Fresh, woody with spicy notes - turmeric, the bright yellowish-orange root, a staple spice in Indian and Asian cooking, literally means 'sacred earth' in Latin - and rightly so. Brimming with powerful phytochemicals this amazing "superfood" is packed with incredible health-promoting benefits!
Modern research published in 2011 entitled, Turmeric, the Golden Spice, suggests that, "The activities of turmeric include antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and digestive."
Used in the Indian sub-continent and parts of Asia for thousands of years, turmeric hails from the Zingiberaceae plant family, (the same family as ginger), and has both been used as a spice to flavor and color food and also as a medicinal herb.
Studies conducted by modern science today have backed what people in India and Asia have known for centuries - that turmeric does in fact contain active compounds making it one of the most powerful healing herbs on the planet.
Turmeric Essential Oil and Curcumin
One of the major active compounds in turmeric is curcumin, a super-powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
A 2008 study concluded that, "Curcumin has been used extensively in ayurvedic medicine for centuries, as it is nontoxic and has a variety of therapeutic properties including antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic activity, and anticarcinogenic activity."
Extracted from the roots, also called rhizomes, via the process of steam distillation, turmeric essential oil is a lot more concentrated than the powdered form. The aroma of turmeric oil is also very much like the fresh cut root - woody and earthy with a touch of spice. And just like the powder, the oil is also packed with antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-worm, anti-allergic, and anti-parasitic healing properties.
At times the words 'turmeric' and 'curcumin' are used interchangeably, but curcumin is only one of the many active ingredients found in the turmeric plant. The many other phytochemicals (biologically active compounds) found in turmeric oil are actually quite complex. In fact turmeric oil is known to contain over 300 phenolic compounds!
The major compounds, ar-turmerone, alpha-turmerone, beta-turmerone and curcumin are sesquiterpenes, molecules that have to ability to pass through the blood brain barrier promoting oxygen in the brain. Sesquiterpenes also have excellent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can bring hormonal balance, promote liver health, soothe inflamed tissues and stimulate the glands.
The above are just a few of the many reasons why turmeric essential oil should be a staple in your medicine cabinet. Read on to discover the top 15 powerful turmeric essential oil uses and benefits:
1. Turmeric Oil for Skin
In South Asia and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to treat skin conditions including curbing acne, reducing blemishes and scars and discouraging facial hair growth in women.
Well, people back in the day knew what they were doing as research today is proving that turmeric, with its rich antiseptic and concentrated antioxidant properties, is excellent for treating all kinds of skin ailments! Applying turmeric essential oil topically can help treat skin conditions, improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles and treat sunburn.
How to use turmeric oil for skin:
1. Fight acne naturally: Being a powerful antimicrobial turmeric essential oil makes an excellent acne fighter. The oil helps to naturally dry out pimples and prevent future breakouts. Mix 2-3 drops of turmeric essential oil with a carrier oil such as tamanu oil (hailed as a natural acne cure) and apply to the affected areas daily.
2. Reduce blemishes and lighten skin: Turmeric is often a key ingredient used in anti-blemish and anti-scar skin creams. Use 1-2 drops of turmeric essential oil with a carrier oil such as organic argan oil (a healing moisturizer) to lighten skin and fade away blemishes.
3. Treat sunburn: A 2011 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology documented that Curcuma longa extract, or turmeric essential oil used in skin creams, can protect against the harmful effects of the sun. The study concluded that the "photoprotective properties" of the extract "resulted in improvement in skin properties like skin hydration and sebum content." To soothe irritation and redness from sunburn, mix 1-2 drops of turmeric oil with jojoba oil and apply to affected areas.
4. Soften cracked heels: Soak feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes and pat dry with a towel. Mix a few drops of turmeric oil with a carrier oil such as castor oil (an excellent detoxifier) and apply generously to your heels. Repeat weekly, preferably before bedtime for naturally soft heels!
5. Anti-aging regimen: Brimming with antioxidants, turmeric oil can keep your facial skin soft and supple, reduce fine lines and give your skin a healthy glow. Combine turmeric essential oil in a 1:1 ratio with a carrier oil. So for example, if you're using 5 drops of almond oil, mix in 5 drops of turmeric oil and with your fingertips gently massage into wrinkle-prone areas such as the temples, and around the mouth area and nose. Use daily as part of your night time routine for best results.
2. Turmeric Oil for Hair
Turmeric essential oil is rich in antioxidants making it excellent for stimulating new cells to grow, promoting healthy hair follicles and preventing hair loss. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil contribute to reducing scalp inflammation and improving hair growth.
