Turmeric is ‘Sort-of’ Like Cannabis

History of Tumeric

If you haven’t tried cooking with Turmeric (Curcumae longae) and fresh-cracked Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), you’re missing out! Salivary glands aside, there may be lots of benefits associated with consuming Turmeric. Turmeric has several major chemical components, a number of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, including zingiberene, curcumene, α-, β- and ar-turmerone among others. 5% are curcuminoids, 50–60% of which are a mix of curcumin, monodesmethoxycurcumin and bisdesmethoxycurcumin.  


Representative structures of Curcuminoids

Most modern scientific research has been on curcumin, a curcuminoid component of Turmeric. But one paper looked further. The researchers had a good reason. They noted that the “bioavailability analysis of curcumin evidenced poor absorption, rapid metabolism and excretion impeding its ability to reach the brain in order to exert any potential therapeutic action”. So, they decided to look at what else turmeric has to offer. Their 2012 report published in Epilepsy and Behaviour identified anti-convulsant activity in a Turmeric-derived terpene.

Turmeric has long been used as a traditional medicine in South Asia for the treatment of epilepsy. Researchers looked at how Turmeric impacted larval zebra fish and mouse seizure assays. Their findings were interesting and supported previous findings that curcumin displays anti-convulsive activities, but they showed additional such properties independent of the curcumin. Researchers noted the anti-convulsive properties were seen with just the application of Turmeric oil, which contains terpenoids rather than curcuminoids.

Turmeric oil is mostly composed of α-, β- and ar-turmerone and α-atlantone. The researchers were able to isolate and identify unique anticonvulsant properties with these bisabolene sesquiterpenoids of Turmeric when applied to zebra fish larvae. Intrigued, they continued their tests on the mice and showed “the anti-convulsant properties of Turmeric oil in the zebra fish model were successfully corroborated in the mouse PTZ model”.

What this means for humans has yet to be fully explored. However, we do know that Turmeric is safe for human consumption. It has been used throughout history as a food, dye and therapeutically. Perhaps in the future, it will be used as a modern medicine for certain types of seizures. The researchers supported this idea by noting, “it is currently in our interest to additionally assess the activity of the bisabolene sesquiterpenoids in other models of epilepsy …”.

Adapted from How Turmeric is Sort of Like Cannabis

Extract from the
World Health Organisation Monograph
on Selected Medicinal Plants
Turmeric (Rhizoma Curcumae Longae)

Turmeric’s Organoleptic Properties:

  • Odour, aromatic;
  • Taste, warmly aromatic and bitter;
  • When chewed, colours saliva yellow.

Medicinal Uses:

  • Supported by clinical data – Treatment of acid, flatulent, or atonic dyspepsia.
  • Described in pharmacopoeias and traditional systems of medicine – Treatment of peptic ulcers, pain and inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, diarrhoea, epilepsy, pain and skin diseases.
  • Described in folk medicine, not supported by experimental or clinical data – Treatment of asthma, boils, bruises, coughs, dizziness, epilepsy, haemorrhages, insect bites, jaundice, ringworm, urinary calculi and slow lactation.

Experimental Pharmacology:

  • Anti-inflammatory activity was demonstrated in animal models; Effectiveness in rats was reported to be similar to that of hydrocortisone acetate or indometacin in experimentally induced inflammation. Anti-inflammatory activity appears to be mediated through the inhibition of the enzymes trypsin and hyaluronidase. Curcumin and its derivatives are the active anti-inflammatory constituents. The anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin may be due to its ability to scavenge oxygen radicals, which have been implicated in the inflammation process.
  • Activity against peptic ulcer and dyspepsia; Oral administration to rabbits significantly decreased gastric secretion and increased the mucin contents of gastric juice. Intragastric administration to rats effectively inhibited gastric secretion and protected the gastroduodenal mucosa against injuries caused by pyloric ligation, hypothermic-restraint stress, indometacin, reserpine and mercaptamine administration and cytodestructive agents such as 80% methanol, 0.6mol/l hydrochloric acid, 0.2mol/l sodium hydroxide and 25% sodium chloride (30, 46). The drug stimulated production of gastric wall mucus and restored non-protein sulphides in rats. Curcumin has been shown to prevent and ameliorate experimentally induced gastric lesions in animal models by stimulation of mucin production. The effect of curcumin on intestinal gas formation has been demonstrated in-vitro and in-vivo. Addition of curcumin to Clostridium perfringens of intestinal origin in-vitro and to a chickpea flour diet fed to rats led to a gradual reduction in gas formation.

Clinical pharmacology:

  • Oral administration to 116 patients with acid-, flatulent- or atonic dyspepsia in a randomised, double-blind study resulted in a statistically significant response. Patients received 500 mg (powdered) four times daily for one week. Two other clinical trials which measured the effect on peptic ulcers showed oral administration promoted ulcer healing and decreased abdominal pain. Two clinical studies show curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory. A short-term (two week) double-blind, crossover study of 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed patients receiving either curcumin (1200 mg/day) or phenylbutazone (30 mg/day) had significant improvement in morning stiffness, walking time and joint swelling. The effectiveness of curcumin and phenylbutazone on postoperative inflammation was investigated in a double-blind study. Both produced a better anti-inflammatory response than placebo.
  • Pregnancy: Safety during pregnancy has not been established. As a precautionary measure, should not be used during pregnancy except on medical advice.
  • Nursing mothers: Excretion into breast milk and its effects on the newborn have not been established. Until such data are available, should not be used during lactation except on medical advice.
  • Paediatric use: The safety and effectiveness in children has not been established.
  • Adverse reactions: Allergic dermatitis has been reported. Reactions to patch testing occurred most commonly in persons regularly exposed to the substance or already had dermatitis of the fingertips. Persons who were not previously exposed had few allergic reactions.

Posology (Dosages):

  • Crude plant material, 3–9 g daily;
  • Powdered plant material, 1.5–3.0 g daily;
  • Oral infusion, 0.5–1 g three times per day;
  • Tincture (1:10) 0.5–1 ml three times per day.


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