Curcuma, more commonly known as turmeric, may help treat a variety of different ailments. Healers have used the herb for medicinal purposes for more than 4,000 years. In Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, herbalists value Curcuma as an effective anti-inflammatory agent and wound healer. Although generally considered safe when taken as directed, large doses of turmeric may cause upset stomach or in rare cases, ulcers. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the amount of turmeric found in food is considered safe. People with diabetes or gallstones, individuals taking certain prescription drugs and pregnant or nursing women should not take turmeric supplements without first speaking with their doctor.
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Curcumin stimulates bile production in the gallbladder, which may help improve digestion. The German Commission E, the body of experts who determine which herbs to safely prescribe in the country, endorses turmeric for treating a variety of digestive problems including indigestion, bloating, gas and dyspepsia. The herb may also benefit sufferers of inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis. A study published in 2006 in "Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology" examined patients whose ulcerative colitis was in remission. The patients taking daily turmeric supplements experienced a much lower relapse rate than patients taking a placebo over a period of six months.
Turmeric may provide some benefit to sufferers of osteoarthritis because of its ability to reduce inflammation. In India, healers have used the herb for thousands of years to treat and prevent inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. A study published in 2009 in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" examined patients with knee arthritis taking either Curcuma domestica extract or ibuprofen daily for six weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found that Curcuma domestica worked just as well as ibuprofen for reducing pain caused by arthritis in the knee without any adverse side effects.
Although research is still preliminary, turmeric may help prevent, control or even kill several types of cancer including breast, colon and prostate. A study published in 2001 in the scientific journal "The Prostate," found that curcumin significantly inhibits prostate cancer growth and limit it's spread. Although further human trials are required before doctors can recommend curcuma, the substance appears to have a strong potential for fighting many different cancers. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that the herb may work by stopping the growth of the blood vessels that supply cancerous growths, and its preventative effects may derive from its antioxidant activity, which protects cells from damage.
Herbalists and doctors use the curcuma to treat stomach ulcers, diabetes, bacterial and viral infections, uveitis and atherosclerosis, although scientific research has only just begun to examine the herb's efficacy for treating these ailments. Some of turmeric's traditional, though clinically unproven, uses include treating eczema, endometriosis, tendinitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, halitosis, periodontal disease, heart disease and AIDS.