The Strongest Health Spice: Turmeric

Ginger Family

 Curcuma longa L.

Do you know how many types of turmeric there are on this planet?

There are approximately 30 varieties, each with their own characteristics and effects. 

India and Bangladesh are commonly known for their use of turmeric in food. If you have eaten and love Indian-style food than you are well aware that turmeric and other spices are often used together in various dishes. However, did you know Japan uses turmeric frequently, as well?

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Let’s narrow down to one prefecture in Japan: Okinawa

Okinawa is an area with a particularly high life-expectancy rate. Turmeric was estimated to be a part of their diet as early as the 1300’s when the Ryukyu Kingdom (a kingdom separate from the country of Japan at the time) began to trade with other areas now known as China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Japan realized the beneficial power turmeric has on the body. It is mainly cultivated and harvested in the subtropical areas of southern Japan. Turmeric drinks, vitamins, supplements, curry powder, and more are sold not only in Okinawa but all over Japan today.

What are these ‘benefits’ of turmeric?


Curcumin, a principal curcuminoid in turmeric, stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile and shown to reduce gas and bloating in some studies. These aspects are thought by researchers to overall help relieve indigestion.


Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects have been researched and proven to relieve uveitis, inflammation of eye’s iris, and osteoarthritis. One study found that turmeric works just as well as ibuprofen when treating knee osteoarthritis.


One study showed patients given 1,000 mg of turmeric per day compared those given a placebo significantly improved depression. Turmeric also is shown to enhance the efficiency of antidepressant medication taken by patients with depression.

Neurodegenerative Conditions

Given knowledge of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and circulatory stimulation properties, it is highly thought to be effective for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and Alzheimer’s.  One study showed turmeric’s ‘aromatic-turmerone’ induced stem cell proliferation, providing a promising future in medical research to use turmeric to prevent neurodegenerative conditions.


Patients with pre-diabetes participated in a study where one group was given turmeric capsules and another given placebos. At the end of the study, out of 119 members, no members of the group given turmeric capsules were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus whereas 19 of the 116 members of the placebo given group were diagnosed.

Heart Disease

Turmeric helps prevent platelets from clumping together in the blood. This, in turn, can reduce the build-up of plaque along the walls of arteries. It acts as a well-functioning blood thinner within the body and can contribute to the relief or prevention of heart diseases, such as heart attacks. In one study, half of 121 patients who had bypass surgery were given curcumin capsules before and after their surgery while the other half were given placebo capsules. 13% of those who took curcumin capsules had a heart attack compared to the placebo capsule given group which had 30% of patients who had a heart attack.


By no means does turmeric cure cancer, but much research is picking up on the topic of using turmeric to supplement and aid cancer treatment. One study shows curcumin enhances chemotherapeutic efficacy. Curcumin also has been found to decrease the growth of cancer in the breast, prostate, colon, and pancreas. Cancer often develops and spreads when there is a sporadic cell growth of cells containing improper proteins. Curcumin is thought to suppress a protein that controls cell growth. Another study found curcumin helps to inhibit a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

How is Japan using turmeric?

Japan uses five types of turmeric: Spring, Fall, Purple, White, and Black.

According to the book 琉球薬草誌, or Ryukyu Herbal Magazine, written by Mr. Shimoji, the President of Okinawa Chosei Yakuso Headquarters, each turmeric variety has different effects and therefore created into separate goods.

Spring Turmeric Specific Health Benefits:

Anti-cancer, Anti-allergic, Anti-bacterial

A powerful Anti-inflammatory

Liver protection, promotion of bile secretion and gastronomy function, prevention of heart disease, cholesterol lowering

Symptom relief of liver dysfunction, gastrointestinal dysfunction, asthma, uterine bleeding, diarrhea, jaundice, skin disease, uterine fibroids, nosebleeds, anemia, menstrual cramps, arteriosclerosis

Active ingredients: Curcumin, essential oil ingredients, sesquiterpenes (turmerone, curcumol, beta-elemene), monoterpenes (camphor, camphene, etc.), and minerals

Fall Turmeric Specific Health Benefits:

A strong Anti-inflammatory and Anti-bacterial

Both the composition and essential oils are effective towards:

Symptom relief of inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis), inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), extreme vomiting, internal bleeding, hemorrhoids, gallstones, gallbladder disease, jaundice, blood in urine (hematuria), epilepsy, external injuries, nosebleeds, irregular menstruation, excessive menstrual flow (menorrhagia)

Active ingredients: It contains 3-6% curcuminoids (mainly curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin)
Essential oils (3 to 5%), turmerone, sesquiterpenes, starch, potassium, vitamin C, carotene

Many of our Turmeric Goods use Okinawan Fall Turmeric, explained further in the Okinawan Fall Turmeric – A New Strain of Turmeric post. Okinawan Fall Turmeric’s antioxidant activity is twice that of regular Fall Turmeric and grows 5 times taller!  

Purple Turmeric Specific Health Benefits:

Drug indigestion, enhance pharmaceutical medicine effects, heavy stomach, gas build-up, fatty liver, high cholesterol

Active ingredients: The essential oils (make up about 1%) consist mainly of cineole, with rest consisting of zingiberene, furanodien, curdione, isofuran germacrene, curcuminoids (turmerone, dehydrocurdione)

Purple Turmeric can be used in a hot water bath by pouring crushed, dried leaves into the water. It is effective towards lower back pain, stiff shoulder, and recovery from fatigue. The core of a young plant’s bud is often used in cooking as it contains starch.

White Turmeric Specific Health Benefits:

Painkiller effects, blood purification, appetite stimulation, suppresses muscle spasms – antispasmodic

Active ingredients: the main oil compound is called zelbon and makes up 80-90% of the oils

White Turmeric compounds differ from other plants in the ginger family and contain no curcumin. According to research, the main compound zelbon is effective in preventing the EB virus which is linked to cancer. It is also effective towards inflammation, promoting biological defense, and the detoxification of enzymes.

Black Turmeric Specific Health Benefits:

Nourishment tonic, enhancement of energy, reduction of blood glucose level, recovery of physical fitness, improvement of cardiovascular system, improvement of digestive system

Active ingredients: Curcumin, anthocyanin, iron, zinc, amino acids such as arginine, and much more.

Black Turmeric contains such a large amount of health-oriented compounds that is gaining attention all around the world. It has been known as a traditional herbal medicine for more than 1,000 years ago and used in folk remedies for providing much-needed nutrients. Even today, it is a valued and prized multi-functional plant in the Kingdom of Thailand. However, it is difficult to cultivate large amounts of black turmeric, resulting in limited production.


*It is important to take black pepper along with turmeric. Piperine, a component of black pepper, inhibits the speedy digestion of curcumin. The body does not have the enzymes to fully digest the benefits turmeric can offer, yet research shows black pepper enhances the stomach’s absorption of the compounds by about 2,000%!



下地, 清吉. 琉球薬草誌. 1st ed. 沖縄県: 琉球書房, 2015. Print.

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Seiri. “琉球王国とウコン・薩摩とウコン ウコンとアジア貿易(交易)”. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.

Aisle7. “Turmeric | Michigan Medicine”. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.

Wongcharoen, Wanwarang, et al. “Effects of curcuminoids on frequency of acute myocardial infarction after coronary artery bypass grafting.” The American journal of cardiology 110.1 (2012): 40-44.

Somasundaram, Sivagurunathan, et al. “Dietary curcumin inhibits chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in models of human breast cancer.” Cancer research 62.13 (2002): 3868-3875.


* The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this website is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.