Many people are familiar with turmeric, a yellow spice that’s used in curries and other Asian dishes. Turmeric has gotten a lot of attention because, in addition to being a spice, scientists have found that it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It’s been used to help people with certain kinds of pain, improve cholesterol profile and treat conditions of the digestive tract.
What you may not know is that turmeric plays a prominent role in Chinese herbal healing, too. There are actually a number of different kinds of turmeric, or curcumin plants, three of which are used for healing in Chinese medicine. All three of the curcumin-based herbs come from the rhizome or tuber of its specific plant, and each has slightly different actions and uses.
Yu Jin (curcuma aromatica) is actually the herb considered to be curcumin. It’s a cool herb used to move and regulate blood and reduce pain. It’s added to formulas to treat painful menstrual cramping, amenorrhea, and pain related to traumatic injuries. Because Yu Jin is cooling, it can also be used to stop bleeding caused by heat or inflammation.
Jiang Huang (curcuma longa) is what we know as turmeric. It’s also a very moving herb but is warmer in nature than Yu Jin. Jiang Huang is used to promote menstrual flow, relieve pain, and treat chest pain. This herb is also good in relieving cold and damp pain that moves around, especially in your shoulders, chest and upper body.
E Zhu (curcuma zedoaria) is called zedoary. It’s also a warm and moving herb that can treat pain, pelvic inflammation, menstrual cramping and promote menses. It’s considered to be the most effective of the curcumins in treating abdominal pain and digestive problems.
What are the main uses of turmeric?
These herbs are used in a great many Chinese herbal formulas. While there’s overlap in curcuma’s ability to treat pain and promote the movement of blood, the different properties of each individual herb determine which herb will be used in a formula.
In addition, while herbal medicine is gaining more acceptance as an effective and natural therapy, it also has the backing of science. Researchers have discovered that curcumins have an anti-inflammatory effect that may be beneficial in treating treat heart disease, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and other degenerative conditions. Scientists have also found that curcumins contain a compound that promotes the growth of new neurons that may play a role in treating depression and Alzheimer’s disease. And researchers have determined that the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this herb translates into a natural way to treat arthritis and joint inflammation and pain.
The bottom line is that curcumins can be a healthy addition to your diet and many herbal formulas. If you’d like to find out more about herbal medicine and curcumin or supplementing with turmeric, contact us today. We can help you tweak your diet, recommend supplements, prescribe a Chinese herbal formula or provide acupuncture for your specific needs.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.