Botanical Name: Curcuma longa.
Other Common Names: Indian saffron, haldi, kunyit.
Habitat: Turmeric has its origins most likely in India but today it is common throughout Southeast Asia, China and southern Australia but can be found in most tropical regions of the world.
It is a widely cultivated plant throughout the tropics.
Plant Description: Curcuma longa is a rhizomatous, perennial herb.
It is found in regions with a tropical climate, in particular South Asian countries. Its active ingredient is curcumin which tastes earthy, yet bitter. It is used as a condiment in the cuisines of South Asian countries and is believed to have strong medicinal properties.
Plant Parts Used: Rhizomes.
Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims of Turmeric
Turmeric has been a renowned medicinal herb in South Asia for centuries. The traditional Indian medicinal science called Ayurveda has long prescribed turmeric for a number of health benefits.
It has been used traditionally as an anti-septic to treat cuts, bruises and even burns.
Turmeric is used as an anti-aging herb because of its excellent anti-oxidant properties, which can prevent free radical damage.
Turmeric also acts as an anti-inflammatory as it reduces histamine levels. It is used as a dietary supplement as it is believed to cure stomach ailments such as flatulence, bloating and appetite loss.
Some studies and clinical research show that the herb may be effective as a treatment for hepatitis.
Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric, has a positive effect on the liver tissue. Even liver tissue that has been damaged by excessive exposure to alcohol or other damaging drugs can be positively affected by turmeric.
Internally it can be used in the form of boiled powder or fresh juice. Its use as a condiment in many South Asian cuisines helps in its internal application. Externally it can be used in paste form, as an oil, ointment or lotion.
The paste form can be applied topically to treat psoriasis, ulcers, warts and scabies. Turmeric root can be squeezed to extract juice which is then mixed with water which can be used to clear sinuses and for ear aches.
Recent studies from UCLA have even suggested that curcumin may even be useful herb in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin prevents the accumulation of beta amyloids and breaks up plaques found in Alzheimer’s sufferers’ brains.
Additionally the herb may be helpful remedy for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers have also recently demonstrated that turmeric’s active ingredients are useful in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and ulcerative colitis.
Curcumin’s pain-relieving properties have made it suitable in providing relief to patients suffering from arthritis and rheumatism. Turmeric may also enhance taxol’s effect in reducing metastasis of breast cancer.
Its healing and therapeutic properties have also resulted in it being used in many cosmetic products as well as home-based beauty treatments.
Turmeric paste is used by women in the Indian sub-continent for removal of unwanted hair. Its application on the skin also gives it a pleasant glow and keeps harmful bacteria away from the body.
Dosage and Administration
Turmeric can be used in food and it is readily available in powdered form. Curcumin extracts in liquid form are also available. Turmeric powder can be consumed with herb based teas, honey or hot water to treat gastric ailments.
Dosage depends on whether turmeric is being consumed or its active ingredient, curcumin. Usually about a half to a quarter teaspoon of powdered turmeric should be consumed two to three times a day.Curcumin capsules with a dosage 250-500 mg can also be taken three times a day.
Potential Side Effects of Turmeric
Fortunately turmeric is extremely safe and very few and minor side-effects are reported.
It should be noted though that turmeric’s safety has not been determined in neither expectant mothers nor during breast-feeding.
In terms of interactions, it has been found that, in vitro, turmeric can have antiplatelet effects with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs. This however hasn’t been found to be the case inside the body.