Curcuma longa L.


Amomum curcuma Jacq., Curcuma brog Valeton, Curcuma domestica Valeton, Curcuma ochrorhiza Valeton, Curcuma soloensis Valeton, Curcuma tinctoria Guibourt, Kua domestica Medik. [Illegitimate], Stissera curcuma Giseke [70]

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kunyit
English Turmeric
China Yiichin, Jiang Huang, Yu Jin
India Haridra, Harita, Pita, Haladi, Ranjana,Yamira, Yamini, Yoshitapriya, Yuvati (Sanskrit); Haldi (Hindi); Saffron
Indonesia Kunir
Arab Kurkum
Tibet Skyer-rtsa
Japan Ukon
Italy Curcuma
Germany Gelbwurzel kurkuma
France Curcuma
Others Kondin, Temu kuning, Goeratji, Temu kunyit or Tius [1]

General Information


Curcuma longa is a Latin name derived from Kourkoum, a word of Arabic origin meaning saffron. C. longa is also the name of the species chosen by Linnaeus in 1737 for this kind of monocotyledonous herbs of India. C. longa is a perennial herb 60-100 cm high with a short stem and large sheathing leaves. The leaves are in the form of elliptic blade, in tufts up to 1 m or longer. The stem is as long as the blade, tapering at the base. The flowers are yellow, gathered into a spike 10-15 cm long, peduncle  15 cm long and concealed by the sheathing petiole. When it blossoms the light green bracts become violet. [1]

The commercial turmeric consists of several rhizomes. The primary rhizomes are ovate, oblong, pyriforme, denominated ‘bulb’ or ‘round’ turmeric. The secondary rhizomes are more cylindrical and 4-7 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide, called ‘fingers'. The external rhizome is yellowish or yellowish brown. The internal rhizome is yellow or yellow orange. The odor is aromatic and the taste is warm and somewhat bitter. The transverse sections of the rhizomes present the thin walled, parenchyma cells which are scattered in vascular bundles. The epidermis consists of cubical cells and is thin walled. Under the epidermis there are few layers of cork, scattered oleoresin cells with walls, and contains orange-yellow globules of a volatile oil or amorphous resinous masses. The cork cambium is developed from the subepidermal layers. The cork is composed of four to six layers of parenchymatous cells. The parenchyma of cortex and pith contains curcumin and is rich in starch grains. The cells of the ground-tissue are filled with many starch grains. Vascular bundles are scattered and are collateral, with phloem toward the periphery and few xylem elements. The vessels have mainly spiral thickenings and only a few have reticulate and annular structure. [1]

Plant Part Used


Chemical Constituents

Turmeric contains 1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione (1.11%) called curcumin, feruloyl-(4-hydroxycinnamoil)-methane (0.86%) called desmethoxycurcumin, bis-(4-hydroxycinnamoil)-methane (1.62%) called bisdesmethoxycurcumin, 2-(hydroxymethyl)anthraquinone, 1,7-bis-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1-heptene-3,5-dione called dihydrocurcumin, diferuloilmethane, feruloil-p-cumaroilmethane, di-p-cumaroilmethane, α-turmerones, β-turmerones, α-pinene, β-pinene, camphene, limonene, terpinene, caryophyllene, curcumene, linalool, borneol, isoborneol, eugenol, cineole, curdione, curzerenone, curlone, campesterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, cholesterol and fatty acids [1].

Traditional Uses

Turmeric has a long tradition of use in Chinese medicine and the Indian traditional health care system (Ayurvedic), particularly as an anti-inflammatory agent and for the treatment of flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, hematuria, haemorrhage, and colic. C. longa is one of the traditionally used plants having antioxidant properties among herbalists and indigenous healers. C. longa has been reviewed for its historical, etymological, morphological, phytochemical and pharmacological attributes. People living in north India on the mountains use this plant to protect the skin against the sun rays [1]Rhizome of C. longa is one of the most common spices for its special taste and colour. In fact the powder of this plant is used for many Hindu rituals especially in wedding ceremonies where women use it to make a beauty-spot on the forehead. [1]

In West Africa and South Asia, C. longa  is used to treat cough, fever, inflammation, palpitation, eczema, itching, measles, chicken pox, vascular disorders, high blood pressure,  liver and urinary diseases [62]. Nepalese use C. longa as a household remedy where the powdered rhizome is considered to be stimulating, carminative, purifying, anti-inflammatory, and anthelmintic. The rhizome mixed with alum is also topically used as a paste to wounds, bruises, inflamed joints, and sprains. Current traditional Indian medicine uses C. longa to treat biliary disorders, anorexia, cough, diabetic wounds, hepatic disorders, rheumatism and sinusitis [2].

