Turmeric Can Help Get Rid of Pimples

Turmeric compounds can help keep keep acne at bay.

Can a spice really help prevent and treat pimples? According to traditional and modern medicines, turmeric is a spice that may do just that. Turmeric is a common ingredient in traditional Ayurvedic and homemade formulas to treat acne. And now medical research confirms that turmeric compounds have a number of acne-fighting compounds. Turmeric's anti-acne activities and properties help: (xi.6)

Turmeric's multifaceted approach may actually be more beneficial than traditional retinoids because of its anti-inflammatory effects. And even though systemic antibiotics kill bacteria and suppress inflammation, turmeric may offer advantages over these conventional drugs as well. In fact, experts actually recommend avoiding antibiotics except for the most severe cases of acne. That's because of growing bacterial resistance to conventional antibiotics taken orally—especially when used for longer than 6 months. (xi.67)

What Causes Pimples?

Anyone can get pimples—not only teenagers. There are many factors that play a role in causing the troublesome lesions: (xi.6-11)

How Do Pimples Form?

How Do Pimples Form?

  • Hormones (e.g., androgens, estrogen, insulin, growth hormone, cortisol, and CRH).
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., polycystic ovarian syndrome and Cushing syndrome).
  • Stress (which increases levels of cortisol and other hormones).
  • Genetics (some hereditary syndromes such as PAPA syndrome are associated with acne).
  • Diet (e.g., high glycemic load foods and milk).
  • Free radicals.
  • Smoking.

Regardless of cause, there are four primary processes involved in acne: (xi.9)

  • Increased production of sebum—the natural oils produced in skin glands.
  • Formation of comedones, or clogged pores.
  • Excess microbial bacteria—especially Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).
  • Inflammation.

All of these activities create an inflammatory cycle that feeds the formation of pimples (see figure How Do Pimples Form?). (xi.79)

How Can Turmeric Help?

Turmeric and its compounds (such as curcumin and demethoxycurcumin) can disrupt the vicious cycle of acne in multiple ways: (xi.146)

Clinical Trial
Evidence of Turmeric's Acne-Fighting Effects

Turmeric Extract combined with Tea Tree Oil

Topical Cream

Turmeric contains many of the same plant compounds as the essential oil from Melaleuca alternifolia leaves. These include 1,8-cineole, terpinolene, ρ-cymene, α-pinene, and α-terpineol. The combination cream inhibited Propionibacterium acne, the bacteria that can cause pimples. (xi.612-15)

Turmeric Combined with Other Botanical Extracts

Face Wash Gel

In a clinical study, turmeric herbal gel effectively helped inhibit acne. (xi.16)

Turmeric Combined with Isotretinoin

Topical Ointment

Results of a clinical trial involving 106 patients with moderate to severe acne showed turmeric improved isotretinoin's effectiveness. Isotretinoin and a sulfur lotion was 80% effective, while the isotretinoin and turmeric treatment was over 91% effective. Almost 68% of patients in the turmeric group were cured after 8 weeks of treatment, compared to 52% in the isotretinoin and sulfur lotion. (xi.17)

Beneficial Nutrients in Turmeric Have Anti-Acne Effects

Turmeric contains alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid. Studies suggest that essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in the skin, which can help reduce acne. ALA also shows antibacterial activity against P. acnes. Some research indicates that vitamin E, a nutrient in turmeric, may be necessary to maintain beneficial levels of the vitamin A-derived acne drug isotretinoin. (xi.111318-20)

Other flavonoids, polyphenols, and plant compounds found in turmeric's rhizome and leaf that are reported to have anti-acne effects include:

Both alpha-pinene and alpha-terpineol show antibacterial activity against P. acnes(xi.21)

The transcription factor protein AP-1, TLR-2, and the cytokine protein psoriasin. (xi.6)
Specially, cyclin D1. (xi.6)
Rauwvolfia serpentina and Azadiracta indica(xi.16)

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