A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Curcuma longa syn. C. domestica
Belonging to the ginger family, turmeric grows round the year. The herb has a broad bulb that has big, rectangular and long leaves that are attached to the stem. Basically found and cultivated in a large scale in tropical countries like India, China, Jamaica, Indonesia. Haiti and Philippines, turmeric normally grows to a height of a yard. India is the major producer of the herb that is an essential curry powder and also used in mustard preparations. The part of the plant that is used both for cookery as well as medicinal therapy is the rhizome or the bulb. Normally, the turmeric bulb is cleaned, boiled and dried before use.
Turmeric has multifarious uses and is used in different places differently. The indigenous people of Samoa use the herb powder to heal skin ulcers, doctor the navel of a new born, tackle blemishes as well as alleviate aches and itching of the skin, eczema and psoriasis. When babies suffer from diaper rashes, the rhizome powder is sprinkled and rubbed by the hand on the baby's skin. In more serious cases of swelling and irritation, turmeric powder is mixed with coconut oil and lightly applied on the affected parts for comfort.
Indians and Chinese have many other uses of turmeric. They take a small quantity of turmeric powder; mix it with small amounts of lime juice and some water to prepare a smooth and uniform paste that is applied on herpes cuts or scratches, leprosy aches, mumps, measles and chickenpox. This has proved to give tremendous results. If one desires, he may also crush several 50 mg worth of zinc tablets to the paste for better results. This paste also works wonders when applied to the wounds from snakebites, insect stings and ringworm.
On the other hand, Ayurvedic practitioners in India still traditionally use a portion of a clean cloth drenched in a turmeric solution to cleanse the harmful releases of severe conjunctivitis as well as ophthalmia. Again, many others blend small quantity of turmeric powder with an equal amount of baking soda and insert a minute portion of the mixture inside the outer ear to facilitate the drying up of any liquefied discharges. A dosage of turmeric with three glasses of water is also beneficial in getting rid of any kind of bleeding during the pregnancy period. If turmeric is blended with eggplant, the mixture proves to be even more useful in such conditions as well as for treating any wounds. It may be noted here that bleeding during the early stages of pregnancy is a threatening indication of natural abortion and it should be dealt with serious care and caution.
Here is a remedy involving the use of turmeric that may be adopted by the households. Boil one cup of sliced eggplant in one pint of water on a low heat for about 45 minutes. Next sieve the liquid in another vessel and add half-a-teaspoon of turmeric powder, cover the vessel and soak it on heat till the liquid becomes warm. Sieve this liquid through several layers and drink one cupful of it for as many times a day till the bleeding subsides.
Turmeric is known to have to possess proven qualities that help in alleviating inflammation. It restrains the stimulated edema as well as semi severe arthritis in rats and mice. Significantly, these encouraging results can be compared to those wrought by anti-inflammatory drugs such as hydrocortisone acetate and phenylbutazone. Half teaspoon of turmeric juice taken twice daily - in the morning and evening - may prove to be of immense help in curbing swellings, irritations and itches in the body.
If one desires to get supplementary respite from inflammations, bruises, sprains and rupture in the bones, he/she may blend two tablespoons of turmeric powder with one teaspoon of lime juice and a barely boiling water to prepare a pleasant, soft and tepid cream. The paste can then be applied straight off on the area affected by pain or bloating and then wrapped with some artificial material with a view to preserve the warmth and dampness for a longer period. It is important that the evenness of the paste is akin to that of peanut butter to enable it to reach out evenly to all parts of the affected areas of the skin effortlessly.
In addition to this, turmeric also has the special qualities of avoiding accrual of fats in and also in the region of the liver as well as reducing serum cholesterol intensity in the system. Experiments with rats feeding in ten percent of fat tinted with turmeric have depicted that there was no accumulation of fat in and around the liver as compared to other rodents who were fed the same substance, but without the tinge of turmeric. In fact, experiments have shown that the people derive the best result of turmeric when they consume the spice cooked with eggplant. Here is what you may try to get the best result of turmeric. Blend 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder with two teaspoons of cooked pounded eggplant in 1-1/2 teaspoons of hot water till it makes a smooth paste. When this paste is applied on a whole wheat bread or rye bread and consumed after a meal rich in fats, it would yield the best results to safeguard the liver.
The therapeutic benefit of turmeric, especially the ability of the spice to heal liver disorders and facilitating its functioning, has long been known to people and they even find place in folklores. Even to this day, herbal medicinal practitioners recommend the usage of curcumin for healing liver inflammation and people suffering from a common liver problem called hepatitis C. Curcumin's resourcefulness is reflected from the fact that it is also useful in healing ailments related to the gallbladder.