Preclinical Data


Contraceptive activity

Male albino rats fed orally with C. longa aqueous and 70% alcoholic extract for 60 days (500 mg x kg (-1) x day (-1)) showed a reduction in sperm motility and density in both groups. C. longa is suspected to have a contraceptive effect to the male albino rats [3].   

Cardioprotective activity

The cardioprotective potential of C. longa in the ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) model of myocardial infarction (MI) was evaluated using Wistar rats and this effect resulted from the suppression of oxidative stress and MI produced after I/R was significantly reduced in the C. longa treated group [4]. Oral administration of C. longa extracts to 24 male rabbits reduced erythrocytes and liver microsome membranes in vitro susceptibility to oxidation. The extract also may had preventative effects against atherosclerosis in the rabbit’s blood and liver  caused by a high fat and cholesterol diet [5].  

Antihypertensive activity

The hypotensive potential of C. longa was evaluated in normotensive rats by testing using the mean arterial pressure and heart rate after administration of the herb. As a result, the underlying mechanism for hypotension was reported due to the herb’s role involving calcium influx pathways [63].

Anti-inflammatory activity

Curcumin or diferuloylmethane, a yellow pigment from C. longa, is used as spice and food colouring. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It exerted beneficial effects in experimental colitis induced by 2, 4, 6-trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid in mice, a model for inflammatory bowel disease [6].

The efficacy of curcuminoids in C. longa in inhibiting the hepatic microvascular inflammatory response elicited by lipopolysacharide was demonstrated using BALB/C mice. It may be used as a natural alternative anti-inflammatory agent [7].     

Antioxidant activity

Cotreatment of C. longa ameliorated selenium-induced damage in Wistar rat lens by reducing lipid peroxidation and levels of xanthine oxidase enzyme. The supplementation also enhanced superoxidase dismutase and catalase enzyme activities and managed to delay opacities formation in the lens [8].

Dietary curcumin administration (2%, w/v, 30 days) to male ddY mice increased the activities of glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and catalase in the liver and kidney. It also exhibited an increase of activity in phase II-metabolizing enzymes. The extracts showed protective effects against chemical carcinogenesis and electrophilic toxicity [9].

Supplementation of curcuminoids reduced oxidative stress and attenuated the development of fatty streaks in male New Zealand white rabbits fed with a high cholesterol diet [10].     

Antihyperlipidaemic activity

Guinea pigs fed a high cholesterol diet along with 4% w/w powdered Curcuma domestica showed a decrease in all lipid composition levels of the aorta, the serum triglyceride level, and reduced cholesterol deposition in the aorta. However no such effects were seen in animals fed with C. domestica in a cholesterol free diet [11].

Oral administration of curcumin to rats caused a reversal in lipid peroxidation, brain lipids and produced an enhancement of glutathione, revealing that the antioxidative and hypolipidaemic action of curcumin is responsible for its protective role against ethanol induced brain injury [12]. A study on the inhibiting effects of an ethanol-aqueous extract obtained from rhizomes of C. longa on LDL oxidation susceptibility and plasma lipids in atherosclerotic rabbits revealed decreased susceptibility of LDL to lipid peroxidation and lowered the total plasma cholesterol [5].     

Antitumour activity

Previous reports showed that curcumin has antitumour promoting effects. The molecular mechanism of curcumin was seen in mouse skin tumourigenesis. The curcumin showed suppression of cyclooxygenase-2 expression by inhibiting extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity and NF-kappaB activation [13].

Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) treated female Wistar rats receiving 1% or 5% turmeric before, during and after carcinogen exposure showed decrease in gamma glutamyl transpeptidase positive foci measuring >500 or >1000 micron and decrease in NDEA-induced focal dysplasia and hepatocellular-carcinomas [14].

Curcumin administration produced suppressive effects on NDEA induced altered hepatic foci in rat liver, based on the restoration of the normal levels of the enzymes glutathione S-transferase and g-glutamyl transferase [15]. Oral administration of curcumin at 200 mg/kg or 600 mg/kg effectively suppressed NDEA-induced liver inflammation hyperplasia, cellular gene products and cell-cycle-related proteins in rats, thus playing a potential role in prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma [16].

