Turmeric essential oil: The essential oil collection

Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centres in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus. That is one of the reasons why aromatherapy is so powerful – using oils can trigger the body’s own healing process to begin, as well as soothe and calm your mind to actually allow the process to take place.  Essential oils can also interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry. Oils are powerful, and they have little or no side effects.

Turmeric, the spice that you add to curries and bobotie and rice to make it yellow. It has an earthy smell and flavour and can be bitter if you add too much. That is what I knew about turmeric. Then I started on my natural wellness journey and learned that turmeric is great to fight inflammation (among other things), and when I started on my oil journey I discovered that turmeric can also be an oil. In all of turmeric’s forms (root, powder, paste, oil) the plant is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, anti-microbial, anti-malarial, anti-tumour, anti-proliferative, antiprotozoal and it has anti-ageing properties.

The arthritis oil

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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial herbaceous plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and grows to a height of about a meter; it has yellow flowers. The root is bright orange with a thin brownish skin. Native to southern India and Indonesia, turmeric is cultivated on the mainland and in the islands of the Indian Ocean. In its fresh or powdered form, it is used as a spice, as medicine, and as a colouring agent (it has a rich yellow colour). It has health-promoting vitamins, phenols and other alkaloids and is considered to be a strong relaxant and body balancer. In Latin, the word means “sacred earth” which is very accurate. Full of powerful phytochemicals this superfood packs an amazingly healthy punch.

The oil which is derived from the plant’s tuberous rhizomes, or roots, is equally impressive with numerous health benefits. The oil is obtained from the root through either CO2 or steam distillation using the solvent hexane. The CO2 extracted oil is ideal. A study published in 2011 suggested that "The properties of turmeric include antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and digestive."

The most abundant components of turmeric essential oil are aromatic turmerone (20-25%), alpha-tumerone (18%) beta-turmerone (12-13%) and curcumin (2-5%). Other constituents include caryophyllene (2%), eucalyptol (1%, a monoterpene, which helps to reprogram DNA), alpha-phellandrene (1% also a monoterpene), zingiberene (a sesquiterpene, meaning it helps carry oxygen in the blood), beta-caryophyllene (sesquiterpene), beta-sesquiphellandrene (sesquiterpene) and curcumenol. These components of turmeric essential oil make it extremely potent when it comes to naturally fighting an impressive variety of serious health concerns.

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Some of the benefits derived from the use of the oil:

1.    Heart health

Turmeric has high concentrations of curcumin, one of the best natural remedies to promote cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol. A 2009 study documenting the benefits of curcumin states that "modern scientific research has demonstrated its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular protective effects," and reports that curcumin may actually reverse several factors that cause heart problems.

In fact, curcumin protects the heart in several ways. It helps to detoxify the liver which curbs the production of cholesterol and actually helps the liver flush out higher amounts of bad cholesterol. It also helps to reduce inflammation and restrict oxidation (turmeric is a powerful antioxidant) which can contribute to poor heart health. More importantly, curcumin improves the lining of blood vessels or the endothelium. Its powerful antioxidants prevent free radicals from destroying blood vessels and restrict plaque from adhering to blood vessel walls. By protecting the endothelium, along with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, curcumin helps to lower blood pressure, promote the growth of fresh red blood cells and protect against fatigue, anaemia, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

2.    Joint pain and swelling, especially associated with arthritis

Being a potent anti-inflammatory there is strong research to suggest that turmeric could potentially help support arthritis pain. Turmeric essential oil's active compounds block inflammatory enzymes and chemicals that can trigger joints to swell. Additionally, the highly concentrated antioxidants present in the oil destroys free radicals that tear down cartilage.

