtained by steam distillation
possesses Sesquiterpenes (53%), zingiberene (25%),
a-phellandrene (1%), sabinene (0.6%), cineol (1%),
and borneol (0.5%). Curcumin (3–4%) is responsible
for the yellow colour, and comprises curcumin I (94%),
curcumin II (6%) and curcumin III (0.3%) (Figure 1) (5).
Demethoxy and bisdemethoxy derivatives of curcumin
have also been isolated from turmeric. Curcumin has a
melting point at 176–177 °C; forms a reddish- brown salt
with alkali and is soluble in acetic acid, ethanol, alkali,
ketone and chloroform (2).
Presence of tumerone a, tumerone b, curzerenone,
curdione, mono- and di-demethoxycurcumin have been
reported in the rhizomes. The essential oils of leaves of C.
longa have been analyzed by Gas Liquid Chromatography
and reported to contain linalool, caryophyllene,
geraniol, α-pinene, β-pinene, sabinene, myrcene,
α-phellandrene, 1,8-cineole, p-cymene, C8-aldehyde, and
methyl heptanone (6).
A novel sesquiterpene, (6S)-2-methyl-6-(4- hydroxyphe-
nyl-3-methyl)-2-hepten-4-one, two new bisabolane ses-
quiterpenes, (6S)-2-methyl-6- (4-hydroxyphenyl)-2-hep-
ten-4-one, (6S)-2- methyl-6- (4-formylphenyl)-2-hepten-
4-one, and two calebin derivatives, 4"-(4"'-hydroxyphenyl-
propenoate and 4"-(4"'-hydroxyphenyl)- 2"-oxo-3"-bute-
Figure 1. Various curcumins
nyl-3-(4'-hydroxyphenyl- 3'-methoxy)-propenoate were
isolated along with five known bisabolane sesquiterpenes
from turmeric (7).
Phytopharmacology of turmeric
Turmeric has several therapeutic and pharmacologic
activities. The following is the most important
phytopharmacology and therapeutic properties
Curcumin has been shown be a powerful scavenger
of oxygen free radicals. Its antioxidant activity is
comparable to vitamins C and E (4). It can protect lipids
or hemoglobin from oxidation. It can significantly
inhibit the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)
such as H2O2, superoxide anions and nitrite radical
generation by activated macrophages. Its derivatives, bis-
demethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin also have
antioxidant activities (4).
Curcumin pre-treatment has been shown to decrease
ischemia-induced oxidative stress and changes in the heart
(5). An in vitro study measuring the effect of curcumin on
an inducible stress protein, resulted in enhanced cellular
resistance to oxidative damage (6).
Cardiovascular and anti-diabetic eects
Turmeric exerts cardio-protective effects mainly by
antioxidant activity, lowering lipid peroxidation, anti-
diabetic activity and inhibiting platelet aggregation. A
study of 18 atherosclerotic rabbits given 1.6-3.2 mg/kg/day
of turmeric extract demonstrated decreased susceptibility
of LDL to lipid peroxidation, in addition to lower plasma
cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Turmeric effect on
cholesterol levels may be due to decreased cholesterol
uptake in the intestines and increased conversion of
cholesterol to bile acids in the liver. Inhibition of platelet
aggregation by turmeric constituents is thought to be via
potentiation of prostacyclins synthesis and inhibition of
Both turmeric decreases blood glucose level in diabetic
rats. Turmeric also decreases complications in diabetes
mellitus. Further clinical studies need to be performed in
this area to discover optimal dosages for cardiovascular
protection and lipid or glucose lowering activities (7).
Inammatory and edematic disorders
Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory with specific
lipoxygenase- and COX-2- inhibiting properties. In
vitro, and in vivo studies have demonstrated its effects
at decreasing both acute and chronic inflammation.
Curcumin has inhibited edema at doses between 50
and 200 mg/kg, in mice. A 50% reduction in edema
was achieved with a dose of 48 mg/kg body weight,
with curcumin nearly as effective as cortisone and
phenylbutazone at similar doses. In rats, a lower dose
Turmeric: A medicinal spice
Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology, Volume 3, Number 1, June 2014
of 20-80 mg/kg decreased paw inflammation and
edema. Curcumin also inhibited formaldehyde induced
arthritis in rats at a dose of 40 mg/kg and demonstrated
no acute toxicity at doses up to 2 g/kg/day (8).
In an animal study, rheumatoid arthritis induced by
streptococcal cell wall, intraperitoneal injection of
turmeric extract containing 4 mg total curcuminoids/kg/
day for four days prior to induction of arthritis, inhibited
joint inflammation in both acute (75%) and chronic (68%)
phases. To test the efficacy of an oral preparation, a 30-
fold higher dose of the curcuminoid preparation, given to
rats four days prior to arthritis induction, reduced joint
inflammation by 48% (9).