How to use turmeric oil for hair:
1. Get rid of dandruff naturally: Add a few drops of turmeric oil to a carrier oil such as neem oil (excellent for dandruff and eliminating lice) or argan oil (an amazing hair conditioner). The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric oil help to keep dandruff at bay and soothe an irritated scalp.
2. Treat scalp conditions: A fungal infection can lead to a red, itchy, irritated scalp. Turmeric oil's antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities can relieve your scalp symptoms and stop an infection in its tracks.
3. Promote hair growth: Rich in over 300 biologically active compounds and antioxidants, if you want to keep your hair healthy and strong, simply add a few drops of turmeric oil to your favorite go-to hair oil and experience increased hair growth.
3. Turmeric Oil for Cancer
A 2008 study on the benefits of curcumin for cancer stated that, "an "old-age" disease such as cancer requires an "age-old" treatment."
There's been quite a bit of research done lately in relation to turmeric supplementation for cancer patients. In the lab, different studies have shown that curcumin, turmeric's powerful healing agent, can inhibit and lessen the growth of cancer cells.
A 2006 article titled, Biological Effects of Curcumin and Its Role in Cancer Chemoprevention and Therapy, stated that curcumin can "act as a chemopreventive agent in cancers of colon, stomach and skin," and can actually work on the molecular level to potentially prevent and even treat cancer.
In fact one 2012 study involving 44 male participants with lesions in their colon that could possibly turn cancerous, showed that by supplementing with 4gms of turmeric everyday for a month, the lesions displayed significant reductions by 40%.
What's interesting is that curcumin is selective in its ability to kill cancer cells and not normal cells, making "curcumin an attractive candidate for drug development," as this study concluded.
There's promising research to show that curcumin combined with turmerones, (the essential oil component of turmeric) inhibits colon cancer in lab mice, and that this combination, "may become a powerful method for prevention of inflammation-associated colon carcinogenesis."
To take curcumin on a therapeutic level (preferably with an absorption enhancer such as black pepper), please consult with your doctor or holistic practitioner.
4. Turmeric Oil for the Brain
Before we take a look at how curcumin improves brain and cognitive function, let's take a quick look at the reason behind some of these debilitating brain disorders.
It was earlier believed that neurons in the brain form new connections only in childhood, however it is now known that neurons in the brain can not only form connections later in life, but that in certain areas of the brain, these connections can actually grow and multiply.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF, is the key hormone in the brain responsible for forming new neuron connections, and decreased levels of this essential hormone is linked to many brain ailments such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression.
This is where curcumin comes in the picture. Studies have shown that curcumin can boost levels of BDNF in the brain. This can actually delay or potentially even reverse brain ailments, help fight brain cell degeneration and positively improve brain function.
A 2007 study concluded that, "curcumin is a strong candidate for use in the prevention or treatment of major disabling age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke."
Inhaling turmeric essential oil is highly effective for boosting memory, cognitive function, and improving concentration.
In fact a study showed that aromatic (ar-) turmerone, a bioactive agent of turmeric oil hinders microglia (a type of brain and spinal cord cell that proves the presence of brain disease) to be activated. Another study also concluded that, ar-turmerone "constitutes a promising candidate to support regeneration in neurologic disease."
5. Turmeric Oil for Inflammation and Pain
Although short-term inflammation is essential in fighting infections, research shows that chronic or long-term inflammation is one of the key contributing factors to almost every major disease today, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, brain disorders, arthritis and many more adverse ailments. That said, anything that can help combat or prevent this inflammation should be considered as incredibly important in the fight against these illnesses.
Research has shown that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can actually fight inflammation at the molecular level. Curcumin blocks the molecule NF-kB responsible for activating genes in cells nuclei that trigger inflammation. In fact studies have described its potency to be as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs - without the unpleasant side effects.
High quality therapeutic-grade turmeric oil contains over 60% alpha-curcumene, a sesquiterpene hydrocarbon, that gives turmeric it's incredible anti-inflammatory healing properties. This compound allows turmeric oil to alleviate inflammation associated with chronic disease, joint pain, muscle aches, gout, inflammation of the digestive tract and more.
How to use turmeric oil for inflammation and pain:
Anti-inflammatory salve: To relieve topical inflammation blend 4-5 drops of turmeric oil with a tbsp. of carrier oil such as sweet almond or olive oil and apply to the affected area. Repeat twice a day for best results. To lessen pain associated with inflammation and enhance the effects of turmeric oil, add a few drops of frankincense essential oil to the blend as well.
6. Turmeric Oil for Detoxification
The liver is a vital organ responsible for detoxifying the body, so keeping it healthy is critical in making sure the body is free from toxins. Turmeric has been used holistically to maintain liver health and studies show that turmeric is "hepatoprotective," meaning it protects the liver, mainly due to it being a powerful anti-inflammatory.
