Zedoary (botanical name Curcuma zedoaria) is also known as white turmeric. This ancient spice is closely related to the normal turmeric and is indigenous to India as well as Indonesia. In the sixth century, this spice was introduced to Europe by Arab traders and during the middle ages zedoary became very popular throughout the continent. However, these days this herb is very rarely used in the West, as it has been largely substituted by ginger. In India, people use zedoary as a substitute of arrowroot and in local perfumes. People in India also use it in rituals performed during festivals.
Zedoary is basically a rhizome (underground stem) having a flimsy brownish skin with a vividly orange-hued, firm interior. This is an aromatic spice, whose scent is similar to that of turmeric and mango. This is a perennially growing herb with a warm zesty, camphoraceous cineolic and woody smell. The herb produces glossy yellow blooms having green and red bracts. The leaves are narrower at the base and have an ovate shape with purple-hued spots and grow up to a length of anything between 30 and 60 inches. While the plant bears triangular and ovate fruits, the shape of the seeds is oval or akin to that of a spear.
Usually, zedoary or white turmeric is commercially available in the form of a powder. It is also sold dried and sliced having a greyish exterior, while inside its color ranges from yellow to greyish-white. Two varieties of white turmeric are available in Indian markets - Curcuma zerumbet (long), and Curcuma zedoaria (round). While the Curcuma zerumbet is long and slender akin to turmeric, Curcuma zedoaria is relatively small as well as fat resembling ginger.
In the eastern part of the globe, the root of zedoary is very popular both as a spice and also a medicine. This herb is used in the same manner as we use its cousin turmeric (botanical name Curcuma longa L.) in curries and condiments. Zedoary root forms an important ingredient in the gastrointestinal disorder remedy called Swedish Bitters. The odour of zedoary root is akin to that of camphor and its flavour is somewhat like bitter ginger. As in the case of turmeric, chewing zedoary root also changes the color of saliva to yellow.
Zedoary is used both for culinary as well as therapeutic purposes. As it possesses several curative properties, this herb is used for treating a number of health conditions.
As zedoary possesses anti-inflammatory properties, fresh roots of the plant are made into a paste and applied to inflamed body areas, especially to wounds and skin complaints. In addition, it is also used to alleviate pain.
Zedoary also works to stimulate the body and purify the blood. At the same time, this herb is effectual for treating problems related to the respiratory tract and helps to tone up the uterus. It is also said to be an excellent aphrodisiac.
Zedoary is beneficial for people enduring digestive problems, as it helps to improve digestion, boost the health as well as the functioning of liver and regulate body temperature. This herb is also employed in the form of a gastro-intestinal tonic while treating flatulent colic. It is useful for treating vomiting, colic, dyspepsia, cough and infections of the urinary tract. The juice of the fresh root is said to be useful in treating urinary tract infections as well as other disorders related to urination.
Zedoary is also effective in preventing stress ulceration, while taking the powdered form of the herb facilitates regularizing menstruation. It is also effective for treating abdominal stress, rheumatic pain and abdominal pain due to amenorrhea (lack of the menses). This herb often forms a component of anti-periodic pills.
It is worth mentioning here that zedoary root is also employed in the form of anti-venom for the Indian cobra, also called the spectacled cobra.
Zedoary root possesses antiseptic properties and applying a paste prepared from the fresh herb externally to wounds and cuts facilitates healing. This herb is also used to assist digestion as well as to alleviate flatulence and colic. The starch, which is called "shoti" in India, can be digested easily. In addition, it is nutritious and, hence, extensively used in the regimen of the ailing or those who are very young in the eastern part of the globe.
This herb also possesses antioxidant properties and it is believed that using it internally helps to resolve sexual problems encountered by men as well as women. In addition, zedoary root is also believed to reinforce the muscles of the uterus and, thereby, facilitates childbirth. Since it possesses aphrodisiac properties, it is used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. This apart, white turmeric is also an anti-periodic - used to stop the recurrence of diseases as well as to cure digestive problems, indigestion, colds, ulcers, and problems related to the gastrointestinal system. This herb is also effective in preventing indigestion, provided it is consumed about 30 minutes prior to a meal.
Zedoary or white turmeric also possesses detoxifying attributes and helps in cell regeneration. In addition, it is beneficial for our immune system. This herb helps to control the body temperature and, hence, is often used to treat fevers.
White turmeric is usually used to treat indigestion and flatulent colic. However, ginger, which is used for the same purpose, is more popular than zedoary. Conventionally, a bitter tincture prepared from zedoary root is employed to put off recurrence of diseases, such as malaria, and also for treating ulcers. As zedoary possesses bitter properties, it is effective in augmenting the secretion of gastric juices, thereby, providing relief from gastrointestinal disorders and dyspepsia related to congestion of the digestive organs. In Germany, health authorities have found that the 'bitters' promote bile secretion and, at the same time, help to remove fatty deposits from the liver.