Turmeric exerts several protective effects on the
gastrointestinal tract. Turmeric also inhibits ulcer
formation caused by stress, alcohol, Indomethacin,
reserpine, pyloric ligation, increasing gastric wall mucus
in rats subjected to these gastrointestinal insults. It also
inhibits intestinal spasm and increases bicarbonate,
gastrin, secretin and pancreatic enzyme secretion. An
open, phase II trial performed on 25 patients with
endoscopically-diagnosed gastric ulcer, given 600 mg
powdered turmeric five times daily, showed completely
healed in 48 percent of patients. No adverse reactions
or blood abnormalities were recorded (7). Curcumin
reduced mucosal injury in mice with experimentally-
induced colitis. Ten days prior to induction of colitis, with
1, 4, 6-trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid, administration of
50 mg/kg curcumin resulted in a significant reduction of
diarrhea, neutrophil infiltration and lipid peroxidation
in colonic tissue. Also all indicators inflammation were
reduced and the symptoms improved (10). In rat models
of experimentally-induced pancreatitis, curcumin was
able to decrease inflammation. In cerulean or ethanol
induced pancreatitis, curcumin was also able to inhibit
the inflammatory mediators, resulted in amelioration
in disease severity as measured by histology, pancreatic
trypsin, serum amylase, and neutrophil infiltration (11).
Numerous animal studies have explored turmeric influence
on the carcinogenesis. Several studies have demonstrated
that curcumin is able to inhibit carcinogenesis at three
stages: angiogenesis, tumor promotion, and tumor
growth. In two studies of colon and prostate cancer,
curcumin was shown to inhibit cell proliferation and
tumor growth. Turmeric and curcumin are also able to
suppress the activity of several common mutagens and
carcinogens. The anticarcinogenic effects of turmeric
and curcumin have been related to direct antioxidant and
free-radical scavenging effects, as well as their ability to
indirectly increase glutathione levels, thereby aiding in
hepatic detoxification of mutagens and carcinogens, and
inhibiting nitrosamine formation. Curcumin has also
been shown to inhibit the mutagenic induction effect of
UV rays (8-12).
Turmeric has been shown to inhibit the growth of a variety
of bacteria, pathogenic fungi, and parasites. A study
of chicks infected with Eimera maxima demonstrated
that diets supplemented with 1% turmeric resulted in a
reduction in intestinal lesion and improved weight gain
(11). In another animal study, topically application of
turmeric oil inhibited dermatophytes and pathogenic
fungi in guinea pigs at 7 days post-turmeric application
(13). Curcumin has also been found to have moderate
activity against Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania
major organisms (14).
Hepatoprotective and renoprotective eects of turmeric
Turmeric has been shown to have renoprotective
and hepatoprotective properties similar to silymarin.
Animal studies have demonstrated renoprotective and
hepatoprotective effects of turmeric from a variety
of hepatotoxic insults. The hepatoprotective and
renoprotective effects of turmeric are mainly due to its
antioxidant properties, as well as its ability to decrease the
formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines (3-5). Turmeric
and curcumin have also reversed fatty changes, biliary
hyperplasia and necrosis induced by aflatoxin production
(3). Sodium curcuminate, a salt of curcumin, also exerts
choleretic effects by increasing biliary excretion of bile
salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin, as well as increasing bile
solubility, therefore, possibly preventing and treating
Alzheimer and turmeric
Epidemiological studies have suggested reduced risk of in
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in patients with long-term use
of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which
may show the role of brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s
disease. It also has been shown with increased cytokines
and activated microglia. It has been shown that curcumin
has NSAID like activity and reduces oxidative damage. To
evaluate whether it could affect Alzheimer-like pathology,
the effect of 160 ppm and 5000 ppm doses of dietary
curcumin on inflammation, oxidative damage, and plaque
pathology were tested. Both doses significantly lowered
oxidized proteins and IL-1, a proinflammatory cytokine
usually elevated in the brains of these mice. In view of its
efficacy and apparent low toxicity, this spice has promise
for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (15,16).
This action is due to its antioxidant activity. A large part
of the lipids of the surface of the skin is unsaturated.
Therefore, they are easily attacked by free radicals. The
ultraviolet rays of the sun penetrate the skin and accelerate
the damage caused by these radicals. Prolonged exposure
Nasri H et al.
Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology, Volume 3, Number 1, June 2014 http://www.herbmedpharmacol.com
to these radiations may degrade the lipids thus causing
deterioration in the texture of the skin. In laboratory
studies, extract of turmeric was shown to be effective in
suppressing inflammation and protecting the epidermal
cells from the damages caused by ultraviolet B radiation
(7). Curcumin, in small doses of turmeric has been
shown to protect against chromosomal damage caused by
gamma radiation (7).
Turmeric is the unique source of various types of chemical
compounds, which are responsible for a variety of
activities. Although, a lot of experiments have been done
on turmeric, however, more investigations are needed to
exploit other therapeutic utility to combat diseases. A drug
development programme should be undertaken to develop
modern drugs. Although crude extracts from leaves or
rhizomes of the plant have medicinal applications, modern
drugs can be developed after extensive investigation of its
pharmacotherapeutics, bioactivity, mechanism of action,
and toxicities, after proper standardization and clinical
trials. As the global scenario is now changing towards
the use of non-toxic plant products having traditional
medicinal use, development of modern drugs from C.
longa should be emphasized for the control of various
diseases. Further evaluation needs to be carried out on
C. longa in order to explore the concealed areas and their
practical clinical applications, which can be used for the
welfare of mankind.
Authors contributed equally.
Conict of interests
e authors declared no competing interests.
Ethical issues (including plagiarism, misconduct,
data fabrication, falsication, double publication or
submission, redundancy) have been completely observed
by the authors.
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