What is Turmeric Essential Oil useful for in a Clinical Aromatherapy setting?


The Latin name for this plant is Curcuma longa Linn and it is a member of the Zingiberaceae family (the same as Ginger oil). Native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, it is widely used in cooking. It is also cultivated in China and the plant has rhizomes roots very much like ginger except the turmeric rhizome root is a deep orange colour on the inside. The leaf of turmeric is also much wider than ginger but they are of course part of the same plant family, so we should see some similarities.

Turmeric has become very "fashionable" recently as a herbal supplement and cooking ingredient. There are numerous companies selling supplements and remedies that purport a cure all. It is its anti-inflammatory action, thanks to the main active ingredient of curcumin that have interested people suffering from inflammatory diseases. I recently put out a query on the Complementary Health Professional Facebook forum to see who had been using it successfully as an essential oil and how and people have also responded about how they are using the supplement too. One person said she uses it instead of Ibuprofen successfully to avoid digestive problems associated with ibuprofen; however, prolonged use of turmeric has been associated with incidences of ulcers, hyperplasia and inflammation in the forestomach, cecum and colon (Imrahim et al 2018), so it clearly needs careful monitoring. I have bought some rather expensive turmeric supplements for my own mother who has bursitis in her right hip, but there was no pain relief after 30 days.

Curcumin has several other biological activities including being anti-carcinogenic, anti-infectious, antioxidant, anti-apoptic and is vulnerary. People have reported adding turmeric to honey for wound healing. However, all of these studies were either topical dressing using the powdered turmeric or given orally. This article is about the essential oil and how aromatherapists might use it in a clinical setting so I wanted to find out what is in the oil when it has been distilled. I started with a GC/MS analysis of the essential oil that had been obtained via hydro-distillation from the rhizomes.