In a 2012 study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric was found to be more potent and effective than a popular anti-inflammatory drug, and the study concluded that, "the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement," and that "more importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events." Another study reported that curcumin was equal to ibuprofen for providing pain relief and mobility improvement for patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

3.    Anti-viral – fight the common cold and congestion

Turmeric essential oil contains powerful healing properties to combat the symptoms of cold, cough and flu. It can help everything from congestion and cough to relieving bronchial infections. A recent article published in May 2017 documented that the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, was "found to suppress viruses, including hepatitis, herpes, chikungunya, influenza-A, HIV and HPV."

The article cited several studies backed by strong research proving turmeric's role in impairing viruses from multiplying and shielding the body from spreading the infection to other cells. In one such study, scientists discovered that curcumin prevents the influenza virus to bind to red blood cells.

4.    Brain health

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF is the key hormone in the brain responsible for forming new neuron connections and decreased levels of this essential hormone are linked to many brain ailments such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression. Studies have shown that curcumin can boost levels of BDNF in the brain. This can actually delay or potentially even reverse brain ailments, help fight brain cell degeneration and positively improve brain function. Inhaling turmeric essential oil is highly effective for boosting memory, cognitive function, and improving concentration.

 5.    Immunity booster

A study in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry documented that curcumin activates the release of bilirubin, an important antioxidant responsible for strengthening immune response. The combination of biologically active compounds in the oil offers everything from being antibacterial and antifungal to antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. This helps to ward off invaders, build immunity and keep inflammation in control.

6.    Inflammation and pain

Although short-term inflammation is essential in fighting infections,  research shows that chronic or long-term inflammation is one of the key contributing factors to almost every major disease today, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, brain disorders, arthritis and many more adverse ailments.

Research has shown that turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can actually fight inflammation at the molecular level. Curcumin blocks the molecule NF-kB responsible for activating genes in cells’ nuclei that trigger inflammation. In fact, studies have described its potency to be as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs - without the unpleasant side effects.

7.    Cancer fighter

A 2006 article titled, Biological Effects of Curcumin and Its Role in Cancer Chemoprevention and Therapy, stated that curcumin can "act as a chemopreventive agent in cancers of colon, stomach and skin," and can actually work on the molecular level to potentially prevent and even treat cancer.

What's interesting is that curcumin is selective in its ability to kill cancer cells and not normal cells, making "curcumin an attractive candidate for drug development".

To take curcumin on a therapeutic level (preferably with an absorption enhancer such as black pepper), please consult with your doctor or holistic practitioner.

8.    Haircare

Turmeric essential oil is rich in antioxidants making it excellent for stimulating new cells to grow, promoting healthy hair follicles and preventing hair loss. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil contribute to reducing scalp inflammation and improving hair growth. 

9. Depression and anxiety

Turmeric essential oil is considered to be a strong relaxant and balancer. The active compound curcumin boosts BNDF levels, which helps to alleviate depression symptoms. Low levels of BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is responsible for triggering depression and many other brain disorders and curcumin has the ability to curb and possibly reverse these effects.

There is also research to suggest that curcumin can boost chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine and serotonin that improve the mood and promote positive thinking.

10. Teeth and oral health

A study reported that at a 100% concentration, turmeric oil possesses antimicrobial activity against P. gingivalis, and can help in the prevention and treatment of periodontitis, which is the inflammation of the tissues supporting the teeth. Being a potent anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory it's no surprise that turmeric can help reduce inflammation related to teeth, gum and oral health problems.

11. Skin health

Applying turmeric essential oil topically can help treat skin conditions, improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles and treat sunburn. The antiseptic and antioxidant properties of turmeric essential oil make it a wonderful acne fighter. It is also known to reduce facial hair, and combined with lemon juice, helps to naturally lighten hyperpigmentation of the skin.

12. Potentially treat epilepsy

The anticonvulsant properties of turmeric oil and its sesquiterpenoids (ar-turmerone, α-, β-turmerone and α-atlantone) have previously been shown in both zebrafish and mouse models of chemically-induced seizures. More recent research in 2013 has shown that aromatic turmerone has anticonvulsant properties in acute seizure models in mice. The turmerone was also able to modulate the expression patterns of two seizure-related genes in zebrafish.

