Turmeric, the bright-orange root so frequently used in the cuisine of India and Asia, has been a revered cooking ingredient for centuries. Modern research, however, is also delving into its incredible array of health-promoting benefits. According to National Institutes of Health, “Today, turmeric is used as a dietary supplement for inflammation; arthritis; stomach, skin, liver, and gallbladder problems; cancer; and other conditions.” 1
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial herbaceous plant from the Zingiberaceae family, the same plant family as ginger. The word “turmeric” comes from the Latin “terra merita” meaning meritorious or sacred earth. The aroma of turmeric essential oil is very much like the freshly cut root − rather spicy, a little sweet, with undertones of earthy and woodsy. Turmeric essential oil is many times more concentrated than the powdered herb. It’s made from the plant’s underground roots, called rhizomes, and is extracted from the rhizome by steam distillation.
Both powdered turmeric spice and turmeric essential oil are a bright yellow or orange in color due to the pigment curcumin. Curcumin is one of the principal healthy components of turmeric and is what gives the color to curries and mustard and is even used for dyeing fabric. You’ll sometimes hear the terms “curcumin” and “turmeric” used interchangeably, but keep in mind that curcumin is only one of many compounds found in the turmeric plant.
The Phytochemical Profile of Turmeric Essential Oil
The phytochemical (plant-based, all natural components) content of turmeric essential oil is surprisingly complex. Over 300 phytochemicals contribute to making turmeric essential oil an excellent choice for supporting overall good health.
The major phytochemicals in turmeric oil are ar-turmerone (20-25 percent), alpha-turmerone (18 percent), beta-turmerone (12-13 percent) and curcumin (2-5 percent). The first three are classed as sesquiterpenes − molecules which help to carry oxygen in the body.
Other special phytochemicals found in turmeric oil include zingiberene (sesquiterpene), beta-caryophyllene (sesquiterpene), eucalyptol (a monoterpene, which helps to reprogram DNA), alpha-phellandrene (monoterpene), beta-sesquiphellandrene (sesquiterpene) and curcumenol. 2 There may well be many other phytochemicals in turmeric essential oil which have yet to be identified and studied.
Historical Use of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used for millennia in ancient healing traditions. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine it has been used traditionally to warm and strengthen the entire body, as a blood purifier, digestive aid, to eliminate worms, improve intestinal flora, and relieve gas. It is also used in India as a liver and gallbladder cleanser and strengthener, to normalize menstruation, to relieve arthritis and joint swelling, for sprains, burns, bruises, cuts and insect bites, for soothing coughs, easing asthma symptoms, as an antibacterial and antifungal agent.
In traditional Chinese medicine turmeric has been used for indigestion, sore throats and colds, liver ailments, and for wound healing.
6 Ways Turmeric Can Support Good Health
While there are a myriad of traditional uses for turmeric, here are six ways that turmeric and/or turmeric essential oil can be used to support general health and wellbeing:
#1. Promotes Clear, Unblemished Skin
The antiseptic and antioxidant properties of turmeric essential oil make it a wonderful acne fighter. It is also known to reduce facial hair, and combined with lemon juice, helps to naturally lighten hyperpigmentation of the skin.
A study published in the Dec 2011 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that skin creams with Curcuma longa extract have photoprotective effects, which means protection against effects of the sun. According to the study, “Ultraviolet radiations generate reactive oxygen species, leading to adverse effects on skin properties. Botanical extracts are multifunctional in nature having various properties like photoprotection, anti-aging, moisturizing, antioxidant, astringent, anti-irritant, and antimicrobial activity.” 3
The researchers reported their results as being that: “The photoprotective properties of the constituents of C. longa extract and hydrant, moisturizing lipid components of nano vesicles with better skin penetration resulted in improvement in skin properties like skin hydration and sebum content.” 4
Tip for Use for Acne: Do a patch test in a small inconspicuous place on your inner arm prior to trying this to ensure you don’t have a sensitivity to turmeric essential oil. In a glass mixing bowl combine two drops turmeric essential oil with one to two tablespoons organic raw honey. Mix well and apply to face as a mask. Leave on for 15 minutes and then wash off. While you wait, wash anything the paste came into contact with as it can stain (be sure to protect your clothes!).
A quality turmeric oil mixed with raw honey is gentle, nourishing, and helps promote smooth, unblemished skin. The honey should also help to keep the turmeric from staining the skin, although it’s a good idea to also test the paste first on the inside of your wrist before applying to your face. For best results use the mask no more than 1-2 times per week.
#2. Supports Well-Functioning Joints
Doctors from Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic traditions have used turmeric to address joint issues for centuries. Many recent studies have investigated turmeric’s ability to impact the pain, stiffness, and inflammation associated with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
One study of note published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in August 2016 was a joint effort by Korean and American researchers. These researchers analyzed all of the randomized clinical trials that had been done to the date of the article. The researchers stated that the results of the trials “provide scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of turmeric extract (about 1000 mg/day of curcumin) in the treatment of arthritis.” 5
It’s important to note that the researchers also stated that “more rigorous and larger studies are needed to confirm the therapeutic efficacy of turmeric for arthritis.” 6
#3. Improves Mood and Sense of Wellbeing
Turmeric essential oil has a long tradition of use for its relaxing and mood balancing properties. Try diffusing some turmeric essential oil into the air while praying, meditating, reading, at bedtime, or anytime you want to feel more calm and relaxed.
