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Turmeric (Ayurvedic medicine): Uses, side effects and more

Team AckoMay 23, 2024

Turmeric, known as curcumin, holds a special place in Indian culture, where it's valued for its vibrant colour and potent health benefits. This spice, extracted from the Curcuma longa plant, has been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Its remarkable properties, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal effects, make it a go-to remedy for various health issues. 

In Indian kitchens, turmeric adds not just flavour but also its signature golden hue to dishes, from aromatic curries to comforting teas. Its versatility and therapeutic qualities have made it a beloved ingredient, deeply connected with the Indian culinary and wellness traditions.  Read ahead and explore the various health benefits, types, side effects and frequently asked questions associated with Turmeric (TMC).





Health benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with many health benefits, which are as follows.

1. Pain relief

It contains the compound curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Studies have found that it can be effective in relieving symptoms related to arthritis, joint and muscle pain, and other inflammatory conditions.

2. Improved digestion

It has been used for centuries as a natural digestive aid. Studies have found that it can improve digestion and reduce the symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and gas.

3. Improved cardiovascular health

It has positive effects on cardiovascular health due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood flow. Studies have also found that its antioxidant properties can reduce oxidative stress and prevent cell damage.

4. Cancer prevention

Studies have found that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric help protect against certain types of cancer. It can reduce the growth of cancer cells.

5. Improved brain health

Turmeric has been found to have positive effects on brain health and cognitive function. Studies have found that its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation in the brain and protect brain cells from damage.

6. Builds strong immunity

It contains curcumin, which builds strong immunity and combats viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. It also reduces inflammation in the body and improves overall health.

7. Helps fight depression

It has been found to fight depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and can reduce the symptoms of depression.

Turmeric plant characteristics

Turmeric, revered for its vibrant hue and distinctive shape, belongs to the rhizomatous ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Originating from tropical South Asia, particularly India, it thrives in warm, moist climates. With its long, oblong leaves and reaching heights of 3–4 feet, individual turmeric plants are harvested annually for their tuberous rhizomes.

These rhizomes, whether consumed fresh or dried and ground into a golden powder, are the prized part of the plant. With as many as 133 identified species of Curcuma globally, each with its local monikers, turmeric has been cherished for its medicinal properties throughout history.

In Northern India, it goes by the Sanskrit name "haridra," while in other regions, it's dubbed "Indian saffron" due to its striking yellow tint. Alternatively, it's often known simply as "yellow root."

Its active compound, curcumin, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a staple in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. From soothing digestive issues to reducing inflammation and even potentially combating certain diseases, turmeric's medicinal prowess is widely acknowledged.

In cuisines worldwide, turmeric lends its golden touch, not only enhancing flavour but also adding a vibrant pop of colour to dishes. Whether incorporated into curries, rice dishes, or beverages like golden milk, its earthy flavour and bright hue make it a versatile ingredient.

Turmeric's significance extends beyond the kitchen; it's used in religious ceremonies, skincare routines, and even textile dyeing. Its rich cultural heritage and diverse applications underscore its status as one of nature's most cherished gifts.

As global interest in holistic wellness and natural remedies continues to grow, turmeric's legacy as a symbol of health and vitality endures, connecting communities across continents.

Is Turmeric a herb?

Turmeric, often mistaken for a root, is actually a rhizome, an underground stem of the Curcuma longa plant. Like ginger, it's classified as a herb and boasts potent health benefits, historically used for its medicinal properties, making it a valuable addition to cuisines and wellness practices worldwide.

Types of Turmeric 

Turmeric is available in two forms: fresh Turmeric root and powdered Turmeric.

1. Fresh Turmeric 

Fresh Turmeric root is naturally harvested from the Turmeric plant and it imparts a warm, slightly bitter flavour to dishes. Its root can be easily recognised by its gold-coloured flesh and brown skin. It is sold whole in the produce section of the grocery store. When cooking with fresh TMC, it is important to peel and grate the root before adding it to the dish. Doing this will help the TMC better release its flavour and aroma.

2. Powdered Turmeric

Powdered Turmeric is made from dried and grounded TMC and is used most commonly for its bright orange-gold colour. It is the most commonly used form of TMC and is found in the spice section of the grocery store. It is used to add colour and flavour to dishes, and can also be used as a natural food colouring. The powdered form of TMC is more potent than fresh, so using smaller amounts is suggested.

Ayurveda and Turmeric 

Turmeric, central to Ayurvedic principles, balances vata, pitta, and kapha doshas but can aggravate pitta and vata if over-consumed. Its bitter taste and heating post-digestive effect aid digestion while benefiting blood and lymph tissues. It energises the liver, muscles, immune system, and skin, embodying divine energy in Indian culture. 

Used in bridal rituals for a radiant glow, it's also revered in yogic traditions for supporting ligaments and energetic centres, symbolising prosperity and success when crafted into likenesses of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.

For adults, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for TMC is between 1 to 4 grams per day. However, more studies are needed to determine the exact amount for optimal health benefits. There is no set dosage for children as the safety and efficacy of taking TMC has not yet been established in this age group. 

Further, as with many herbal remedies, it is best to start with small amounts and gradually increase the dosage as desired. Some may experience minor side effects such as indigestion at higher doses, so it is vital to work up to the desired dosage slowly. 

Precautions and warnings

In addition to following the recommended dosages, it is also essential to talk to a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen, as TMC may interact negatively with certain medications such as Talinolol, Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), Antidiabetic drugs, Warfarin, Tamoxifen, Norfloxacin, etc.

It has also not been studied enough to be considered safe for pregnant or nursing women, so it is best for these individuals to avoid taking it altogether.

