Why did I decide today’s post would be about turmeric benefits for skin?
My inspiration came from another plant! When I was a boy, I could count on a terrible poison ivy rash interrupting my carefree summer days every year.
Barely brushing against the ivy’s shiny leaves was enough to inflame my skin with masses of tiny red bumps that itched like crazy.
That memory made me realize how poison ivy symbolizes the immediate and incredible impact a tiny leaf can have on the human body.
Of course, everybody wants to avoid bad reactions when dealing with plants. If poison ivy can trigger such bothersome inflammation, are there leaves, herbs, or spices that do the opposite?
Do some plants have the power to reduce skin inflammation or other serious skin conditions? Most definitely, so let’s begin with…
Turmeric: From Exotic Spice to Cancer Treatment
An elderly relative of mine recently developed an open sore that’s refused to heal. It itches constantly, smells terrible, and keeps bleeding.
The diagnosis was skin cancer – definitely much more serious than poison ivy. And it turns out that one stand-out plant-based ingredient for battling inflammation and cancer is turmeric!
In a study titled Turmeric and Curcumin as Topical Agents in Cancer Therapy, researchers from India’s Amala Cancer Research Centre tested an ointment containing turmeric extract.
They worked with 62 cancer patients with locally recurring tumors. All had failed to respond to the standard treatments: surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
The cancers’ locations varied among the group:
- oral cavity: 37
- breast: 7
- skin: 3
- vulva: 4
- miscellaneous: 11
Amazingly, 90 percent of the patients experienced an improvement in the smell “and a reduction in itching…” More than 40 patients had their lesions dry out, and 10 percent experienced a lessening of “lesion size and pain.”
The researchers concluded:
“Since symptomatic relief is the major achievement expected in many of these patients, the effect of this [turmeric ointment] is remarkable.”
More Turmeric Benefits for Skin: Curcumin and Canker Sores
Would a spice that can help relieve oral cavity cancers also help in battling minor canker sores? That’s the question that led researchers from Iran’s Tehran University of Medical Sciences to investigate turmeric benefits for skin:
“It has been reported that curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-tumor, and analgesic properties.”
So they tested the effectiveness of curcumin (the sunset-yellow pigment responsible for turmeric’s color)in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
They randomly assigned the patients, aged 15 to 65, to two groups. One group received a 2-percent curcumin gel; the other got a placebo gel with no active ingredients.
Both applied their gels to their canker sores twice a day.
At the end of the two weeks, the group using the curcumin gel experienced “significantly reduced pain intensity and size” compared to the placebo group.
The researchers found that curcumin gel was a “well-tolerated effective treatment” in cases of minor canker sores. So, we can add their findings to the list of turmeric benefits for skin.
When Something Gets Under Your Skin? Turmeric Might Help!
Is turmeric equally effective in treating subcutaneous (under-the-skin) inflammation? In a video reviewing a few studies on its power, Dr. Michael Greger (who recommends consuming 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric every day) commented:
“Curcumin is an extract of turmeric root. It’s considered so anti-inflammatory that it may even work through the skin. A traditional use was to wrap sprains and injury with turmeric-soaked poultices – a use that actually continues to this day.”
And wouldn’t you know it?
Google Scholar returned a study on turmeric and poison ivy as a top search result! While I couldn’t access it, I now know what to try the next time I start itching after a walk in the woods!
As for my relative? Her doctor is removing the lesion, and the good news is that we’ll be ready with a solution if the problem returns!