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Turmeric - From Tradition To Research

by Dr Baljot Bharaj(more info)

listed in ayurveda, originally published in issue 208 - August 2013

Turmeric has always been integral part of Indian kitchen with varied uses - as a condiment to medicine. In this article, the journey of Turmeric from ancient times to present has been tried to explore.

Termeric
Raw Turmeric

Description

Family: Zingiberacaeae

Botanical Name: Curcuma longa

English Name: Turmeric

Hindi Name: Haldi

Synonyms:

  • Haridra ( Symbolizing special bond with Hari / Lord Vishnu or one which improves skin complexion)
  • Kanchani ( Which gives colour of gold)
  • Nisha (Related to night)
  • Krimighna (Which kills germs)
  • Yoshita priya (Liked by women)

The Plant

It is an annual herb . Orange to yellow coloured rhizomes grow underground . Leaves are 30 -40 cm in length and smell like ginger. Petiole is long and broad like leaves and it smells like mango. The stalk of the flower is 12 -16 cm long and yellow flower grows at its tip . Fruit is oval with deep yellow pulp.

Tradition

Rituals

The yellow of turmeric is a virile colour, colour of sun spreading across the sky and reaching out to the earth . When sprinkled over deity, the idea is to evoke the deity’s grace and power. Turmeric is antiseptic - destroyer of germs as Gods destroy demons .

Yellow is the colour of Solar Plexus Chakra - which is the energy centre relating to the metabolic and digestive system .

As a ritual in Indian weddings, brides and grooms are anointed with turmeric paste . Turmeric is sprinkled on invitation cards also.

Turmeric improves fertility and is considered as a symbol of purity and prosperity.

Culinary Uses

Fresh leaves are used in cooking; Leaf is added in Ghee ( clarified butter ) for aroma; Raw turmeric is used as pickle; As a condiment ( in powdered form ) in most of the Indian food.

Ayurveda

Properties of Turmeric

Taste:  Bitter , Acrid

Properties:  Dry, Light

Potency:  Hot

Post Digestive Property:  Acrid

  • It balances Vata , Pitta , Kapha  and is mainly used in vitiated condition of Kapha and Pitta;
  • It is used as thermogenic , antiseptic , anti-inflammatory , appetizer , carminative , anthelmintic , anti-allergic , expectorant , haematinic , styptic , febrifuge , tonic , vulnerary, alterative.
  • It is used in ulcers, skin disorders , hepatomegaly , splenomegaly , hyperlipidaemia , malignancy , diabetes , arthritis , jaundice , bronchitis and general debility .

Post natal period: Haridra khand pak has purifying effect on uterus and breast milk .

Diabetes:  10 - 15 ml juice of turmeric and gooseberry (Amla) in equal quantity should be taken daily as a prophylactic measure . If juice is not available ,powder of both herbs should be taken in equal quantity . This is called “Nisha - amalaki Yog”.

Bronchial Asthma/Cough: It acts as an expectorant .

  • It is roasted and given with honey or warm water .
  • Inhalation of turmeric smoke reduces cough .
  • Put it in saline water for 21 days and then parched on fire ,should be kept in mouth. It checks hiccough, cough , asthma, disorders of kapha .

Anaemia: It should be mixed with Triphla (three myrobalans) , honey, ghee (clarified butter)  for  internal  use .

Colic: Turmeric 10 gm with equal quantity of yavani (Trachyspermum amami) and salt 2.5 gm is powdered and cooked in ghee 40 gm . It should be taken warm in severe colic.

Paronychia : Fresh rhizome ground with milk and castor oil is applied externally.

Bone fracture / Sprain / Wound

  • External : It is applied locally with lime stone .
  • Internal : Powder mixed with Murraya paniculata is given . It can be given with Candy Sugar ( Mishri ).

Disorders due to change of place: Turmeric pounded with sour gruel should be taken .

As a Cosmetic: Its paste is applied on face in combination with either cucumber / honey / milk / curd /aloe or rosewater . It enhances complexion and texture of skin. Paste made with turmeric powder and gram flour can be used as a body scrub.

Teeth: Brushing teeth with turmeric powder and mustard oil or salt or alum, clears tartar and teeth  become white .

Dose:  Juice  - 5 - 10 ml; Powder: 1 - 3 gm.

Dried and powdered Turmeric
Dried and powdered Turmeric

Research

Active Principles: Present studies have shown that Curcumin, Curcuminoids and essential oil are the main active constituents of turmeric .Curcumin imparts yellow colour and is responsible for its biological activity.

