Of the various varieties of turmeric, the three main species of the genus Curcuma are the Curcuma aromatica, the Curcuma longa or domestica and the Curcuma zedoaria. The most commonly produced is the Curcuma longa which is called turmeric, and is bright yellow in colour. It is used widely in curries and is also a source of dyes. It belongs to the ginger family Zingiberaceae. It is aromatic ginger with stout underground rhizomes. The rhizome of the plant is boiled cleaned and dried before making it into a powder.
Botanical Name – Curcuma longa
Sanskrit – Harita
Tamil – Manjal
Hindi – Haldi
Health benefits of Turmeric
It has been used for thousands of years in Indian and Chinese medicine, as an anti-inflammatory and for the treatment of flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, hematuria, hemorrhage, and colic. Turmeric is also applied locally in poultices to relieve pain and inflammation. In India, Curcuma Longa has been used as a home remedy to treat a wide variety of ailments including stomach aches, skin problems, muscular problems, and arthritis. The Chinese use turmeric as a topical analgesic, for colic, hepatitis, ringworm, and chest pain.
Anti-inflammatory health benefits of turmeric
Turmeric possesses curcumin which exhibits anti-inflammatory effects. Studies done on animals show, that oral administration of Curcuma longa, significantly reduced inflammatory swelling. It is used to treat gastrointestinal and upper respiratory problems. Turmeric has also been shown to inhibit ulcer formation caused by stress and alcohol. Curcumin may also be applied topically to counteract inflammation and irritation associated with inflammatory skin conditions and allergies.
Anti-cancer health benefits of turmeric
Turmeric has been used in herbal medicine to prevent and treat cancer. It is thought to help in the removal of cell accumulation and tumors. Animal studies involving rats and mice, as well as in vitro studies utilizing human cell lines, have shown curcumin’s ability to inhibit carcinogenesis at three stages: tumor promotion, angiogenesis, and tumor growth. In two studies of colon and prostate cancer, curcumin inhibited cell proliferation and tumor growth.
Turmeric health benefits for cardiovascular diseases
Turmeric is said to help reduce both cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It removes excessive lipids from the blood and reduces the aggregation of platelets. Turmeric extract’s effect on cholesterol levels may be due to decreased cholesterol uptake in the intestines and increased conversion of cholesterol to bile acids in the liver.
A powerful antioxidant
Curcumin is also known as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect the body from free radicals. The curcumin component of turmeric exhibits strong antioxidant activity, comparable to vitamins like C and E. One animal study showed that incubation (18 hours) with curcumin resulted in enhanced cellular resistance to oxidative damage. Turmeric’s hepatoprotective effect (ability to prevent damage to the liver) is mainly a result of its antioxidant properties, as well as its ability to decrease the formation of proinflammatory cytokines. In another study on rats, with induced liver injury, curcumin administration significantly decreased the liver injury in test animals.
Turmeric health benefits for Alzheimer’s
The yellow pigment curcumin has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidative damage, inflammation, cognitive deficits, and amyloid (certain proteins that are deposited in organs) accumulation. Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Studies show that in Indian populations, where the diet includes quite a bit of turmeric, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s are very low in elderly people. Experimental research conducted recently found that curcumin does appear to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice.
Turmeric health benefits for arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function. The herb turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric helps individuals suffering from osteoarthritis, acting as a painkiller, by increasing mobility in the joint and reducing stiffness. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints. Since turmeric has a combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, people with joint disease find relief when they consume turmeric.
Natural remedy for skin ailments
Turmeric helps to purify and nourish the blood and skin. External application of turmeric stops pain and swelling, heals wounds rapidly, and treats many skin diseases ranging from acne to leprosy. The classic way to apply turmeric is as a blend of turmeric, chickpea flour (besan), almond oil, a little fresh cream, and honey. This helps to clear up skin blemishes and increase the natural glow of the skin.
Home remedies with turmeric
(How to take turmeric)
- For throat infection, a tsp of turmeric powder boiled in two cups of water and strained is a very effective remedy. The liquid should be gargled.
- Boil a tsp of carom seeds in a cup of water with a tsp of turmeric. Add honey and have about 1/4 cups 2 – 4 times a day for cough and chest infections. A glass of hot milk with a tsp each of turmeric and honey relieves congestion and cough, when taken on an empty stomach.
- For indigestion, make a decocotion of 1/2 a tsp each of cloves and black pepper, a tbsp of cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 a tsp of rock salt, pounded coarsely in a litre of water. Boil it down to half a litre and have 2 tbsp, 3-4 times a day for 2 – 3 days.
- A tsp of turmeric in a glass of hot water, with a pinch of rock salt, drunk while still hot gives immediate relief from flatulence.
- For liver problems like jaundice, 1/4th of a tsp of turmeric stirred in a glass of warm water taken thrice a day with a little jaggery is very beneficial as turmeric has antiseptic as well as healing properties.
- For sprains, a tsp of fresh ginger paste, to which a level tsp of turmeric powder is added should be applied liberally on sprain area and bandaged lightly. If there is a swelling, then adding a little salt to the paste helps.
- For scabies, take equal quantity of neem (fresh or dry) and turmeric powder. Mix this with mustard oil. Apply on body for an hour and then wash. Do this till the lesions have healed.
- Applying the juice of ground raw turmeric is very good for fungal infections.
- Apply turmeric on wounds and cuts heals quite quickly
- For eczema, apply a paste made with fresh neem leaves and a tsp of turmeric powder mixed in sesame seed oil. Apply once a day. This is a very good home remedy for all types of skin problems.
Excess of turmeric can cause an upset stomach, nausea, and dizziness. This can happen, especially if you take turmeric capsules or supplements in high amounts.
It is always better to take turmeric in its natural form in moderate quantities so as to reap maximum benefits.
Turmeric contains oxalates that may increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
Too much turmeric consumption may inhibit the absorption of iron. Hence, people with iron deficiency should not add too much turmeric to their daily meals, as it may decrease the body’s ability to absorb the iron.