Effects of turmeric on skin inflammation

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If you like Indian cuisine, you’re probably familiar with turmeric. In India, this bright yellow aromatic powder was first used as a dye and then as a spice. Turmeric not only helps spice up curry dishes, but it has been used in Indian ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for years for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders. What’s the effect of turmeric on skin inflammation? Considerable interest has been focused on turmeric, and especially its yellow or orange pigment, which is called curcumin. Studies even suggest the potential of curcumin to be developed as a potent nontoxic agent for treating skin problems. Let’s explore the beneficial effects of turmeric on skin…

Turmeric: strong anti-inflammatory properties

Studies have shown that curcumin may reduce inflammation in the body. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents.

Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects, curcumin produces no toxicity. Curcumin actually targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathway, at the molecular level. Curcumin blocks Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which is a protein transcription factor that orchestrates inflammation and other complex biological processes.

NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases. For instance, psoriasis, an “inflammatory dermatosis”, is marked by elevated levels of active, phosphorylated NF-κB. 

Turmeric: a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals

As a powerful antioxidant, it’s believed turmeric may slow down premature aging and help protect skin by quenching free radicals. What are “free radicals”? Free radicals is a term often used to describe damaged cells that can be problematic. They are “free” because they are missing a critical molecule, which sends them on a rampage to pair with another molecule.

When free radicals are on the attack, they don’t just kill cells to acquire their missing molecule. Free radicals often injure the cell, damaging the DNA, which creates the seed for disease. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause in the body.

This is why incorporating the right antioxidants into the diet and skin care routine can have a positive effect on your skin, by helping to prevent and repair damage to skin tissues.

Turmeric: a natural liver detoxifier

Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat digestive and liver problems, as well as skin diseases. When researchers analyzed how curcumin works, they found that it induces the formation of a primary liver detoxification enzyme, called glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes.

Turmeric is very well known for promoting liver/digestive health. It can be incorporated into foods, including rice and bean dishes, to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It is a cholagogue, stimulating bile production in the liver and encouraging excretion of bile via the gallbladder, which improves the body’s ability to digest fats. 

But what is the link between liver and skin health? Skin problems can reflect the state of the liver. If the liver is not doing its job of breaking down toxins efficiently they must be eliminated from your body by other means – in many cases they come out through the skin!

If excessive toxins build up in the deeper layers of the skin this causes inflammation to occur and this can manifest as skin issues. In many cases, improving digestive health can have a positive impact of skin and even heal skin problems.

Turmeric: many skincare benefits

For the reasons listed before, there are lots of skin care benefits associated with turmeric:

  • Acne blemishes: Turmeric made into a paste and applied to acne-prone areas can destroy the bacteria that cause inflammation and remove excessive oil from the skin. Turmeric possesses anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are both beneficial in treating acne.
  • Face cleanser: Some people make a turmeric face mask to exfoliate and brighten their skin. They apply a turmeric paste (usually mixed with yogurt and honey) to their skin for 20 minutes before washing off. 
  • Hyperpigmentation: Turmeric has been shown to inhibit melanin in the skin.
  • Body hair: Some studies have also shown turmeric efficacy at reducing unwanted body hair!
  • Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis: Indians use turmeric, in addition to its Ayurvedic applications, to purify blood and remedy skin conditions.
  • Wrinkles: Turmeric has antioxidant effects that make it optimally effective in anti-wrinkle treatments. 
  • Cuts, burns and wounds: Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, turmeric is used to cleanse wounds and stimulate their recovery by applying it on a piece of burnt cloth that is placed over a wound.


  • Turmeric can be used on the skin, but be aware it will stain your skin temporarily! In any case, always consult your doctor before embarking on any kind of self treatment for the skin.
  • Turmeric in food is considered safe. It’s important to remember that turmeric should be taken together with black pepper or green tea to facilitate absorption.
  • Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, taking large amounts of turmeric for long periods of time may cause stomach upset and is not recommended for everyone. It can trigger side effects and may interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. Please consult a health care provider before taking supplements.
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