A wound, if not treated properly and on time, may cause infections and lower the functionality of the affected area.
Turmeric offers a natural solution as it has excellent anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and wound-healing potentials.
The wound is an injury that results in the breaking of the skin or other body tissues.
It may be an open wound (caused by a tear, cut, stab, puncture, incisions, and abrasions) or a closed wound (caused by damage to internal body cells and organs, beneath the skin).
Apart from sharp and rough objects, wounds may be caused by exposure to extreme temperatures (burns and frostbite), acids and chemicals, electric current, radiation, bites, and stings.
Symptoms depend on the site and severity of the injury and often present with pain, swelling, redness, and bleeding in the wounded area.
The injuries are susceptible to complications like severe inflammation, infection, scarring, and reduced functionality.
Wound healing can be accelerated by application and consumption of some drugs and natural substances like turmeric. Turmeric is of the best healing herbs.
Let us know more about it (you can skip this section and jump to benefits directly using the Table of Contents).
Table of Contents
- What is Turmeric?
- 5 Benefits of Turmeric in Wound Healing
- Novel turmeric and curcumin formulations
- The dosage of Turmeric for Wound Healing
- Precautions to be taken
- Research Studies
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric has been used since ages as a spice and a medicinal herb in Asian countries.
Several species of turmeric are available worldwide, the most common being Curcuma Longa. The rhizomes of this plant are dried and ground to form turmeric powder.
Recent studies have affirmed the numerous benefits of this magical herb that were already documented in Ayurveda.
Let us find out how the use of Turmeric can result in faster healing and recovery from wounds.
5 Benefits of Turmeric in Wound Healing
Turmeric shows anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain relieving properties which help in the healing of the wound. It also fastens the overall healing process and has no side effects as compared to usual wound healing medications.
1. Turmeric reduces wound inflammation
Inflammation is one of the essential natural processes of wound healing.
The swelling and redness observed, is due to the leakage of plasma from damaged blood vessels and accumulation of immune and repair cells at the wound site.
However, this can be problematic if prolonged or excessive inflammation occurs. This can lead to accumulation of toxins and also damage neighboring healthy cells.
Turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory agent may help in controlling severe inflammation of wounds.
It reduces the expression of several inflammatory enzymes such as the cyclooxygenase and matrix metalloproteinase enzymes.
It also inhibits cytokines like the tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukins (IL-1, IL-10), which mediate the inflammatory process.
What does this mean?
Turmeric decreases swelling and redness of the wounded area by suppressing many inflammatory mediators.
2. Turmeric shows anti-oxidant properties
Prolonged inflammation or infection in the wound may cause the development of oxidative stress.
This is because the immune cells or microbes start generating toxins in the form of free radicals.
These are reactive species of oxygen which damage the normal or injured body cells and delay the healing and repair process.
Curcumin found in turmeric is an excellent antioxidant which can prevent cellular and DNA injury to the tissues in the wounded area.
It protects from the damage caused by reactive oxygen species to keratinocytes and fibroblasts, which are involved in the wound healing process.
Thus the application of turmeric can shield from oxidative damage and improve tissue repair.
What does this mean?
Turmeric increases the antioxidant capacity of the body and protects the body cells from toxins generated by inflammatory processes and microbes.
3. Turmeric can prevent and treat wound infections
Open wounds are susceptible to infection by various bacteria. The warm and humid environment in wounds is optimum for microbial growth.
Infection may further complicate the wound condition and may result in pus formation, fever, heat, delay in healing and in extreme cases, amputation of the body part.
Therefore, the protection of wounds from infection is of utmost importance.
Turmeric shows anti-microbial activities against many bacteria, including those found on the skin and which commonly infect wound sites.
It inhibits the growth of both gram positive and gram negative microbes such as the strains of Staphylococcus, E.coli, Bacillus cereus, Salmonella typhimurium, and several other microbes which form biofilms on the skin and thus, are usually harder to treat.
Turmeric disrupts the cell membranes of these bacteria which hampers their survival.
Thus, the use of turmeric may not only help in healing the wound but also protect it from infections.
What does this mean?
Turmeric prevents the growth of bacteria at the wound site and thus protects from wound infections.
4. Turmeric is beneficial in each step of wound healing
The process of wound healing involves many steps: Clotting, Inflammation, Cell proliferation, and Tissue Remodeling.
Turmeric and curcumin can influence all of these processes and reduce the wound healing time in the following ways:
First phase: Clotting
Turmeric is a coagulant and has fibrinogenolytic (fibrin formation) activity that controls bleeding and accelerates the formation of a blood clot just after wounding.
Second phase: Inflammation
It promotes inflammatory mediators (TNF-α) in the early stages of wound healing that helps in concentrating repair cells to the wound site.
After that, it decreases inflammation significantly.
Third phase: Cell proliferation and migration
- It increases the proliferation, migration and adhesion of cells like fibroblasts, myofibroblasts and macrophages to the wound site.
- It stimulates the production of growth factors (transforming growth factor beta-1) and proteins (fibronectin) required for wound healing.
- It fastens the process of re-epithelialization, where epithelium (a membranous tissue) grows over and covers the wound.