Since the primeval days, bitter herbal remedies have had a vital function in treating patients suffering from symptoms related to dyspepsia. However, scientists are yet to completely comprehend the mechanism of the bitters in curing these conditions. Nevertheless, there are adequate indications that the bitters work to invigorate the senses even when they are taken in very small intensities - they stimulate the stomach and the digestive glands, in addition to, strengthening the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, by means of the vagus nerve, the gustatory, as well as the enteric nervous system.
It appears that the reinforced digestive tract invigorates the central nervous system (CNS) all through, resulting in an overall tonification (toning up the muscles of the digestive tract). When taken in elevated doses, the bitters are likely to affect the mucous membranes in the stomach as well as the bowel directly. While the stomachic action of zedoary is well known, the main sesquiterpene present in the roots of this herb (Curcuma zedoaria) and called dehydrocurdione possesses anti-inflammatory power associated with its antioxidant consequences.
The essential oil obtained from the dried out zedoary is used by the perfume industry and also employed in soap fabrication. This essential oil is also used in the form of an ingredient in many bitter tonics.
Zedoary root is edible. Internally, the root is white, while its aroma reminds one of mango. Nevertheless, it tastes more like ginger, baring the fact that it leaves an extremely bitter aftertaste. People in Indonesia dry this root and pulverize it into a powder, which they incorporate in curry pastes. On the other hand, people in India use the fresh zedoary root for culinary purposes or for making pickles. In Thai cuisine, zedoary root is used uncooked, while it is sliced into very slender pieces and added to specific Thai salads. In addition, thin strips of zedoary root can also be served with other different herbs as well as vegetable together with specific varieties of Thai chilli pastes known as nam phrik.
The flavour of zedoary root is warm, similar to ginger, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. Many people find this herb to have a disagreeable flavour. In fact, when used as a spice, zedoary root is never used alone, but always combined with other different spices with a view to lessen its bitterness. In addition, the root of this plant is also starchy, which helps it to act rather like a thickener.
People in India generally use the fresh roots of zedoary herb in the form of a spice as well as a thickener. Often, fresh zedoary roots are grated and used in locally prepared pickle mixtures known as "achar." When used in the form of a thickener, Indians called the paste "shoti."
In Thailand, people consume the young zedoary roots in the form of a vegetable. On the other hand, people in Indonesia and China frequently use dried out zedoary in curry powder, especially for cooking seafood. Dried zedoary powder or dried out slices of the herb are freely available in many stores in Asia. In China, the dried zedoary powder is known as "kentjur." When the fresh zedoary roots are sliced and dried in the sun, the color of the surface exposed to sunlight turns grey, while internal color of the herb ranges from yellow to greyish-white.
Zedoary or white turmeric is a perennially growing plant having close relation with ginger and turmeric. This herb is native to places having tropical as well as sub-tropical climatic conditions.
Generally, zedoary is employed in the form of a spice in curries and condiments. You can prepare an infusion with zedoary by adding the herb to boiling water in proportion of one tablespoon of white turmeric for one pint of water. The resultant solution is aromatic and bitter. One cup of this unsweetened infusion is consumed about 30 minutes prior to meals. Tinctures prepared from zedoary root should be taken in dosage of 20 drops to 30 drops daily.
While not much information regarding the safety of using zedoary is available, thus far, there are no reports regarding adverse side effects of using this herb.
However, pregnant women should never take zedoary, because this herb may induce miscarriage. In addition, nursing mothers should also stay away from using zedoary, as sufficient scientific evidence regarding the herb's effect on the nursing infant is not available.
A number of medical experts also advise that even women experiencing menorrhagia (profuse menstrual periods) should also not use zedoary.
Much scientific evidence is not available regarding the manner in which zedoary may work when used for treating medical problems. In fact, scientists are yet to undertake human studies with zedoary or white turmeric. This far, scientists have only tested the herb either in test tubes or in animals. Findings of a number of such studies reveal that zedoary may work in the same way as an antibiotic. In addition, it may also prove to be effective in repelling mosquitoes.
Zedoary is found growing naturally in wet forest areas having tropical or sub-tropical climatic conditions. Similar to ginger and turmeric, zedoary is also a rhizome (underground stem). The rhizome of zedoary is large as well as tuberous having numerous branches. The leaves of this herb are long and aromatic. Zedoary produces yellow hued blooms having green and red bracts. The herb is propagated by planting small pieces of its rhizome. It takes about two years for the plant to be ready for harvesting.