13. Improve liver health

Turmeric is well-known in the holistic health world for its ability to help improve liver health. The liver is our most vital detoxifying organ, and its condition affects the entire body. Studies have shown that turmeric is hepatoprotective (liver-protective), which is partly due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory activity. Some research published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine specifically looked at methotrexate (MTX), an antimetabolite broadly used in the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, and the liver toxicity caused by MTX. The study showed turmeric helped protect the liver from MTX-induced liver toxicity, working as a preventative liver cleanse.

14. Helps with digestive issues

Turmeric has been used traditionally to help with digestion issues and is known to reduce bloating and cramping, encourage the elimination of gas from the system and support the digestive system.

Zingeriberene and 6-gingerol, are the key components of turmeric essential oil, known to have a strong impact on the digestive/gastrointestinal system. Turmeric oil stimulates the production of gastric juices and helps to alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and other digestive ailments.

 

How to choose and use Turmeric essential oil

Turmeric essential oil is available in health stores and online and is very affordable. Don’t be deceived by the size of the bottle — turmeric essential oil is very potent, and a little goes a long way.

Look for a turmeric essential oil that is CO2-extracted, which means it’s extracted with as little heat as possible. CO2 extraction also doesn’t involve using any chemicals like hexane or ethanol.

If you’re making homemade aromatherapy products, it’s helpful to know that turmeric essential oil blends nicely with ginger, cinnamon, blood orange, grapefruit, ylang-ylang, vanilla and cardamom essential oils.

 

How to use it:

  • For stress relief and aromatherapy: diffuse or inhale two to three drops of turmeric essential oil.

  • For skin: Add one to two drops of turmeric oil to face washes, skin lotions, serums and face masks for an added antiseptic and anti-inflammatory boost. And remember that it can also help with hyperpigmentation of the skin.

  • For external use, including inflammation and pain relief: create a massage oil by diluting five drops of turmeric essential oil with five drops of a carrier oil (like jojoba or coconut oil) and apply it to areas of concern.

  • For internal use:  Only very high-quality oil brands should be used internally, which means only certified organic turmeric oil that is 100% pure and of therapeutic grade. Add one drop of turmeric essential oil to water or mix one drop of turmeric oil with a teaspoon of honey or a smoothie. This is an easy alternative to taking turmeric oil capsules.

Always store turmeric essential oil in a cool, dark place.

 

Turmeric essential oil possible side effects and caution

As with all essential oils, turmeric essential oil should not be used undiluted, in the eyes or in other mucous membranes. Don’t take turmeric oil internally unless you’re working with a qualified practitioner. Before applying any essential oil to your skin, always perform a small patch test after diluting the essential oil in a carrier oil.

Consult your healthcare provider before using turmeric essential oil if you’re pregnant, nursing, taking medication or being treated for any health condition, especially bleeding problems, gallbladder problems, diabetes, infertility, iron deficiency, GERD or hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Turmeric is known to possibly interact with drugs that slow blood clotting. Stop using turmeric products at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery.

Is turmeric essential oil toxic? As with any essential oil, it can be toxic if it is misused. You also need to make sure you purchase a 100% pure turmeric essential oil that has not been adulterated with any other potentially toxic ingredients. In general, turmeric typically doesn’t cause any significant side effects. However, some people can experience stomach upset, nausea, diarrhoea or dizziness after taking turmeric supplements.

One other negative turmeric side effect is its ability to stain clothes and skin, whether you use the spice or the oil. Turmeric essential oil is yellow just like the spice and can easily and permanently dye your clothing. It can also temporarily leave your skin looking yellow. Wiping the stained area with coconut oil or lemon juice can help remove any skin staining more quickly.

Turmeric essential oil, like many other essential oils, also can make your skin more sensitive to UV light, so use caution. In general, essential oils should be kept away from children and pets.

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