Family: Zingiberaceae (Ginger)
Synonyms and Common names: Golden Seal.
Description and Habitat: The greatest diversity of Turmeric species by number alone is in India, at around 40 to 45 species. Thailand has a comparable 30 to 40 species for example but is a much smaller market than India. Other countries in tropical Asia also have numerous wild species of Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice used a lot in Indian cooking and it is said to have a wide range of different health benefits. Unfortunately, this is a tropical plant and so it is not possible to grow it outside or in an unheated space in Britain.
Parts used: In Britain, we can buy powdered Turmeric from various places, in shops, supermarkets or online. It is the root or rhizome that is used and sometimes this in the intact state can sometimes be found from speciality shops, the root needs to be dried to be used for medicinal uses.
Constituents: curcuminoids, bitter principles, resin, volatile oil.
Actions: anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, stomachic, an antioxidant, antibacterial, hypercholesterolaemic, mild anticoagulant.
Indications: mild digestive disturbances, rheumatic conditions.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Clinical trials have suggested that Turmeric may have a more marked anti-inflammatory effect than hydrocortisone, and it is believed to be more antioxidant than Vitamin E, which is interesting, to say the least.
It is of value in the treatment of rheumatic and arthritic conditions.
Turmeric’s bitter action stimulates the appetite and digestive secretions; it also increases mucus production, protecting the lining of the stomach. Its cholesterol-lowering action means that it is a valuable remedy for reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Contraindications: Turmeric is contraindicated in biliary obstruction, (a blockage of the bile ducts).
Preparation and Dosage: 350 mg can be ingested 3 times a day. Turmeric can be ingested as a drink, hot milk, tea etc., or it can be added to recipes, use with eggs, curries, soups etc.
Addition Comments and Folklore: As can be imagined, folklore concerning Turmeric originates from the hot country’s where the spice comes from.
Turmeric’s golden orange colour made it valuable in primitive cultures for decorating ceremonial masks, colouring weaving materials, and drawing deities. This is believed to be the primary reason for its initial cultivation when tribes transitioned to agricultural communities. To this day, it continues to be used in some folklore art forms.
Turmeric was used in offerings to deities or spiritual ancestors, particularly in worshipping the divine mother or goddess, and it is still used as an offering to the goddess in Sakthi worship.
Sometimes idols were bathed in it, and sometimes it was used in rituals seeking to improve the productivity and quality of turmeric harvests, as it was and still is an important cash crop.
Hindus regard it as a substance of purity and have used it in religious and cultural ceremonies related to every major life transition, from birth to marriage and death. Mixed with fat to form a paste, it is used to anoint babies and brides, and brides may wear necklaces of the plant to encourage a long and happy married life.
Some people have applied a turmeric-based paste to their bodies daily, to protect themselves from enemies and promote longevity. Due to its natural transition from bright orange to blood red when mixed with lime or alkali, it has also been used as a magic symbol.
In the Indian subcontinent, known as “yellow curry powder,” turmeric is used as a food colourant, spice and preservative. The dried and ground rhizomes produce a distinctive earthy fragrance and flavour.
Turmeric is incorporated into teas and spice blends, specifically curry, and it is used in the food industry as a spice and colourant. Yellow rice is a staple in the eastern Indonesian islands. In Thailand, they prefer to use freshly grated turmeric.
Its use as a colourant made it popular in dying paper, wood, fabric and cosmetics. The golden-yellow robes worn by Thai Buddhist monks owe their beautiful colour to turmeric.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a healing herb in Indian (Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani) and Eastern Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Kampo and Korean) traditions. References to its use have been discovered in Ayurvedic texts from 2500 years ago.
Traditional healing uses of turmeric include both topical applications (combined with oil and used on wounds and other skin problems) and ingested, as a tea or dried herb. The list of health conditions it has been recommended for is wide-ranging, and the healing properties attributed to it are extensive.