Anti-Oxidant Property: Antioxidants can act at different levels. These are broadly classified into 5 Levels:

  • Level -1: Prevention of radical formation , mainly by enhancing the levels of SOD and catalase or by sequestering transient metals like iron.
  • Level -2:  Scavenging of primary radical (OH , O₂ ,ⁱO₂) or breaking chain initiation.
  • Level -3:  Scavenging of secondary radical ( ROO ,LOO ) or breaking the chain of propagation (conventionally studied as inhibitory lipid peroxidation ).
  • Level-4: Repair and reconstruction of lipid membrane aided by glutathione peroxidase or by        increase in level of glutathione .
  • Level -5: Repair of DNA and other  cellular constituents .
  • Turmeric works at Level - 2 , Level - 3  and Level - 4 .

Anti inflammatory Property: Curcumin shows an anti-inflammatory effect in acute, subacute and chronic models of inflammation in mice and rats . It also exerts a significant response in a controlled trial in Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis .

Hepatoprotective: Turmeric and Curcumin have been shown to protect liver against a variety of toxins  in-vivo and in-vitro. Turmeric in diet has been found to stimulate enzymes - aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase, glucuronyl transferase, glutathione S transferase  which metabolise xenobiotics.

Respiratory System: It is useful in Bronchial Asthma . Its anti-allergic effects are also proven.

Immunostimulant  Activity: Stimulates reticulo endothelial system , acts as immune stimulant .

Gastrointestinal System: Increases bile flow , is known to prevent gall stones.

Anti cancer , Anti tumour Property: Turmeric has been investigated for its effects on initiation, promotion, progression of carcinogens . It prevents activation of carcinogenesis; acts as antioxidant , retards the conversion of preneoplasia in addition to repairing damage to DNA .

Anti hyperlipidemic Activity: Turmeric is known to reduce elevated levels of triglycerides and lipids .Studies show that it can stimulate the conversion of cholesterol to bile  acid, an  important pathway of elimination of cholesterol from the body.

Anti microbial Activity:  Antifungal , anti bacterial property has been reported.

Metabolic Effects: It possesses hypoglycemic activity.

Alzheimer's Disease : Curcumin  has a potential role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. Studies show that due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved.

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia :  It provides protection against bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature infants  , a condition characterized by scarring and inflammation, and against hyperoxia, in which too much oxygen enters the body through the lungs, for up to 21 days after birth . The long-term benefits of using curcumin to protect lung function in premature infants makes  it a promising therapy for premature infants who require oxygen therapy after birth .

Turmeric can be used as a prophylactic medicine in metabolic diseases and in prevention of cancers ; can be added to spices in routine diet.

To live a healthy life, Turmeric should be used as a preventive agent  in daily routine and diet.  

References

Dravyaguna Vigyan by Dr P V Sharma.

Chemistry and Pharmacology of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants by Vd Mukund Sabnis.   

Comments:

  1. Dr Gian Singh Aulakh said..

    Dr Baljot thanks for a very informative and useful article.I wish you best of luck and hope that you will write many more useful articles and serve the fellow human beings.


  2. Dr Baljot Bharaj said..

    Thanks Dr Aulakh .


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About Dr Baljot Bharaj

Dr Baljot Bharaj MS (Ayu) is an Ayurveda consultant in Gynecology & Obstetrics at Kayakalp Ayurveda. She has successfully completed MS(Ayu) with specialization in Stree roga & Prasuti tantra (Gynae & Obs) from Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar, India and is also trained in Kereliya Panchkarma from Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, Kerela, India.

She has 16 years of profound experience of practising Ayurveda in various capacities – as a Consultant; in Government sector; delivering lectures; publishing articles and research work. She has also attended and presented papers in various national and international conferences and workshops .

Her expertise is in providing Prepregnancy (Before pregnancy / Garbhadhan vidhi), Antenatal (During pregnancy / Garbhini paricharya), Post natal (After delivery /Sutika paricharya) care with Ayurvedic formulations and regimen for healthy child and happy mother. Her consulting practice mainly comprise of gynecological and related issues like infertility (due to various causes), hyperprolactenemia, adenomyosis, menstrual disorders, menopause, anal fissure, kidney stones, high uric acid, skin and beauty care etc. Dr Bharaj may be contacted via bhbharaj@yahoo.com    http://drbaljotbharaj.wordpress.com/about-me/

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