Whole Turmeric root vs. Curcumin extract

Modern research on turmeric delves into whether it's more effective to consume the whole herb or a curcumin supplement extracted from it. Traditional practices like Ayurveda have long utilised turmeric in various forms, while recent studies highlight curcumin as the key active ingredient. However, curcumin's low bioavailability poses a challenge, as it's often excreted or metabolised before reaching target organs. Piperine, found in black pepper, was initially paired with curcumin to enhance absorption, but concerns about toxicity and interactions with medications arose.

An alternative, BCM-95 CG, utilises other components of turmeric to enhance curcumin's bioavailability. This patented formula addresses pure curcumin extracts' limitations by incorporating additional turmeric root compounds. Initial studies suggest that these non-curcuminoid components are crucial in facilitating curcumin absorption. This research underscores the importance of considering whole herb formulations and innovative approaches to maximise the health benefits of turmeric.

Side effects of Turmeric

Below is a detailed list of potential side effects of Turmeric.




Stomach upset 



Allergic reactions 

Skin irritation 

Liver damage 

Low blood sugar levels 

Interaction with certain medications 

Traditional uses

Turmeric holds a revered place in folk medicine across various cultures, with diverse applications reflecting its wide-ranging medicinal properties. In Ayurvedic practices, it's esteemed for strengthening the body's energy, aiding digestion, regulating menstruation, and even dissolving gallstones. South Asian countries utilise it as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent for wounds and skin conditions.

In India, turmeric paste is used to remove hair and enhance the skin's glow, especially in pre-wedding rituals. It's also incorporated into sunscreen formulations and face creams. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine prescribe turmeric for respiratory ailments, liver disorders, and rheumatism. 

It's valued for improving digestion, stimulating bile production, and alleviating intestinal disorders. Unani medicine employs turmeric to expel phlegm, improve blood circulation, and alleviate colds and sore throats. Whether ingested with foods or applied topically, turmeric continues to be valued for its diverse therapeutic benefits across ancient and contemporary healing practices.

Ways to incorporate Turmeric into your diet

Here’s how you can include TMC in your diet. 

It can be added to curries and other savoury dishes to add flavour and colour.

Turmeric can also be used to make tea or hot drinks. Simply add a teaspoon of ground Turmeric to 8 ounces of boiling water and let steep for 5 minutes.

Adding a teaspoon of it to a glass of warm water can help to improve digestion and reduce inflammation.

This spice can be added to smoothies as a powder or liquid extract.

The science behind Turmeric's benefits

The active ingredient in Turmeric is curcumin, a polyphenol compound with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed to be responsible for many of the beneficial effects that TMC has on the human body. Clinical research has shown that it may be effective in treating a range of conditions, from indigestion to diabetes, and even cancer.

It is a potent antioxidant, meaning it can help protect cell membranes from free radicals, which can cause cell damage and result in various illnesses. The antioxidant activity of curcumin helps reduce inflammation and protect the body from oxidative stress. This has been linked to numerous health benefits, from improved cardiovascular health to better longevity.

Common myths about Turmeric

Turmeric is a renowned spice known for its unique flavour and impressive health benefits. But it has some myths you should be aware of.

Myth 1: Turmeric is a miracle ayurvedic cure

One of the most common myths about Turmeric is that it is a miracle cure-all. While it does have many health benefits, it is not a miracle cure. It can aid in digestion and reduce inflammation, but it is not a substitute for medical care. 

Myth 2: Turmeric is easy to digest

Another common myth about Turmeric is that it is easy to digest. Unfortunately, this is not true. Studies have shown that TMC can cause stomach upset and digestive distress in some people. So it is best to talk to your doctor before taking it.

Myth 3: Turmeric is a quick fix

Some people believe that taking it can provide quick relief from symptoms of illnesses and diseases. However, research has shown that TMC works best when taken regularly over an extended period of time. Taking it once or twice will not provide the same results as taking it every day.

Myth 4: Turmeric is harmless

It can have negative side effects if taken in too high of doses. Supplements containing high levels of TMC can cause nausea, diarrhoea, and kidney stones. It is imperative to talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of Turmeric.

Frequently asked questions

Here is a rundown of queries along with their answers related to Turmeric.


How do I use Turmeric in cooking?

Turmeric is an easy and versatile ingredient that can be added to a variety of dishes. It is commonly used in dishes such as curries, stir-fries, salads, soups, and stews. TMC can also be used to make tea or mixed into smoothies. It can be used both fresh or dried, although the dried form is more often used in recipes.

What are the health benefits of Turmeric?

It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may reduce inflammation in the body. It may also help decrease the risk of certain cancers and reduce the symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. TMC may also play a role in reducing levels of “bad” cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and improving brain function.

Is Turmeric safe for pregnant women?

It is not recommended for pregnant women to take Turmeric in large doses. Although TMC is considered safe for most pregnant women in small doses. It is important to always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements. 

Who should not use Turmeric?

Turmeric may not be safe for people who have gallbladder problems, stomach ulcers, or bleeding disorders. It may also interact negatively with certain medications, so it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any Turmeric-based supplements.

Is Turmeric good for the heart?

Some studies indicate that Turmeric may reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which may lower the chances of heart disease. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Can Turmeric be used as first aid?

Turmeric can be used as a first aid treatment for minor cuts and scrapes. The antiseptic properties of this spice can reduce inflammation and prevent infection. TMC can also be used as a natural pain reliever and to treat joint pain, muscle pain, and headaches.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions. Note that Turmeric is also written as TMC in this article.


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