It has been indicated that curcumin inhibits N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine (NMBA) which induced esophageal carcinogenesis in male F344 rats. Curcumin works by suppressing the increased of cell proliferation induced by NMBA in esophageal epithelium when given during post initiation as well as initiation phase [17].

7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMAB) induced mammary tumours were reduced by turmeric in ethanol extract [18]. Limtrakul (1997) also showed that supplementation of 1% curcumin in diet managed to reduce DMBA induced tumours in mice [19]. Turmeric or curcumin in hamster diets or applied locally for 14 weeks along with incident of DMBA also managed to reduce DNA adducts on the targeted site [20].

Curcumin, has been shown to inhibit tumour formation in diverse animal models and diarylheptanoids which are structurally related to curcumin obtained from Alpinia oxyphylla, which also had antitumour promoting potential [21].     

Radioprotective agent activity

The hepatobiliary clearance of 99m Tc-Mebrofenin radiopharmaceutical in D-galactosamine induced hepatic rats was studied. The turmeric extract treatment increased the hepatic uptake of radioactivity and thus showed an improved liver function by detoxification [22].     

Healing activity

Pretreatment with curcumin, ameliorated injury caused to mice due to whole-body gamma-radiation by enhancing the rate of wound contraction, decreasing mean wound healing time, and increasing synthesis of collagen, hexosamine, DNA, and nitric oxide. It also improved fibroblast and vascular densities [23]. Topical application of curcumin in dexamethasone-impaired cutaneous healing in a full thickness punch wound model in rats has an enhanced healing effect. It also has differential regulatory effect on transforming growth factor-beta 1, its receptors, and nitric oxide synthase [24]. The in vitro and in vivo skin absorption of curcumin was investigated after application of enhancers like terpenes, flavonoids and cholestanol using Wistar rat as an animal model. This research revealed that terpineol, produced the highest trans-epidermal water loss. The results showed that skin disruption and inflammation did not necessarily correspond to the enhancing efficiency of the enhancers [25]. Curcumin (difeurloylmethane) from Curcuma rhizomes showed faster closure of wounds and increased collagen, TGF-B1 and fibronectin [26].     

Osteoarthritis activity

The results from 25 dogs with osteoarthritis treated with P54FP, an extract of Curcuma domestica and C. zanthorrhiza, and 29 dogs with osteoarthritis treated with placebo showed that there was no significant difference between the groups in terms of the peak vertical force of the affected limb [27].     

Antidepressant activity

Aqueous extracts of C. longa had showed antidepressant effects in vivo in immobility reduction in the tail suspension test and the forced swimming test in mice. It works by inhibiting the brain monoamine oxidize A at dose 140 mg/kg and monoamine oxidize B at dose of 560 mg/kg [28]. Another study reported that C. longa has a role in reducing the serum of corticotropin-releasing factor which will increase the monoamine neurotransmitter levels making it an effective antidepressant drug [64].     

Antidiabetic activity

Administration of turmeric and curcumin to Alloxan induced diabetic albino rats reduced the blood sugar, Hb, glycosylated hemoglobin levels and the oxidative stress. Consumption of curcumin was more effective than whole turmeric [29].     

Antithrombotic activity

A study on five medicinal plants indigenous to Africa i.e. Azadiractha indica, Bridelia ferruginea, Commiphora molmol, Garcinia kola and C. longa was conducted on experimental thrombosis in mice. Antithrombotic effects of the extracts of these plants were seen with Commiphora molmol exhibiting the maximum effect [30].     

Antimutagenic activity

The antimutagenic potential of curcumin at 100 & 200 mg/kg b.w. was evaluated using an in-vivo chromosomal aberration assay. This assay used Cyclophosphamide in Wistar rats that showed no significant induction in chromosomal damage or change in mitotic index after curcumin was supplemented [15].    

Antiplatelet properties

Platelet aggregation that was induced by two compounds such as collagen and arachidonic acid was reported to be inhibited by C. longa that is more effective than aspirin with no effect on the platelet activating factor [65].

Antispasmodic activity

Curcuminoids produced a smooth muscle relaxation effect on isolated guinea-pig ileum and rat uterus by receptor-dependent and independent mechanisms. This showed that curcuminoids have antispasmodic activities [31].   

