Turmeric For Liver & Digestive Health
by Christa Sinadinos, Certified Clinical Herbalist
Many people are familiar with turmeric as a traditional Middle-Eastern spice, but few know of its medicinal virtues. Turmeric, otherwise known as Circuma longa, is a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. The Latin name is derived from the Persian word, "kirkum," which means "saffron," in reference to the rhizome's vibrant yellow-orange color. It is indigenous to Southeast Asia, but has long been used and cultivated throughout India.
Turmeric is highly valuable for the influence it exerts on the digestive system and the liver. In both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered a digestive bitter and a carminative. It can be incorporated into foods, including rice and bean dishes, to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It is a cholagogue, stimulating bile production in the liver and encouraging excretion of bile via the gallbladder. This improves the body's ability to digest fats.
Turmeric is recommended for chronic digestive weakness and/or congestion. It can be taken as a single extract or in the form of digestive bitters, which combine turmeric with other bitter and carminative herbs. Gaia's "Sweetish Bitters" is a tasty combination, and Herb Pharm's single extract of turmeric is delicious. Take either of these twenty minutes before meals, especially meals that are high in protein and/or fat. It is beneficial for people who feel tired after consuming meals or who experience gas and bloating.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory to the mucous membranes, which coat the throat, lungs, stomach and intestines. Turmeric decreases congestion and inflammation from stagnant mucous membranes. People with the following conditions could benefit from regular use of turmeric: IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), colitis, Crohn's disease, diarrhea, and post-giardia or post salmonella conditions. It can also reduce the itching and inflammation that accompanies hemorrhoids and anal fissures. This herb would be useful to follow up antibiotic treatments, in addition to acidophilus and garlic. It helps to improve the intestinal flora and acts as an anti-bacterial.
Another wonderful aspect of turmeric is its beneficial influence on the liver. Spring (and late winter) is an important time to consume herbs and foods that strengthen the liver, because spring is the season which rules the liver and gallbladder in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Turmeric shares similar liver protectant compounds that milk thistle and artichoke leaves contain. It is said to shrink engorged hepatic ducts, so it can be useful to treat liver conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and jaundice. Turmeric can also benefit skin conditions including: eczema, psoriasis and acne, for it is a potent detoxifier.
Turmeric is an antispasmodic to smooth muscles so it reduces digestive and menstrual cramping. For women who experience monthly menstrual cramps, try consuming turmeric extract or bitters twice daily for two weeks prior to expected menstruation. It should reduce the severity of cramps, if not alleviating them completely. Of course, diet and lifestyle have a profound influence on the menstrual cycle, but turmeric is a great addition.
Another use of turmeric is for the treatment of skin cancer or pre cancerous skin conditions. Both topical and internal use are encouraged. Of course it will stain the skin a lovely yellow color (and clothing too for that matter.) One final use of turmeric is as a dye. One can dye wool, yarn, clothing, and even Easter eggs with this root.
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, "Turmeric gives the energy of the Divine Mother and grants prosperity. It is effective for cleansing the chakras, and purifying the channels of the subtle body."
Try adding turmeric to your oatmeal, grains and beans, or take digestive bitters. Whatever way that turmeric is consumed it will benefit both the digestive system and the liver.