Turmeric – More Than Just a Cold Remedy

Turmeric root (Curcuma longa) has been used for over 4000 years in India as a food spice and cloth dye. Turmeric root has also been one of the important medicinal herbs within Ayurvedic medicine.

Turmeric root is a perennial plant, relative to ginger. It grows in the tropical regions of Southern Asia but majority of Turmeric is grown in India where it is used as a main ingredient in curry. Turmeric root is typically dried and ground into yellow-orange powder.

The active medicinal compound in turmeric is called curcumin. Studies have shown that curcumin has numerous health benefits and that it can help fight infections and even some cancers, reduce inflammation and treat digestive problems.

Curcumin by itself has powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is also able to activate the gene called hemeoxygenase-1 within hippocampus of the brain, which causes the production of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a powerful antioxidant. Laboratory studies made with curcumin and flu viruses have shown that curcumin can reduce the viral replication by over 90% in infected cells and at the same time protect other cells from becoming infected.

Turmeric is available at least as capsules containing powder, fluid extracts, tinctures and ground root. If you want to prevent or treat common cold with turmeric, following doses can be used as basic recommendations for adults:

  • Cut root: 1,5-3 g per day
  • Powdered root: 1-3 g per day
  • Standardized powder (curcumin): 400-600mg, 3 times a day
  • Fluid extract (1:1): 30-90 drops a day
  • Tincture (1:2): 15-30 drops, 4 times a day


Studies have indicated that in general curcumin has a poor bioavailability when consumed orally. However piperine, which is found for instance in black pepper, can act as a bioavailability enhancer. In a study made with human volunteers, curcumin taken with 20mg of piperine increased the absorption of curcumin by 2000%! Thus a low dose of curcumin or turmeric can have greater effect if combined with piperine (or black pepper respectively) than a large dose of curcumin by itself would have. This is the reason why many commercial curcumin products also contain piperine.

Turmeric in food is considered safe and so are curcumin and turmeric supplements as long as they are taken according to recommended doses. Taking large amounts of turmeric for long period of time can cause stomach upset. Herbs like turmeric in general can interact with other herbs, supplements and medications and trigger side effects. Thus it is important to take herbs with care, preferably under the supervision of health care provider.

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Photo credit: tijmen