In addition to turmeric's therapeutic qualities, researches by Japanese scientists have proved that the spice is useful as a preservative and is capable of enhancing the shelf life of oils and fats. Researches proved that turmeric and ginger have important anti-oxidant actions when these species are added to olive, soybean or sesame oils. Turmeric has been found to have played a vital role in preserving the life of seafood when refrigerated. A group of scientists also examined the use of turmeric or turmeric with salt with fish preparations, as turmeric is popularly used in most fish delicacies. Dipping fish in turmeric solutions for 15-30 minutes yielded excellent results. For instance, under normal circumstances, control shrimp had a self life of just 13 days. After this, the shrimp decomposed with an awful smell and with growing black spots all over. However, if you dip the shrimp in a turmeric solution, its shelf life increases for a week more. Interestingly, when the shrimp was dipped in a solution of turmeric and salt, its shelf life increased by another 42 days!
As mentioned earlier, turmeric helps to facilitate the action of the liver and has been used for years used to heal jaundice both by the Chinese as well as the Ayurvedic medical practitioners. Turmeric also helps in secretion of mucus that protects the stomach and has been used since ages to heal digestive disorders like gastritis and tartness. The spice is also helpful in relieving one of nausea and although turmeric is not helpful in alleviating pain, the herb's anti-seditious functions are helpful in getting relief from other inciting situations like arthritis, asthma and eczema. Turmeric is now being widely used to heal as well as lower the danger of strokes and heart attacks. This is because its properties to curb inflammation, thin the blood as well as reduce the cholesterol level in the system.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Indigenous to south Asian countries, especially India, turmeric is now commercially grown across southern and eastern Asian nations. Unlike many other herbs, turmeric is grown from root grafts and requires a soil with excellent drainage and moist conditions. The bulb of the herb is collected during the winter.
It is unfortunate that although turmeric has been long in use for its medicinal values in India and China, scientists in the Western world never cared to conduct research into its properties. It was only when people became aware and interested in the diets and medicines that helped in reducing cholesterol levels in the body or contained anti-oxidant qualities that neutralized the damaging free fundamentals in the foodstuff that the herb was taken up for intensive research. Still then, since the 1970s most of the researches have been carried out in India and they have established the herb's conventional activities and also brought to the fore its new uses. Several researches conducted between 1971 and 1991 have proved that turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory herb and its action is more powerful than hydrocortisone.
Turmeric acts as a powerful anti-bacterial medicine when it is applied on the skin and brought in the presence of sunlight. Curcumin, an ingredient of turmeric, is responsible for this action and has proved to be more powerful than vitamin E. Medical experiments carried out by Chinese scientists in 1987 have proved that turmeric is also beneficial in reducing in bringing down the intensity of cholesterol in the body.
Although turmeric is considered to be useful in preventing cancer among people, there is a need for more research to establish the fact. Researches conducted by various scientists have established that turmeric is very useful in thinning blood. The herb is also known to enhance secretion and flow of bile and act as a safeguard for the stomach and the liver.
Normally, people consume 400 mg of curcumin thrice a day either in the form of tablets or capsules to get rid of their ailments. In addition to this, turmeric can also be taken in as a spice in daily diet with a view to maintain and promote one's health.
Side effects and cautions
All scientific researches have been conducted so far have established turmeric to be completely safe from any kind of adverse side effects. The herb is reported to be harmless beyond doubt. Although, it is advisable that people suffering from gallstones need to keep away from turmeric, otherwise it has shown no unfavorable affect when consumed in great amounts with foodstuff.
The most useful derivative from turmeric is curcumin. However, one must not mistake it for cumin, which is also found in turmeric, a curry powder that gives it characteristic yellow color to the delicacies. Also known as the ‘spice of life', turmeric is extensively used by Indians in cookery. Apart from adding color and flavor to curries, many herbal formulae of turmeric are today used to heal rheumatoid arthritis. Researches by Indian scientists have shown that turmeric is equally useful and powerful in treating arthritis as any other prescribed medicines that are sold over the counter. In fact, turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory qualities that are beneficial when administered to patients suffering from arthritis.
When curcumin was administered to people suffering from arthritis during double-blind examinations, it was found to have yielded noteworthy progress when compared to the usage of the prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine called phenylbutazone. The greatest benefit of using curcumin is that it does not have any adverse side affects. On the other hand, people using the NSAID are generally known to have complained of stomach problems, bleeding ulcers and other difficulties. Now, scientists have undertaken researches as well as testing of curcumin to find out if it can also be effectively used to heal skin, breast and colon cancer. Significantly, curcumin is also beneficial in many ways in safeguarding against heart diseases. While curcumin is effective in lowering the intensity of cholesterol in the system, it also averts clotting of blood which may often result in heart attacks and also strokes.