Turmeric essential oil

Turmeric is a bright orange root that is a staple in Asian food. This root has been used in the Indian subcontinent and some other parts of Asia for centuries as a medicinal herb and a spice.

Modern research has also shown that turmeric and turmeric essential oil has potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and digestive properties.

Let us learn more about turmeric essential oil and its various health benefits.

What is turmeric essential oil?

Turmeric essential oil is extracted from the root of the turmeric plant through the process of steam distillation or CO2 extraction.

Turmeric essential oil is more concentrated than its powdered form, and it contains many healing properties. This oil is yellow and has a sweet, woody and spicy aroma.

The turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) is a perennial plant that belongs to the ginger family. It grows to a height of three feet and has yellow flowers. It is native to India and Indonesia.

The significant components of turmeric essential oil include ar-turmerone, alpha-turmerone, beta-turmerone, and curcumin. These sesquiterpenes can pass through the blood-brain barrier and promote oxygen in the brain.

These compounds have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help hormonal balance, stimulate the glands, support liver health and soothe inflamed tissues.

History of turmeric

Turmeric has a long history of use that dates back to nearly 4000 years. In Southeast Asia, it was used as a spice and an essential component of religious ceremonies.

This medicinal plant reached China around 700 AD, East Africa around 800 AD, West Africa around 1200 AD, and Jamaica by the 18th century.  In 1280 Marco Polo described turmeric as a vegetable that exhibited qualities similar to saffron.

Turmeric was used for its medicinal properties in the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine. Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium, which dates back to 250 BC, recommends the use of an ointment containing turmeric to treat food poisoning.

In North India, turmeric is known as haldi, in South India it is called manjal. The word ‘turmeric’ is derived from the Latin words ‘terra meria’ which mean ‘meritorious earth.’

It is known as ‘terre merite’ in French and ‘yellow root’ in many languages. In many languages, its name is based on the Latin word ‘curcuma’ (1).

Health benefits of turmeric oil

1. Boosts immune system

Turmeric essential oil has strong immune-boosting benefits that help the body to deal with allergens. Curcumin, an important component of turmeric oil, activates the release of bilirubin, and this helps to strengthen the immune response.

This oil has several biologically active compounds that offer antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities.  It helps to protect the body from viruses, builds immunity and keeps inflammation in control.

Diffuse this oil in your home as a preventive measure when the flu season is just around the corner.

2. Treats arthritis

Curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, helps to reduce inflammation and stimulate blood circulation.

Curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, so it has been used to in traditional Chinese and ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. This oil helps to reduce pain, swelling and stiff joints that are linked to arthritis.

According to a 2010 study, when turmeric essential oil extracts were injected in rats, it dramatically inhibited joint swelling (2).

Apply turmeric oil topically to the area with pain. Infuse this essential oil into the air.

3. Boosts heart health

Curcumin, the primary active component in turmeric, can also help improve heart health. It helps to reduce platelet aggregation in the arteries, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new red blood cells (3).

Turmeric essential oil can help protect against heart attack, stroke, anemia, weakened blood vessels and atherosclerosis.

4. Prevents neurodegenerative diseases

There is a great deal of clinical evidence that turmeric protects the brain from the onset and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric oil contains turmerone, which inhibits microglia activation.

Microglia are a specific type of cells that are located in the brain and spinal cord. The activation of microglia leads to brain disease. 

According to a 2014 study, turmerone inhibits microglia activation and induces neural stem cell proliferation, which makes it helpful in the treatment of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (4).

5. Detoxifies the body

Turmerone, an active ingredient of turmeric oil, is directly linked to liver health and detoxification. Turmerone stimulates urination, and this speeds up the detoxification process.

A 2015 research studied the effects of methotrexate, an antimetabolite used in the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases and liver toxicity caused by it. The same research showed that turmeric has hepatoprotective effects thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties (5).