Anti-inflammatory activity

Glutathione S-transferase (GST) induced by 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene CDNB was greatest (1.5 fold) in rats fed with 25 to 50 mg/kg curcumin and weaker at 1 or 500 mg/kg levels. These results suggest that induction of enzymes involved in the detoxification of the electrophilic products of lipid peroxidation may contribute to the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities of curcumin [32]. Mother's milk can pass turmeric and curcumin effects to mice pups. These compounds manage to increase hepatic glutathione S-transferase (GST) and cytochrome P450 in the mice pups [33].

Cognitive activity

Behavioural trial on rats induced with swim stress conditions reported to improve in terms of memory and ability to cope with stress after consuming C. longa which affects the serotoninergic system activity [66].

Renoprotective agents activity

Pretreatment with the bioflavonoids, quercetin or curcumin, showed a reduction in ischemia-reperfusion damage to kidneys in rats [34]. Kidney damage in streptozotocin-induced diabetic Wistar rats was reduced by 0.5% curcumin in the diet for 8 weeks [35].     

Analgesic activity

The phytochemical analysis of Curcuma zedoaria rhizomes grown in Brazil revealed that the chemical composition was similar to that grown in other countries and that curcumenol exhibited potent analgesic activity when evaluated in writhing, formalin and capsaicin models of pain in mice [36].     

Antiasthmatic activity

Curcumin at 20 mg/kg body weight is effective in improving the impaired airways features in the ovalbumin-sensitized guinea pigs as measured by a non-invasive technique, constant-volume body plethysmography [37].

The monocytes from ethanol-treated rabbits showed a lesser attachment to collagen but those animals treated with curcumin and ethanol showed a higher affinity to collagen.  Curcumin treatment caused an alteration in the level of attachment of monocyte to collagen due to ethanol-induced stress [38]. A low level of curcumin (92 mg/g of body weight) reduced lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced nitric oxide synthase in livers by 50-70%. Macrophage production of iNOS mRNA was reduced in a concentration-dependent manner by 1-20 µM of curcumin [39].       

Chemopreventive agent activity

Preneoplastic aberrant crypt foci induced by 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride (DMH) in mice were reduced by 0.01% fucoxanthin, 0.05% lutein or 0.5% tetrahydrocurcumin but not by 0.5% curcumin. These suggest tetrahydrocurcumin has a chemopreventive effects against colon carcinogenesis [40]. Another study reported that C. longa has a role in peripheral blood mononuclear cells proliferation and cytokine formation which makes it an effective chemopreventive supplement [67].

Reversible antifertility activity

Mice tested with rhizome extract of C. longa for 56 days showed improvement in spermatogenesis and fertility by playing a role at the tubules [68].

Antiviral activity

C. longa was tested with various liver cells analysis whereby its efficacy in inhibiting the production of hepatitis B virus surface antigens which will reduce the  hepatitis B virus replication through p53 protein mechanism [69].


Essential oil from the leaves C. longa was insecticidal in both contact and fumigant toxicity assays. At concentration of 40.5 mg/g food, the oil totally suppressed progeny production of test insects of lesser grain borer, rice weevil and red flour beetle [41].

Administration of 0.2 or 1% of turmeric ethanol extract for 14 days to mice showed hepatotoxicity. Mice are more vulnerable to turmeric-induced hepatotoxicity than rats [18]. Consumption of 0.2%, 1.0%, 5.0% of dietary turmeric or 0.05% and 0.25% of ethanol extract for 14 days, doses reported to be cancer preventive in human, were found to be hepatotoxic in mice. The dietery turmeric contributes to coagulative necrosis and a zone of regenerating parenchymal cells [42]. Singh (1998) reported that administration of 2% curcumin in the diet of female mice for 14 days effected the liver enzymes where epoxide hydrolase and glutathione S-transferase (GST) activities double while EROD (preferentially catalysed by P450 1A1) decreased [43].

Administration of turmeric oleoresin to pigs at 60, 296 and 1551 mg/kg for 102-109 days increased the weight of the liver and thyroid at all doses. The highest dose group contributed to poor weight gain, pericholangitis, thyroid hyperplasia and epithelial changes in the kidney and bladder of the pigs [44].

Acute dosages of 0.5, 1.0, and 3 g/kg body weight and chronic dosage of 100 mg/kg/day of ethanolic extracts of the C. longa rhizomes caused poor weight gain, changes in the heart and lung weights, and reduced the levels of white and red blood cells [45].

A study of Phase I clinical trial of curcumin in 25 patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions revealed that it was not toxic to humans up to 8,000 mg/day when taken orally for 3 months and can be used in the chemoprevention of cancer [46].