A study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine concluded that turmeric extract protected the liver from a strong chemical called methotrexate (MTX), and actually helped to cleanse the liver from MTX toxicity. Ar-turmerone, the active ingredient in turmeric oil is directly linked to supporting liver health.
Other research has also documented that when administered turmeric oil for a month, antioxidant enzymes increased in the livers of lab mice. The study concluded that, " turmeric oil has potential health benefits as it can scavenge the free radicals and produce significant anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activities."
7. Turmeric Oil for Immunity
When it comes to building immunity turmeric essential oil contains powerful active ingredients that offer solid support to your body's innate natural defenses. Turmeric's immune-boosting benefits can actually support the body's response in dealing with allergens.A study in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry documented that curcumin activates the release of bilirubin, an important antioxidant responsible for strengthening immune response.
The combination of biologically active compounds in the oil offer everything from being antibacterial and antifungal to antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. This helps to ward off invaders, build immunity and keep inflammation in control.
How to use turmeric oil for immunity:
Diffuse: When flu season is just around the corner or someone at home is under the weather, as a preventative measure, diffuse a few drops of turmeric essential oil in your diffuser and let the healing vapors waft through the air.
8. Turmeric Oil for Cold and Congestion
A recent article published in May, 2017 documented that the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, was "found to suppress viruses, including hepatitis, herpes, chikungunya, influenza-A, HIV and HPV."
The article cited several studies backed by strong research proving turmeric's role in impairing viruses from multiplying and shielding the body from spreading infection to other cells. In one such study, scientists discovered that curcumin prevents the influenza virus to bind to red blood cells.
In fact Mike Adams, lab director at the internationally accredited science laboratory, CWC Labs, states that, "if turmeric had been invented by a pharmaceutical company, it would be hailed as the greatest breakthrough in medical history.”
Turmeric essential oil contains powerful healing properties to combat the symptoms of cold, cough and flu. It can help everything from congestion and cough to relieving bronchial infections.
How to use turmeric oil for cold and flu:
1. Steam Inhalation: Add 5-6 drops of 100% pure and natural turmeric essential oil to a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale the potent vapours for 5-10 minutes. The hot steam helps to thin and drain stubborn phlegm and the antibacterial properties of turmeric oil help to fight cold and flu germs. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil also help to soothe inflamed airways and nasal passages.
2. Diffuse: Add 5 drops of turmeric oil to your diffuser right before bedtime. Breathe in the medicinal vapors all night long.
9. Turmeric Oil for Depression
Did you know that turmeric is potentially as effective as the drug Prozac in treating depression? A 2014 study reported that in a controlled trial of 60 patients divided into three groups, after a period of 6 weeks, curcumin showed improvements similar to prozac, meaning that turmeric is a side-effect free natural anti-depressant.
The active compound curcumin, also boosts BNDF levels, which helps to alleviate depression symptoms. Low levels of BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is responsible for triggering depression and many other brain disorders and curcumin has the ability to curb and possibly reverse these effects.
There is also research to suggest that curcumin can boost chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine and serotonin that improve the mood and promote positive thinking.
How to use turmeric oil for depression:
1. Inhale Directly: When feeling low or anxious inhale turmeric essential oil directly from the bottle or by rubbing onto the palms and cupping your hands over your face. Breathe deeply!
2. Diffuse: Anytime you want to feel calm and relaxed diffuse a few drops of turmeric oil in the air. The oil will help balance mood and alleviate stress. This is great to do when meditating, reading or just before bedtime.
10. Turmeric Oil for Arthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis is most commonly associated with some kind of inflammation of the joints, and affects millions of people all over the world. Being a potent anti-inflammatory there is strong research to suggest that curcumin could potentially help support arthritis pain.
In fact in ancient Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine turmeric has long been used to relieve joint and arthritic pain and swelling.
Turmeric essential oil's active compounds block inflammatory enzymes and chemicals that can trigger joints to swell. Additionally, the highly concentrated antioxidants present in the oil quash free radicals that tear down cartilage.
In a 2012 study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was found to be more potent and effective than an anti-inflammatory drug, and the study concluded that, "the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement," and that "more importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events."
Another study reported that curcumin was equal to ibuprofen for providing pain relief and mobility improvement for patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
How to use turmeric oil for arthritis and joint pain:
Massage oil: Mix 3-5 drops of turmeric essential oil with 1 tsp. of a carrier oil such as moringa oil (a proven anti-inflammatory with powerful healing properties to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis). Massage well into painful joints and muscles twice a day.
11. Turmeric Oil for Herpes
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) can trigger both oral and genital herpes, resulting in blister formation, fever, and bodily aches and pains. While there is no known cure for the HSV virus, turmeric essential oil can help to reduce the severity and duration of the infection.
