Curcuma longa – answers to some common questions


Is Curcuma longa the same as turmeric?

The long answer short is, yes. Curcuma longa is the scientific name given to the yellow powder that we are more familiar with known as turmeric. Therefore, Curcuma longa is the same as turmeric.

According to where you live turmeric can be known by various other names such as acafrao, alad, alar, amparam, aran, arittira, bahula, besar, caro rerega, curcuma longa rhizome, darzard, gezo, gurkmeja, haldar, kaha, kaveri, kirucan, leadar, manja, nakali, varnini, yamini, yellowroot.

Figure 1: Image of Curcuma longa | Available from: https://app.phytotherapydeskreference.com/herbs

What is Curcuma longa good for?

Curcuma longa has been used for a long time in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is also a common spice used to season many curries in cooking. However, Curcuma Longa has many beneficial qualities that improve health. It is good for its anticancer, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antiaging characteristics.

Figure 2: Image showing different functions of Curcuma longa (2).

Is Curcuma longa ginger or turmeric?

Curcuma longa belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. This is the ginger family. Therefore, Curcuma longa is obtained from rhizomes which are underground stems or tubers. The herb originated in Tamil Nādu in south-eastern India. The herbal plant can grow up to 1 m in height and develop large lanceolate leaves. This refers to the leaf shape in which the base is wider, and the apex is narrower and more pointed. The flowers borne are pale yellow and white. However, they are sterile which means to cultivate the next generation of Curcuma longa a portion of harvested rhizomes needs to be used.

Figure 3: Illustration of Curcuma longa by Franz Eugen Kohler, from Kohler's Medicinal Plants, 1887. Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew (unless otherwise stated).

What is the difference between turmeric and curcuma?

The difference between turmeric and Curcuma is that turmeric is obtained from the plant Curcuma longa. It has a distinguished bright yellow-orange colour. It is also referred to as the ‘golden spice’ or ‘Indian saffron’.

Moreover, traditionally it was referred to as the ‘wonder drug of life’ by Eastern countries as it was infamous for treating liver conditions, gastrointestinal problems, inflammation and wound healing (3).

Is it safe to take turmeric or curcumin every day?

Due to the lack of research done on the safety of the long-term use of turmeric, it is uncertain whether it is safe to take turmeric every day. However, the typical dosage for a week is between 40 to 80 ml per week. It is important to note that many countries use turmeric in their cooking daily but in lower quantities.

There have been some trials conducted to test the safe dosage of curcumin. In a study, seven subjects who were receiving 500-12000 mg of curcumin reported experiencing diarrhea, headache, rash and yellow stool (4). In addition, a study in which participants received 0.45 to 3.6 grams of curcumin a day for one to four months reported experiencing nausea and diarrhea (5).

Figure 4: Bottles clipart. | Available from: Creazilla

What is the difference between Curcuma longa and Curcumin?

Curcuma longa contains bioactive ingredients known as curcuminoids. These include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. It is curcumin that is thought to help alleviate conditions caused by inflammation, metabolism, arthritis, etc.

Figure 5: Image showing the mixture of curcuminoids present in Curcma longa. | Available from: https://doi.org/10.3390/cryst10030206

What is the common name of Curcuma domestica?

Curcuma domestica is another name given to turmeric.

Is Curcuma Longa the same as Curcuma domestica?

Curcuma Longa and Curcuma Domestica are the same plant. Curcuma domestica belongs to the Zingiberaceae family.

What is Curcuma domestica used for?

As Curcuma domestica is also turmeric, it is used for the same uses as Curcuma longa. These are for things like inflammation and problems in the gastrointestinal tract.

Is Curcuma annual or perennial?

Curcuma longa is a perennial plant. Perennial refers to plants that can live for longer than two years. After the growing season, as colder climates approach the plant will die. However, it emerges back again from its own roots when warmer climates come in spring.

What is Curcuma longa used for?

According to the World Health Organization, Curcuma longa is mainly used for treating acid, gas and other pain that occur in the gastrointestinal tract. It is also used to treat ulcers inflammation due to arthritis, absence of menstrual periods, painful periods, diarrhoea, epilepsy, pain and skin diseases.

What are the side effects of Curcuma longa?

1.       Turmeric can cause iron deficiency in the body by reducing iron absorption in the gut.    

  • Due to the ability of curcumin to bind with ferric iron (Fe3+) and form a ferric-curcumin complex, it reduced the iron concentrations in the liver and spleen by 50%. This is impacted according to a dose-dependent manner.

2.       If an individual is suffering from bile duct obstruction or bile duct inflammation, they were advised to not take turmeric and curcumin supplements together as it can lead to abdominal pain (6).

3.       Curcumin may have blood thinning effects which is dangerous as it lowers blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness and bleeding issues (6).

Figure 6: Side effects icon | Available from: iStock

References

1.           Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10).

2.           Prasad S, Tyagi AK, Aggarwal BB. Recent developments in delivery, bioavailability, absorption and metabolism of curcumin: the golden pigment from golden spice. Cancer Res Treat. 2014;46(1):2-18.

3.           Sharifi-Rad J, Rayess YE, Rizk AA, Sadaka C, Zgheib R, Zam W, et al. Turmeric and Its Major Compound Curcumin on Health: Bioactive Effects and Safety Profiles for Food, Pharmaceutical, Biotechnological and Medicinal Applications. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:01021.

4.           Lao CD, Ruffin MTt, Normolle D, Heath DD, Murray SI, Bailey JM, et al. Dose escalation of a curcuminoid formulation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006;6:10.

5.           Sharma RA, Euden SA, Platton SL, Cooke DN, Shafayat A, Hewitt HR, et al. Phase I clinical trial of oral curcumin: biomarkers of systemic activity and compliance. Clin Cancer Res. 2004;10(20):6847-54.

6. Advising patients using turmeric on its adverse effects [Internet]. SPS – Specialist Pharmacy Service. 2021. Available from:https://www.sps.nhs.uk/articles/advising-patients-using-turmeric-on-its-adverse-effects/


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