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Turmeric & Burns

By Sharon Perkins

Turmeric is a spice obtained from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, part of the ginger family. The spice’s gold-yellow color comes from curcumin, a curcuminoid, or fat-soluble plant pigment. Curcumin may have anti-inflammatory properties and may also decrease damage from burns according to several recent studies. Between one and two million Americans have burns severe enough to require medical treatment each year. Burns cause significant pain and disability.


In India, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is used to treat cuts, wounds and burns. In fact, the Johnson and Johnson Company sells turmeric bandages there. However, curcumin has poor oral absorption, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reports. Curry powder contains variable amounts of curcumin that are generally not enough to have any benefit.


Curcumin may act as an anti-inflammatory, according to animal and laboratory studies. Curcumin inhibits inflammation by inhibiting substances that activate prostaglandins and other pro-inflammatory substances. Inflammation appears to play an important role in burn wound progression, according to Adam Singer, M.D. of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook University. The spice may also fight infection.


Two animal studies showed that turmeric or curcumin reduced damaged from burns. Dr. Singer’s animal study, published in “Academic Emergency Medicine” in 2008, found that curcumin decreased necrosis, or tissue death, in areas between induced burns. In 2002, the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester reported at the 44th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology that mice given curcumin before and after a single dose of radiation had fewer blisters and less skin damage than those who did not receive the treatment. If human studies show similar benefit, curcumin could benefit people undergoing radiation therapy by decreasing pain from burns.


Burns can be extremely serious injuries; herbs such as turmeric should not be used to treat moderate or severe burns. See your medical practitioner for these types of burns. For mild burns, take standardized extract of turmeric in 300mg doses three times a day to treat pain and inflammation.

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