We have never been without using turmeric even for a single day! We use it in cooking, skincare and also in remedies extensively. Turmeric has amazing health benefits and medicinal uses and has been in use for centuries. It is widely used in all forms of Indian medicine. We use it for skin care, reducing inflammation, increasing immunity and treating wide variety of problems like cough, cold, indigestion, wounds, eye infection, eczema, acne, body pain and for fading scars.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a root of a plant, it belongs to the genus Curcuma. There are more than 120 species of turmeric and Curcuma longa is the most used variety. Turmeric is a perennial plant, it grows best in temperatures ranging between 20 degree centigrade and 30 degree centigrade and it needs ample amount of annual rainfall to thrive well.
The plant grows to 1 m in height and has long oblong leaves. It will take 8 to 10 months to harvest turmeric roots. The plant will stop growing at one stage and the leaves will turn into yellow color, we can start harvesting at that stage.
India produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric and consumes 80% of it. Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world. Erode, a city in Tamil Nadu is the largest producer of turmeric.
How is Turmeric Powder Prepared?
Usually raw turmeric is not used as such for making turmeric powder. The rhizomes are boiled or steamed to get rid of the raw smell, gelatinize the starch and also to get a more uniformly colored roots.
The fresh roots are taken in a large shallow pot along with sodium bicarbonate and boiled for about 40 to 45 minutes depending upon the variety. The rhizomes are then removed from the water and dried in the sun immediately. The dried rhizomes are polished to remove the rough surface and then packaged.
Turmeric Botanical & Common Names:
The botanical name of the variety of turmeric that we use for cooking is called Curcuma Longa. Turmeric is called Manjal in Tamil, Haldi in Hindi, Manjal in Malayalam, Pasupu in Telugu, Arashina in Kannada, Halood in Bengali and Haldi in Punjabi and Gujarati.
Apart from curcuma longa, the other varieties that we commonly use are kasthuri turmeric, white turmeric and mango ginger (Curcuma amada). Kasthuri turmeric and white turmeric are mainly for external applications and mango ginger is used in cooking in small quantities.
Turmeric Chemical Composition
Turmeric contains more than 100 compounds. The main component of turmeric is a volatile oil and colouring agents that lend yellow color to turmeric called curcuminoids. Curcuminoids consists of curcumin, demethoxy curcumin, 5′- methoxycurcumin and dihydrocurcumin which are natural antioxidants.
Turmeric contains 5 to 6 % of curcumin and around 3.5% of volatile oils, the main component of volatile oil is turmerone. The compounds responsible for the smell of turmeric are turmerone, arturmerone and zingiberene.
100 grams of turmeric contains around 390 calories, 10 grams of fat, 69.9 gms of carbohydrates, 21 gms fiber, 3 gms sugar and 8 gms protein. It also contains .2 gms of calcium, .2 gms of phosphorus, 10 mg of sodium, 2500 mg of potassium and 47 mg of iron. It also contains small amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin c.
Turmeric Traditional Uses
Turmeric has been used as a spice in South Asian and middle eastern cooking for a long time. Apart from cooking we use it extensively in remedies too. We use it for treating almost all the skin problems from boils to acne. In our village, usually there will be a rubbing stone in the bathrooms of every home.
We rub a piece of turmeric along with either water or rice water on it and apply all over the face every single day. This keeps the skin blemish free, we also use turmeric oil for skin care too. Traditionally turmeric along with other herbs is ground into a paste and applied as a bridal bath paste, this gives a nice glow to the skin and it also helps treat all skin infections.
We burn turmeric and inhale the fumes to treat headache and nasal congestion. We grind turmeric along with neem leaves and apply for treating chicken pox scars. We apply turmeric cloth to treat Madras eye and we use turmeric poultice to treat boils. We also consume turmeric tea and turmeric milk to reduce inflammation and improve immunity, we also use them for treating cough, cold and fever.
Turmeric Other Uses
Turmeric is used as a coloring agent in many food products like cheese and butter. It is also used in many commercial baked and dairy products like ice creams, cakes, yogurts, juices, cake icing and sauces as a coloring agent. Both fresh turmeric roots and turmeric powder are used for it.
10 Top Turmeric Medicinal Uses
1. Anticancer Properties
Turmeric has been effective against the development of various cancers like skin cancer, breast cancer, oral cancer and stomach cancer. Turmeric does this by inhibiting cancer cell mutation, detoxifying carcinogens, decreasing cell proliferation and causing cancer cell death. Topical application of turmeric prevents skin cancer, turmeric extract also prevents animal tumors.
2. Antioxidant Properties
Turmeric is a very very powerful antioxidant and it helps lower oxidative stress. Curcumin found in turmeric fights off free radicals which are the major cause of premature aging by several different mechanisms. It scavenges different forms of free radicals such as reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. It strengthens the effect of enzymes that are active in neutralizing the free radicals and it inhibits free radical generating enzymes.
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Another very very important medicinal use of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric reduces inflammation very very fast. Oxidative stress and inflammation are closely linked, inflammatory cells release a number of reactive species in the place of inflammation leading to oxidative stress.
Inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to the development of many chronic diseases and turmeric is effective in reducing both oxidative stress and inflammation. If you are suffering from any form of inflammation including arthritis, try including turmeric tea or turmeric milk in your diet regularly.
4. Prevents Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome includes high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and elevated low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high triglyceride levels and obesity. Metabolic syndrome is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Curcumin improves all the conditions of metabolic syndrome, it improves insulin sensitivity, reduces blood pressure, suppresses adipogenesis (development of fat laden cells which accumulate as body fat in various parts of our body) and also helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
5. Has a Protective Effect:
Turmeric has a protective effect on the liver. In a study, just 5% turmeric extract decreased carbon tetrachloride induced liver damage in rats.
Turmeric also has a protective effect on our kidneys, heart and also our brain. Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy affects millions of people world over.
Neuro inflammation is the reason for many of the problems related to neurodegenerative disorders. Turmeric is very effective for many of the neurological disorders like dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. This is due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
6. For Depression
Another very interesting and not well known effect of turmeric is it is useful against depression too. A study was done on rats who were forced to swim which caused them lot of stress, they were orally administered turmeric extract for 21 days. This helped reduce the duration of immobility in the water and it also helped reduce swim stress-induced increase in cortisol levels. Turmeric does this by increasing the levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a type of growth hormone which is important for our brain function.
7. Wound Healing Properties
Turmeric is one of the best ingredients to use for healing wounds and ulcers. Here in our village, we use turmeric water for washing wounds to help it heal faster. We also apply turmeric poultice made by rubbing a turmeric root with water in a rubbing stone. We usually mix turmeric with neem and apply as a poultice. Though it is effective on it’s own, mixing it with neem makes it even more effective.
8. Improves Digestion
Turmeric extract improves digestion and it is also one of the best home remedies for irritable bowel syndrome. In a study, 207 volunteers who were suffering from irritable bowel syndrome were given either one or two turmeric tablets daily for 8 weeks. There was significant drop in irritable bowel syndrome after the treatment and the abdominal discomfort also reduced significantly.
Turmeric also helps heal peptic ulcer. In a clinical trial, 45 patients with peptic ulcer were given turmeric capsules 5 times daily. After 4 weeks of treatment, ulcer was absent in 40% of the cases and after 12 weeks, ulcer free cases increased to almost 76%.
9. Antimicrobial Properties
Turmeric has very strong antimicrobial properties. It is effective against bacterial strains like Bacillus cereus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Proteus mirabilis. Turmeric also inhibits the growth of food borne pathogen V. parahaemolyticus. Ethanol extract of turmeric is effective against the fungus Trichophyton longifusus. It is because of its wonderful antibacterial properties that it is widely used for treating almost all skin problems.
10. For Skin Care
In our village, turmeric is the number one ingredient we reach out for treating all kinds of skin problems. We use turmeric face packs for treating and preventing acne. We use turmeric oil to massage the body to reduce skin infections and we always add turmeric to bath powder recipes to prevent any skin problems.
Where To Buy Turmeric?
We can easily purchase fresh and dry turmeric roots and turmeric powder in all the departmental stores in India. The rest of the ingredients can be ordered online. We get turmeric essential oil, turmeric capsules, turmeric tea, turmeric oil and turmeric face packs in the markets. I would suggest getting organic turmeric roots and powder if possible.
Turmeric Bio Availability
Though turmeric has wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses, one of the biggest problem with consuming turmeric for therapeutic properties is its low bio availability. This is due to poor absorption by our bodies along with rapid metabolism of turmeric and also rapid elimination. This problem can be easily resolved by adding pepper. Pepper contains a compound called piperine which increases the bio availability of turmeric by 2000 %. When using turmeric for therapeutic properties, always use it along with pepper.
The amount of turmeric that we use in our day to day cooking will not cause any problems at all but in therapeutic dosages, we have to be a bit cautious. Studies have shown that up to 8 grams of curcumin per day has not shown any toxic side effects so please try not to go above 8 gram per day. You can read the side effects of turmeric in detail here.
5 Top Ways To Use Turmeric
1. Turmeric Oil
Turmeric oil is an infusion of turmeric with coconut oil. Massaging with turmeric oil helps keep the skin blemish free and glowing. We pound turmeric roots and steep it in coconut oil till the oil is infused with turmeric, you can find the method here.
2. Turmeric Tea
Turmeric tea is very famous in our place. To make the tea, we mix turmeric powder along with other spices like ginger, cardamom and pepper. It is very comforting to drink and helps reduce inflammation very fast. You can find the recipe for it here.
3. Turmeric Water
We use turmeric water in many remedies. We use it for washing wounds and it helps heal it faster. We dip cotton cloth in turmeric water and use it as an eye compress to reduce eye infections. We sprinkle turmeric water around the house to get rid of insects and pests.
4. Turmeric Face Packs
Turmeric face packs are so famous all over world and I’m sure many of you must have tried turmeric face pack at least once. Turmeric face packs can be made in many ways depending upon our skin problem. It can be used to treat acne, fade scars and even out the skin tone, you can find turmeric face pack recipes here.
5. Turmeric Milk
We usually make turmeric milk to improve immunity and also to heal internal wounds. Always make turmeric milk with black pepper to increase the absorption of turmeric, you can find the benefits and how to make it here.