Another study that was published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology showed that turmeric oil could scavenge free radicals and produce significant anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activities.

Turmeric oil also has a beneficial effect on the antioxidant enzymes in the liver tissues of mice (6).

6. Prevents breast cancer

Turmeric plays a vital role in all types of breast cancer inhibition and post-therapy prevention. According to studies, curcumin can cause cancer cell death and thus prevents proliferation.

According to a 2012 study from the Republic Of Korea, aromatic turmerone present in turmeric oil inhibits the enzymatic activity of TPA and COX-2 in breast cancer cells.

Turmerone also inhibits TPA-induced invasion, migration, and colony formation of human breast cancer cells(7).

7. Fights colon cancer

Colon cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer worldwide. A 2013 study researched the merits of curcumin and resveratrol for chemoprevention of colorectal cancer.

The researchers found that a combination of curcumin and resveratrol target specific common pathway of colon carcinogenesis and growth factor receptors that play a critical role in the development and progression of colon cancer (8).

Another study from Japan showed that the combination of curcumin and turmerones at both high and low doses, abolish tumor formation.

The researchers concluded that turmerone, when used in combination with curcumin could prevent inflammation-associated colon carcinogenesis (9).

8. Fights leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer that causes the production of abnormal blood cells. Curcumin, the bioactive compound of turmeric oil, induces apoptosis and suppresses the invasion in the leukemia cells.

According to a 2010 study, curcumin and epigallocatechin-3-gallate have a marked effect on the apoptotic machinery in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (10).

Another study investigated the effects of ar-turmerone isolated from turmeric on DNA of human leukemia cell lines Molt 4B and HL-60. The results showed that turmerone could cause selective induction of programmed cell death in these leukemia cell lines (11).

9. Relieves cold and congestion

Turmeric essential oil contains potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that help combat the symptoms of cold, cough, and fly. It helps to deal with cough, congestion and even bronchial infections.

The natural anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can also reduce swelling in the sinus cavities. It acts as a decongestant and reduces sinus pressure and pain.

You can add a few drops of turmeric oil to a diffuser of a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapors to relieve congestion.

10. Improves skin health

Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions like acne, blemishes, and sunburn. The antioxidant and antiseptic properties of turmeric oil can treat all kinds of skin ailments. It is also used to reduce facial hair, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and fine lines.

To treat acne, mix two or three drops of turmeric oil with a carrier oil and apply it on the affected areas.

11. Prevents hair loss

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric oil reduce scalp inflammation and improve hair growth. Turmeric oil is rich in antioxidants which promote healthy hair follicles and prevents hair loss. It also helps prevent scalp infections and dandruff.

Add some drops of turmeric oil to your regular hair oil and use it on your scalp.

12. Alleviates depression symptoms

Several studies have shown that turmeric oil is highly effective in treating depression and anxiety. According to a 2014 study, when 56 participants with major depressive disorder were treated with curcumin for eight weeks, it improves several mood-related symptoms (12).

Another more recent study showed that active drug treatment comprising different doses of curcumin and saffron were effective in reducing depressive and anxiolytic symptoms in people with depressive disorder (13).

Side effects and precautions

Though turmeric oil does not cause significant side effects, it can cause diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness in some people.

Always dilute turmeric oil before you use it topically. Perform a patch test before you use it for the first time to avoid an allergic reaction.

Pregnant or nursing women or people taking medications for gall bladder problems,  diabetes, infertility, cancer, and uterine fibroids should consult with their doctor before taking this oil internally.

Turmeric can interact with medications that slow down blood clotting.

Final thoughts

Turmeric essential oil is extracted from the root of the turmeric plant through the process of steam distillation or CO2 extraction. This oil is yellow and has a sweet, woody and spicy aroma.

Turmeric was used for its medicinal properties in the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine for centuries. This oil helps to treat cancer, boosts immunity, prevents depression, detoxifies the body and prevents neurodegenerative diseases.