- It enhances the formation of granulation tissue (a new connective tissue).
- It promotes neovascularization (formation of new blood vessels) to the wounded area, which ensures proper blood circulation, the supply of nutrients and removal of waste materials.
- It contributes to wound contraction and early wound closure.
Fourth phase: Maturation and remodeling
- It increases the collagen content, which is the main structural protein found in the epidermis.
- It further promotes the deposition, maturation and cross-linking of collagen at the wound area, which results in improved tensile strength of the skin.
- In the case of muscle injuries, curcumin can promote cell proliferation and differentiation to form new muscle tissues.
What does this mean?
Turmeric shows extraordinary benefits by enhancing every step of the healing process. It fastens coagulation, cell proliferation, migration, the formation of granulation tissue, development of blood vessels, collagen production and tissue remodeling.
5. Turmeric assists in healing different kinds of wounds
The cause of the wound determines its severity and the healing agent required.
Turmeric has been proven beneficial in treating various kinds of wounds:
Burn wounds are painful and more susceptible to infection. Conventional treatment involves a combination of antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, anticonvulsants, and anti-depressants.
These can have severe side effects.
On the contrary, turmeric offers a safer one-step alternative as it helps in reducing the severe pain, inflammation, infection, and burn wound progression, while simultaneously promoting the repair of burnt tissues.
Read more on Turmeric for Burn Wounds>
Dermatitis induced by radiation:
Radiation therapy used for the treatment of cancer usually causes skin damage and wounding. It also delays wound contraction and elongates the healing time.
In one such study, turmeric and sandal wool based creams were topically applied to patients of head and neck cancer along with radiation treatment.
It was found that the cream significantly reduced the degree of radiodermatitis as compared to control groups.
Diabetes lowers blood circulation, collagen production, the formation of blood vessels and the functionality of white blood cells.
This makes diabetic wounds prone to infections and difficult to heal.
It can thus contribute to easier wound management and healing in diabetic individuals.
- Turmeric attenuates pain and inflammation in the case of incision wounds caused by surgical treatments.
- It contributes to the better healing of the wounds initiated by Caesarian operation and Carbon dioxide laser treatments.
- It fastens the wound healing mechanism which has been delayed by age-associated disorders and by consumption of certain drugs like aspirin and dexamethasone.
What does this mean?
Turmeric can heal many kinds of wounds including those caused by burns, radiation, surgery, Caesarian operation and laser treatment. It can further speed up the repair process delayed by age-related factors and intake of certain drugs.
Novel turmeric and curcumin formulations
Now, when the benefits of turmeric in wound healing have been well-established, the scientists are working on applying it practically by creating novel formulations with improved bioavailability and delivery of turmeric and curcumin to the wounds.
The dosage of Turmeric for Wound Healing
Turmeric can be taken both orally and topically for healing wounds.
There is no specific dosage of turmeric for complete wound healing and repair. However, inclusion in the diet is safe and can prove beneficial.
Turmeric and curcumin are poorly absorbed by the body. (Read How to improve Turmeric’s bioavailability?)
Start with small doses of ¼- ½ tsp a day. If no gastric side effects are seen, one can increase the dose gradually by ¼- ½ tsp a week till the ideal dosage of 1 tsp thrice a day (or 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day) is reached.
If taking large doses, avoid taking it simultaneously with medicines. (Read: Black pepper in GP: Does it cause Drug interaction?)
If opting for turmeric/curcumin supplements, consult a healthcare professional.
Topical application of turmeric on wound ensures localized delivery and enhanced absorption of turmeric which then helps in earlier and better recovery.
Scientists have developed many formulations containing turmeric to be used topically as wound dressings.
Turmeric has been found to be safe for topical application on skin wounds. However, some people might be allergic to certain spices and therefore, consult a patch test prior, if using for the first time.
For wound healing, take sufficient amount of turmeric powder and mix it with oil, preferably olive oil or coconut oil and apply to the affected area.
Leave it for at least 30 minutes and if required, cover with gauze. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
How to buy good turmeric powder?
If you are unsure how to buy good turmeric powder, please check our recommendations here>
Precautions to be taken
Avoid turmeric supplements during pregnancy, lactation, prior to surgery and if suffering from gallbladder obstruction or bleeding disorders.
In case of bleeding disorders, the inclusion of turmeric in the diet is safe. However, it is best to consult with your doctor before using either turmeric or turmeric supplements.
Avoid taking turmeric con an empty stomach to avoid symptoms of acid reflux.
Turmeric may interact with some drugs including anti-diabetics and anti-depressants, etc. Curcumin in turmeric has been known to interfere in the process of drug metabolism in the body.
Thus, concomitant use of turmeric/curcumin supplements with any other medications should be avoided.
Turmeric has been scientifically proven to promote wound healing.
The mechanisms behind this action have also been studied extensively and it has been reported that turmeric carries out this function due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
It also has the ability to regulate production and activation of several body cells, proteins, factors and immune components involved in this complex process.
With an additional anti-microbial feature, turmeric offers a safer more effective approach to prevent wound infections and facilitate early recovery.