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The Cure in Your Spice Cabinet


Turmeric is the dried root of a plant, Curcuma longa, and has long been used as a spice in India and Southeast Asia for its savory flavor and for its bright coloring. The biologically active molecule in turmeric is called curcumin. It has long been used therapeutically in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, and modern studies have shown that curcumin has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.

A recently published study from the University of Florence, Italy, showed curcumin to be safe and effective in treating mild to moderate psoriasis, a common inflammatory skin disease. It was a randomized, controlled trial of 60 patients who used either oral curcumin plus a topical medication or a placebo plus the topical medication. The patients in the curcumin group had 36% more improvement in their psoriasis, and no side effects were reported.

Now, one thing to note is that the doses of curcumin in the study were relatively high. The doctors prescribed 3 grams (or 3000 milligrams) of oral curcumin every day. In similar studies, the dosage has been as high as 5 grams every day. Many over the counter supplements have as little as 0.1 grams (or 100 milligrams) of curcumin. If you want to use turmeric to treat your skin, you need to make sure you are taking enough. I've found 2 good options for my patients. CostCo has a relatively large 1 gram (1000 milligram) capsule, and you could take 3 to 5 of these capsules a day. Or, a liquid tincture is even easier. I prescribe one for my patients made by Standard Process, which has 5 grams of turmeric per 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) of liquid. I don't have psoriasis, personally, but I take turmeric every day for its general anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. I mix 1 teaspoon of the liquid in a little bit of orange juice and swallow it down all at once every morning.

A final thought is what else the curcumin might be useful to treat. While most of the studies are concerning psoriasis, I've also been prescribing it to my patients for other inflammatory skin diseases, such as acne and eczema, and seeing some good results. Curcumin is nontoxic, relatively inexpensive, and proven to be effective. It also makes an easy, child-safe, natural yellow dye for everything from Easter eggs to cupcake frosting.

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