A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

← Back to Insights

Research seeds: Turmeric

In this article, we discuss the “Curcumin and Curcuma longa Extract in the Treatment of 10 Types of Autoimmune Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 31 Randomized Controlled Trials.

Plant name and species

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Aim of study

The aim of this research was to collate clinical trial research on turmeric and one of its active compounds curcumin. The studies were based on the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Study method

Various scientific databases were scanned to find clinical trials which investigated turmeric and curcumins effect on autoimmune conditions. The studies as well as how many papers were available are as follows; psoriasis (2), ankylosing spondylitis (1), Behcet’s disease (1), Crohn’s disease (2), multiple sclerosis (2), oral lichen planus (6), rheumatoid arthritis (5), systemic lupus erythematosus (2), arteritis (1) and ulcerative colitis (9).

Then the methods and results were compared, and statistical analysis was conducted to see the efficacy of turmeric/curcumin for the specific condition overall.

Results of study

The research shows that curcumin and turmeric extract had good clinical efficacy for psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Overall, the extracts did not work for oral lichen planus and there wasn’t sufficient data for arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, Behcet’s disease or Crohn’s disease. This is because not enough studies had been conducted on these conditions at the time of research and so no results could be concluded.


The psoriasis study showed that interleukin-22 (IL22) levels were significantly reduced after taking a curcumin extract as were PASI values. PASI is the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index used in research to assess the efficacy of a treatment for psoriasis. It factors in discolouration of skin, thickness, scaling and how big the skin lesions of psoriasis are. IL-22 is a messenger in the immune system that mediates inflammation and tissue regeneration, and high levels of it are implicated in psoriasis. The curcumin extract was shown to reduce levels of both of these, which partially explains the clinical efficacy.

One of the studies on ulcerative colitis showed that UCDAI, faecal calprotectin and histological examination parameters all improved. UCDAI is a clinical and endoscopic scoring system that measures the severity of ulcerative colitis. Faecal calprotectin is an inflammatory marker which indicates inflammation in the intestines, and histological examinations investigate tissues and cells under a microscope. Here epithelial abnormalities and structural changes to cells can be seen. Turmeric extract was shown to improve all of these different parameters.

For rheumatoid arthritis, various parameters are measured to see if a medicine is working. These include erythrocyte sedimentation rate, the C-reactive proteins, and rheumatoid factors. These are all inflammatory markers that are implicated in rheumatoid arthritis in different ways. A study showed that supplementing with turmeric extract helped to reduce all of these.

From these various studies, it is clear that turmeric and curcumin can have polymodal effects to soothe various inflammation-related conditions. However, it is important to note that turmeric is a useful medicine because of much more than just the active compound curcumin. Turmeric has a rich phytochemical complexity with over 300 compounds including volatile oils (e.g. tumerone and zingiberone) sugars, proteins and resins, and owes its bright yellow colour to polyphenolic pigments also known as curcuminoids, including demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. These different molecules have their own effect on the body, and embracing the whole plant is more aligned with traditional herbalism. You can read more about turmeric’s rich phytochemistry and more studies.


Overall turmeric and curcumin have been shown to be effective for a variety of inflammatory, and autoimmune conditions. However, there are limited clinical studies and more research needs to be conducted for conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, Behcet’s disease and Crohn’s disease. Also, much of the research is dominated by the isolated compound curcumin from turmeric, and so in the future more research should be conducted on the whole plant extract.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter