Turmeric is a very well known spice in India. In fact most of the world's turmeric comes from India and Indians use 80% of their turmeric crop themselves. Turmeric has been used as a flavouring, medicine and dye since 600 BC. The Greek physician Dioscorides (A.D. 40-90) mentioned turmeric in his writings.
Turmeric is harvested from the root of Curcuma Longa, a plant of the ginger family. Curcumin has been isolated as the factor that provides much of the medicinal properties of turmeric and that is also what gives it its bright yellow colour. In the kitchen, turmeric is a key ingredient in making curry powder.
The health benefits and medicinal properties of turmeric have been known and practiced in India for thousands of years. Some of the uses the Indians put it to are:
- reducing inflammation
- arthritis and muscular disorders
- strengthen the working of the stomach
- mixed with honey to treat anemia
- chronic cough and throat irritations
- bronchial asthma - 1/2 teaspoon of fresh turmeric powder mixed in warm milk
- colds - mix turmeric with caraway seeds
- colds and influenza - 1 teaspoon turmeric powder in a cup of warm milk, three times a day
- sprains - a paste of turmeric mixed with lime and salt
- intestinal problems and chronic diarrhoea
- expelling worms - 20 drops of raw turmeric juice, mixed with a pinch of salt taken first thing in the morning
- healing of wounds - due to its antibacterial action
The list could go on and on but that will be enough to give you the idea that in India your first aid kit would always include turmeric. In fact, in India, people put turmeric on their band aids as a disinfectant. They find that sprinkling the powder on wounds helps them to heal faster.
Studies in the 1930's, primarily in Germany, showed that turmeric stimulated the flow of bile and helped the gallbladder to empty more effectively. At the same time, in Asia, studies were showing that turmeric had protective and curative properties for the liver. Other studies showed that turmeric prevented large fluctuations in blood cholesterol after meals and also established the potent anti-inflammatory role of turmeric.
However in the 1990's there was an increasing number of herbalists investigating turmeric. Now scientists are investigating turmeric in relation to treating a wide range of diseases including cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's disease and arthritis. The early studies have been done on rats, however in the last few years there have been some limited studies done with people. It has been established that curcumin does have powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.
The scientific studies continue and will undoubtedly uncover some very interesting things. Meanwhile, in homes all over India and other parts of Asia, people continue to use the traditional spices that have served them well for centuries. Adding some of their cuisine to our diet can only be an advantage as well as adding a new variety of taste.
Good health to all