Research has shown that consuming curcumin (the key compound in turmeric) may also be beneficial for improving mood and happiness levels in those suffering with depression and anxiety. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers “hypothesised that curcumin would be effective for the treatment of depressive symptoms in individuals with major depressive disorder.” 7
Here’s the methodology the researchers used: “In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 56 individuals with major depressive disorder were treated with curcumin (500 mg twice daily) or placebo for 8 weeks. The primary measure was the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30). Secondary outcomes included IDS-SR30 factor scores and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).” 8
After the 8-week study was completed, they reported the following results: “From baseline to week 4, both curcumin and placebo were associated with improvements in IDS-SR30 total score and most secondary outcome measures. From weeks 4 to 8, curcumin was significantly more effective than placebo in improving several mood-related symptoms … Greater efficacy from curcumin treatment was identified in a subgroup of individuals with atypical depression.” 9
#4. Helps With Digestive Issues
Turmeric is considered to be exceptionally helpful with digestive problems. It has been used to help relieve gas, and promote healthy digestion and elimination.
#5. Supports a Healthy Liver
Turmeric is highly esteemed in holistic medicine for its ability to support liver health. Since the liver is the main organ of detoxification, keeping it in tip-top shape is vital for good health.
#6. Supports Oral Health
Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) is a pathogen in the mouth that’s believed to be associated with the progression of periodontal disease. The aim of a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research “was to substantiate the antimicrobial activity of various essential oils; eucalyptus oil, chamomile oil, tea tree oil and turmeric oil against P. gingivalis.” 10
After testing various concentrations of the essential oils against P. gingivalis, the researchers concluded that “At 100% concentration all the tested oils possess antimicrobial activity against P.gingivalis with eucalyptus oil being most effective followed by tea tree oil, chamomile oil and turmeric oil.” 11
Precautions When Using Essential Oils
Only Use Quality Oils: The quality of essential oils available on the market is widely varied. Always ensure you are using high quality essential oils, preferably organic. It is important to discover whether the maker of an essential oil uses organic growing methods, knows how to distill the oils so that they contain the essential phytochemicals, and avoids the use of toxic chemicals when growing the plants and extracting the oils. Always purchase essential oils from a trusted source. Cheaper is not always better.
Dilute: It is recommended to use an organic carrier oil like olive, jojoba, almond, coconut, hemp, or argan to dilute prior to putting any essential oil on the body. Using a carrier oil aids in absorption, does not affect the potency of the essential oil, and increases the cost-effectiveness of using essential oils for health.
Keep Oils Away From Sensitive Areas: Never apply essential oils anywhere near eyes, inside ears, or too close to sensitive regions of the body. If this happens by accident, use a carrier oil to dilute − water will not help!
Do a Patch Test Before Using an Oil for the First Time: Before applying any essential oil, perform a patch test on a small area of skin such as the inside of the elbow. This is important for anyone, but especially critical if you have sensitive skin. If a reaction occurs, dilute essential oils heavily with an organic carrier oil like olive oil, jojoba, almond, coconut, hemp, or argan oils and test again.
For Babies and Children: Be very cautious when using essential oils with babies and children. They have delicate skin and their bodies are much smaller than adults. Always dilute heavily and seek guidance from a qualified healthcare practitioner before using.
In Pregnancy: Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy. Low doses of turmeric are considered to be safe during pregnancy, but caution should be exercised when using full-strength turmeric oil. One or two studies showed that consumption of turmeric might stimulate the uterus (the worry being that could possibly increase the risk of premature birth or miscarriage). However, other studies have demonstrated that curcuminoids actually have a relaxing effect on uterine muscle. While contradictory, what is known is that millions of pregnant women in India and Asia have taken small amounts of turmeric in their daily diet for centuries, without any adverse effects being reported.
Always remember that essential oils are much more concentrated than the whole plant materials they’re extracted from. Therefore always exercise caution when using them − especially when pregnant. Dilute heavily and work with an experienced healthcare provider.
Turmeric essential oil is one of 3 ingredients (along with frankincense and myrrh essential oils) of Magi-Complex blend from Epigenetic Labs. This breakthrough supplement is the first of its kind to incorporate three of the world’s best nutritional ingredients that support a healthy immune response — the Magi’s gifts to Jesus — all under one cap.
- National Institutes of Health: Turmeric
- Chemical Analysis of Essential Oils from Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Rhizome Through GC-MSTopical Vesicular
- Formulations of Curcuma Longa Extract on Recuperating the Ultraviolet Radiation-damaged Skin.
- Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials
- Curcumin for the Treatment of Major Depression: a Randomised, Double-blind, Placebo Controlled Study
- Antimicrobial Efficacy of Various Essential Oils at Varying Concentrations Against Periopathogen Porphyromonas Gingivalis