A turmeric mouthwash can reduce the severity of oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiotherapy, according to a study published in Cancer Nursing.

Researchers conducted this randomized, controlled trial to compare a turmeric mouthwash to standard care (benzydamine mouthwash) for oral mucositis.

A total of 92 patients with head and neck cancer were recruited and randomly assigned to receive the turmeric mouthwash (46 participants) or standard care (46 participants).

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In the turmeric arm, patients swished 10 mL of prepared solution (400 mg capsules of turmeric in 80 mL of boiled cooled water) in the mouth for 2 minutes, spit it out, and repeated the process 4 times. In the standard care arm, patients swished the mouth with 10 mL of benzydamine mouthwash mixed with an equal amount of water. Both groups were instructed to complete the process 6 times a day: 1 hour before radiation; 1, 2, 4, and 6 hours after radiation; and once at bedtime.

Outcome variables were measured for 21 participants in the turmeric group and 23 in the standard care group at the end of 7 weeks. Oral health status was graded with the Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT), which scores changes in oral health status on a scale of 1 to 16 (1 to 8 indicates unhealthy changes, and 9 to 16 indicates unhealthy oral status). Assessments were conducted at baseline then weekly through the end of radiation. Oral dysfunction was assessed using the Patient Reported Oral Mucositis (PROMS) scale and the Xerostomia Short Form Inventory. Baseline scores were obtained before patients started radiation and continued weekly through completion of radiation.

The incidence of intolerable mucositis was 17.8% in the turmeric group and 100% in the standard care group. In addition, the turmeric mouthwash protocol reduced weight loss and the incidence of breaks in treatment during radiation.

“Turmeric mouthwash was found to be effective in reducing unhealthy changes in the oral cavity, delaying the onset of mucositis and reducing the severity of oral mucositis and oral dysfunctions among participants in the experimental group,” the researchers concluded. “Turmeric mouthwash offers a nontoxic, simple, and cost-effective alternative to the traditional management of oral mucositis.”

Disclosures: This research was partly supported by Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore, India. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.


Thomas PL, Kang HK, Rishi KS. Randomized control study of the effects of turmeric mouthwash on oral health status, treatment-induced mucositis, and associated oral dysfunctions among patients with head and neck cancer. Cancer Nurs. 2023;46(1):36-44. doi:10.1097/NCC.0000000000001149

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor