Nutrition tip: Turmeric - the yellow root
Nutrition tip: Turmeric - the yellow root
Beautifully yellow, with an earthy aroma and healing properties; these characteristics describe a plant widely used in cooking but also known in some countries as a traditional medicine. What exactly are the health benefits of this wonder root?
Photo: ©Fotolia

Related to ginger

Turmeric or curcuma (Curcuma longa) – also known as yellow ginger, saffron root, Indian saffron or yellow root – belongs to the family of ginger plants. The rootstock (rhizome) is very similar to ginger but, due to the presence of curcumin, it is intensely yellow. The peeled rhizome can be used fresh or dried, as a spice and/or pigment.


Food producers use the dye differently. Under the designation E100, curcumin is found, for example, as a colouring in mustard, margarine and charcuterie.

Turmeric powder

The fresh rhizomes have a slightly sharp, resinous taste. When dried, the taste is rather earthy and a little bitter. Turmeric is the main ingredient of curry powder, giving the spice mixture its typical colour. Because it is less expensive, the spice is also used as a substitute for saffron. Increasingly, turmeric is also found as an ingredient in bread.

Healing properties

Curcumin is not only known for its yellow colour, but also for its healing effects. Turmeric has, for thousands of years, been revered as a remedy in Ayurvedic medicine. Current knowledge on this plant stems mainly from laboratory and experimental studies.

Good for digestion
Turmeric is, above all, known for its digestive effects. Amongst other things, the ingredients stimulate the liver to release more bile acids. These acids bind to dietary fat, making the fat digestible. Turmeric also alleviates flatulence and bloating.

Active against viruses and bacteria
Turmeric also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It neutralises the so-called free radicals, which are released during chronic inflammatory processes, for example, and which may initiate the formation of tumours through damage to genetic material. One might consider this prevention at a biochemical level.

In cancer therapy
Curcumin has a very special molecular structure, as it can bind and adapt to many other molecules. This property is particularly important in cancer cells. Curcumin blocks a neurotransmitter that is responsible for cell growth and division.

Instabilty in the intestine

For all these positive aspects, there is also a considerable disadvantage. Ingested curcumin decomposes so easily that, in most people, it is hardly absorbed into the blood. This is due to the protective mechanisms in the intestine. The enterocytes (cells of the intestinal mucosa) convert the molecules and, thus, render them ineffective. Scientists are currently researching how to deal with these mechanisms.

Effective with intestinal polyps

Still, the active ingredient, curcumin, arrives in the intestine largely undamaged, as the acidic environment of the stomach protects the molecules. Several studies have shown that regular administration of curcumin causes polyps to shrink. Cell proliferation is inhibited and self-digestion stimulated.

If you would like to find out more about turmeric, we recommend the following website

The Kornspitz team is always there for you. If you have any questions, requests, suggestions or tips, please send an email to

Mag. Gerda Reimann-Dorninger
Nutrition Scientist

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