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Turmeric is a plant, native to South India and Indonesia. It is one of the key ingredients for many Indian, Persian and Thai dishes such as in curry and many more. Turmeric, officially known as Curcuma longa, is a rhizome of the ginger family. Turmeric was traditionally called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange color. In India, it is most commonly known as Haldi.

In ancient Indian medicine, Ayurveda has recommended its use in food for its medicinal value. It is one of the most commonly used herb and spice in the Ayurvedic diet and it has many health benefits. Turmeric is a powerful healing food that has been used in the ancient Indian systems of medicine for thousands of years. Turmeric can also be useful in treatment of wounds, bruises and sprains. Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.

Turmeric is considered highly auspicious in India and has been used in various Indian ceremonies. It is used in every part of India during wedding ceremonies and religious ceremonies.

New research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that curcumin, the key ingredient in the spice turmeric, it speeds up metabolism. The western medical community has been doing research into turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially curcumin, a compound that gives turmeric its dark yellow color, and its potential in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. But in the East, turmeric has long been used for medicinal purposes.

Just a few grams of turmeric per day either in the form of powder, crushed root or fresh roots can provide enough nutrients to help us keep away from anemia, neuritis, memory disorders and offers protection against cancers, infectious diseases, high blood pressure and strokes.

CEREMONIAL USES

  • Gaye holud (literally “yellow on the body”) is a ceremony observed mostly in the region of Bengal (comprising Bangladesh and Indian West Bengal). The gaye holud takes place one or two days prior to the religious and legal Bengali wedding ceremonies.
  • During the south Indian festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with fresh rhizomes is offered as a thanks giving offering to Surya, the Sun god.
  • In southern India, as a part of the marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to replace the Mangalsutra temporarily or permanently. The Hindu Marriage act recognizes this custom.
  • In western and coastal India, during weddings of the Marathi and Konkani people turmeric tubers are tied with strings by the couple to their wrists during a ceremony called Kankana bandhana.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

  • Turmeric (curcuma longa) is being touted as an ingredient that not only helps spice up curry dishes, but also adds potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the diet.
  • The herb contains many health benefiting essential oils such as termerone, curlone, curumene, cineole, and p-cymene.
  • Curcumin, a poly-phenolic compound, is the principal pigment that imparts deep orange color to the turmeric. The curcumin may have anti-tumor, antioxidant, anti-arthritic, anti-amyloid, anti-ischemic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • This popular herb contains no cholesterol; but is rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fiber, which helps to control blood LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels.
  • It is very rich source of many essential vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin-B6), choline, niacin, and riboflavin etc, which are essential for optimum health. 100 g herb provides 1.80 mg or 138% of daily-recommended levels of pyridoxine.
  • Pyridoxine is used in the treatment of homocystinuria, sideroblastic anemia and radiation sickness. Niacin helps prevent “pellagra” or dermatitis.
  • The root of turmeric has been in use since antiquity for its anti-inflammatory (painkiller), carminative, anti-flatulent and anti-microbial properties.
  • Turmeric contains very good amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, zinc, and magnesium. (Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is an important co-factor for cytochrome oxidase enzymes at cellular level metabolisms and required for red blood cells productions).
  • Fresh root contains very good levels of vitamin-C. It is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful natural anti-oxidant; helps body develop immunity against infectious agents, helps fight type-1 diabetes and remove harmful free oxygen radicals from the body.
  • Research studies have suggested that Curcumin, a poly-phenolic compound, found in this herb may inhibit the multiplication of tumor cells including multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer
  • It is effective in preventing or at least delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Turmeric helps in minimizing liver damages caused by taking excess alcohol regularly or using pain-killer.
  • Turmeric helps relieve wound inflammation and in treating arthritis.
  • It can be made into a paste and applied directly to the skin to improve complexion and help relieve rashes, boils, infections, eczema, acne sores and wounds.
  • Turmeric can also be used to treat dental infections, sinus conditions, menstrual difficulties, hemorrhaging, toothaches, bruises, parasites, poor circulation, staph infections, chest pain, jaundice, ulcers, diarrhea, urinary disorders, and colic.
  • Too much turmeric however, may thin our blood and contribute to bleeding disorders.
  • Turmeric is a Tridosha herb which means it is good and beneficial for all three types of doshas including Vata, Pitta, Kapha and any combination of these three.
  • Turmeric is especially known to cleanse and purify the blood and lymph tissues. It helps dissolve tumors and blood clots.
  • Turmeric may play a role in lowering blood sugar, according to the National Institutes of Health. Before adding turmeric to our diet for blood sugar problems, must consult with specialist, since it may interfere with diabetes medication.
  • Turmeric is used for epilepsy and bleeding disorders, skin diseases, to purify the body-mind, and to help the lungs expel Kapha.
  • Turmeric is used to treat external ulcers that respond to nothing else.
  • Raw Turmeric juice is used to treat hyper acidity

OTHER USES

  • Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast. However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks’ robes.
  • Turmeric paste is traditionally used by Indian women to keep them free of superfluous hair and as an antimicrobial.
  • Turmeric paste, as part of both home remedies and Ayurveda, is also said to improve the skin and is touted as an anti-aging agent.
  • Staining oneself with turmeric is believed to improve the skin tone and tan. Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of some sunscreens.
  • The juice of raw turmeric is applied to the skin as a paste, kept for around thirty minutes and then washed off. It adds glow to the skin.
  • It is an essential ingredient of the traditional bathing ritual of Indian marriages where it is applied along with sandal wood paste before the bath.
  • It is believed that regular bathing in water containing turmeric reduces growth of body hair.
  • Regular turmeric use is said to make the skin fair, soft and smooth.
  • Turmeric is used for spots caused due to pigmentation or blotches and also for diseases like eczema.
  • Its powder complements well with any vegetable or meat preparations and mix well with other spicy powders and herbs, enhancing the flavor and fragrance of the dishes.
  • It has been used in the preparations of soups, salad dressings and has been found application in food industry like biscuits, popcorn color, cake icings, cereals, sauces, etc.
  • Turmeric-tea is a popular drink in Okinawan population and in many Asian countries.
  • It is a natural food preservative. The paste is used to marinate fish, chicken, meat to enhance its shelf life and to offset stingy smell of fish.
  • In India, dried roots mixed with other spices, curry leaves, peppers etc, gently roasted and ground to prepare curry powder.

 EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION

  • Excessive consumption of turmeric may cause stomach upset.
  • People who have gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric.
  • For diabetic patients, talk to your doctor before taking turmeric supplements. Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels, and when combined with medications for diabetes could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Turmeric may make the effects of drugs raising the risk of bleeding. Blood-thinners include warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin, among others.
  • High intake of turmeric may increase risk of hyperoxaluria, a significant risk factor for urolithiasis.
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