Curcumin soothes inflammation, speeds blister healing, and supports immunity which keeps the infection at bay and controls it from flaring up further.
How to use turmeric essential oil for herpes:
Blister salve: In the case of genital herpes, combine 3-4 drops of turmeric essential oil with 1 tsp. of coconut oil (an excellent anti-inflammatory) and apply liberally to the blisters and sores daily. In the case of blisters caused by oral herpes you can use a ear bud to apply the same blend on oral blisters.
12. Turmeric Oil for Heart Health
Countless people succumb to heart disease every year. With fatalities on the rise, it's important to look for natural cures that can support heart health. Most people are probably not aware that curcumin is by far one of the best natural remedies to promote cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol.
There are many research studies to show how curcumin supports heart health. A 2009 study documenting the benefits of curcumin states that, "modern scientific research has demonstrated its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular protective effects," and reports that curcumin may actually reverse several factors that cause heart problems.
In fact curcumin protects the heart in several ways. It helps to detoxify the liver which curbs the production of cholesterol, and actually helps the liver flush out higher amounts of bad cholesterol. It also helps to reduce inflammation and restrict oxidation (as learned above) which can contribute to poor heart health.
More importantly, curcumin improves the lining of blood vessels or the endothelium. Its powerful antioxidants prevent free radicals from destroying blood vessels and restrict plaque from adhering to blood vessel walls. Damaged and plaque-lined blood vessels impede blood flow causing the two biggest killers - heart attack and stroke.
By protecting the endothelium, along with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, curcumin helps to lower blood pressure, promote the growth of fresh red blood cells and protect against fatigue, anemia, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
13. Turmeric Oil for Teeth and Oral Health
Being a potent anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory it's no surprise that turmeric can help reduce inflammation related to teeth, gum and oral health problems.
A study documented that, "turmeric is definitely a good adjunct to mechanical plaque control," when compared to medicated mouthwash, and that it could actually be a better low-cost alternative.
Another study reported that at a 100% concentration, turmeric oil possesses antimicrobial activity against P. gingivalis, and can help in the prevention and treatment of periodontitis, which is the inflammation of the tissues supporting the teeth.
How to use turmeric oil for teeth and oral health:
1. Add to Your Toothpaste: Add 1-2 drops of turmeric oil to a little toothpaste on your toothbrush and brush for 1-2 minutes. This will help prevent gum disease and soothe inflamed gums.
2. Daily Mouthwash: Fill 2 cups of water in a glass bottle and add 5-6 drops of turmeric oil. Shake well. Use twice a day to prevent gum disease and keep your mouth fresh and healthy. You can also add 1-2 drops of peppermint essential oil for minty fresh breath!
14. Turmeric Oil for Digestion
Turmeric has been used traditionally to help with digestion issues and is known to reduce bloating and cramping, encourage the elimination of gas from the system and support the digestive system.
Zingeriberene and 6-gingerol, are the key components of turmeric essential oil, known to have a strong impact on the digestive/gastrointestinal system. Turmeric oil stimulates the production of gastric juices and helps to alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and other digestive ailments.
15. Turmeric Oil for Wounds
Being an all-natural antiseptic and antimicrobial, turmeric oil can be used as a disinfectant for minor scrapes, cuts and burns. As a potent anti-inflammatory turmeric oil helps to reduce inflammation and also the antioxidant properties help to accelerate healing and decrease the formation of scars.
How to use turmeric oil for wounds:
Heal scars: For minor cuts and burns, combine 2-3 drops of turmeric essential oil with a carrier oil such as emu oil (known to promote wound healing) and apply to the affected area to speed up healing.
Side Effects and Warnings
Essential oils are natural but powerful. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to any oil so it's always best to try a little by doing a small skin patch test on your arm or leg (never your face or neck) to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction.
If you're pregnant or nursing, or on any kind of medication please check with your doctor before using essential oils.
What to Look for When Buying Essential Oils?
Example for Turmeric: (Curcuma Longa). If you see the word 'fragrance' it almost always means there are other additives.
Ideally it's always best to buy essential oils that are labeled as "Therapeutic grade," meaning they are free of toxins and chemicals and are unfiltered and undiluted.
Also beware of genetically modified ingredients and choose Non GMO essential oils.
There is no fixed recipe when it comes to essential oils and what might work for you might not work for someone else. Since we are all biochemically exclusive, it's best to experiment with a variety of essential oils, pay attention to your body, and find the "personal blends" that work most optimally for you.
Back to you! Have you benefited from using turmeric essential oil? We'd love to hear how turmeric essential oil has helped you.