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

Satoskar (1986) reported that curcumin provided better anti-inflammatory response compared to placebo [47]. Furthermore, ethanol extract of curcumin or a curcumin ointment provided symptomatic relief in patients with external cancerous lesions [48]. Oral administration of curcuma oil in 9 healthy volunteers revealed that there was no clinical, haematological, renal or hepatic-toxicity [49]. During hepatic arterial infusion of embolized curcuma aromatic oil in 32 primary liver cancer patients when compared to transcatheter artery chemoembolization (TACE) revealed that curcuma oil was superior to TACE with longer survival time and milder myelosuppression [50].

Curcumin showed healing properties for peptic ulcers in a clinical trial involving 45 patients with peptic ulcer symptoms. They received 2 capsules (300 mg) of turmeric 5 times daily. Absence of ulcers was seen in 48% (12 cases) after 4 weeks and 76% (19 cases) after 12 weeks of treatment [51]. Curcumin along with seven other herbs in an herbal eye drop was well tolerated by patients with various ophthalmic disorders and no side effects were observed in a multi-centre clinical trial [52]. The efficacy of curcumin on chronic anterior uveitis and recurrences following treatment in 18 patients are comparable to corticosteroid therapy which is presently the only available standard treatment for this ophthalmic condition [53].

The addition of 1 µM curcumin to blood from healthy volunteers during an in vitro study revealed that curcumin is able to reduce the lipopolysaccharide-induced cyclooxygenase-2 protein levels and concomitant prostaglandin E(2) product by 24% and 41%, respectively [54]. An Ayurvedic formulation containing Curcumin, when evaluated by double-blind study in 20 patients of rheumatoid arthritis revealed pain relief, decreased morning stiffness, Ritche articular index and joint score, drop in erythrocyte sedimentation rate [55]. A randomized, double-blind trial of 116 patients with dyspepsia found 87% improvement with curcumin, only 53% improvement in placebo group [56].

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions:

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation 

Age Limitations 

Neonates / Adolescents 
No documentation

No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

Curcumin has been reported to suppress tumour initiation, promotion and metastasis. The anticancer potential of curcumin stems from its ability to suppress proliferation of a wide variety of tumour cells, down-regulate transcription factors NF-kappa B, AP-1 and Egr-1. This herb also is capable to down-regulate the expression of COX2, LOX, NOS, MMP-9, uPA, TNF, chemokines, cell surface adhesion molecules and cyclin D1. Curcumin has also been able to down-regulate growth factor receptors (such as EGFR and HER2) and inhibit the activity of c-Jun N-terminal kinase, protein tyrosine kinases and protein serine/threonine kinases. The dose-limiting toxicity at doses up to 10 g/day in human clinical trials indicated that curcumin has enormous potential in the prevention and therapy of cancer (57).


Interactions with drugs

Curcumin decomposed 90% in 30 min (to trans-6-(4'-hydroxy-3'-methoxyphenyl)-2,4-dioxo-5-hexenal, vanillin, ferulic acid) in 0.1 M phosphate buffer and serum-free medium at pH 7.2 at 37°C. Decomposition is fastest in neutral-basic pH but slower in blood (58).

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

The interaction of0.5 g of ground C. longa  rhizome with resin of Psidium guajava, Bergenialigulata (Wall.) (Saxifragacea), honey, Sesamum indicum, and an unknown resin when mixed together and orally administered once daily  is a cure for blood purification [2].

The same amount of C. longa is also mixed with Orchis incarnata L. (Orchidaceae), Battis masala (a mixture of 32 spices), honey, Citrus aurantifoliaSesamum indicum, and shellac and put on the inner and outer side of the patient’s hand, from where he/she eats it for menstrual and abdominal problems [2]



No documentation

Case Reports:

The clinical efficacy of curcumin at 375 mg at 3 times/day orally for 6-22 months in eight patients with idiopathic inflammatory orbital pseudotumours, was reported. Four out of five patients who completed the study recovered fully with no side effects (59).

Submucous fibrosis patients taking 600 mg turmeric oil mixed with 3 g turmeric ethanol extract per day for 3 months orally had a decreased number of micronucleated cells both in exfoliated oral mucosal cells and in circulating lymphocytes (60). Forty cases of anal fistula were treated with an Ayurvedic remedy, Kshara Sutra, via insertion of a thread impregnated with milk of Euphorbia neri-folic and powder from rhizomes of C. longa which resulted with 95% cure rate (61).


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