Turmeric, known by various names such as Haldi, Arsin, Pampi, Haldar etc. in different languages, there hardly would be a single household in India where turmeric is not known or used in daily cooking.
An aromatic rhizome belonging to the ginger family Zinziberacae, apart from being used as a spice, turmeric has numerous health benefits. It is known to be used in India for more than 2500 years and is an esential ingredient in numerous ayurveda preparations. Owing to its multiple beneficial uses, turmeric has been given a place of honor in the Hindu religion. From many religious rituals, worships to wedding rituals, turmeric is an indispensable and ubiquitous ingredient. The yellow color of turmeric is considered auspicious and signifies contentment and good cheer. Therefore, it is accepted as the essential mark of a married Hindu woman whose beauty is considered incomplete without the haldi-kumkum on her forehead. Even the essential red kumkum is prepared from turmeric.
Owing to its appearance and properties, turmeric is known by different names.
Latin name : Curcuma longa
Some Sanskrit names are: Haridra - because it improves skin texture and complexion.
Pitkanchani - because it gives a golden glow to the skin.
Mangalya - because it is considered auspicious.
Krumighna - Because it is antibacterial and an excellent disinfectant.
Other names for turmeric found in various scriptures are: Shiva - Because turmeric is considered dear to God Shiva
Nisha - Because it makes a woman as beautiful as a starry night
Gauri - Because of its beautiful yellow colour
Chemical Composition: It mainly contains curcumin 4-5%, which is a polyphenol and imparts antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Essential Oils - 5 - 6%, Starch 20%, Vitamin A, proteins, minerals 3.5%, and carbohydrates about 69%.
Benefits of turmeric: Turmeric is beneficial to various systems.
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Turmeric is a good appetizer, it prevents gases and destroys harmful micro-organisms in the stomach. Since it is anti-inflammatory, keeps various infections at bay. It is also beneficial in constipation and improves taste in mouth. Hence it is used in our daily cooking to improve digestion.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM: It removes various toxins from blood and purifies it. It prevents clotting of blood and keeps it flowing. In case of trauma to blood vessels, it exactly acts opposite as a clotting agent and prevents blood loss. Since blood circulation plays an important role in the texture and quality of skin, turmeric is used in various cosmetic preparations and also to treat some skin diseases.
RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: Because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is used to treat congestion of chest, sinuses cold etc. Also, it boosts our immune systems and hence keeps various infections away.
URINARY SYSTEM: Turmeric is diuretic in nature and helps in removal of various toxins via urine. Therefore is beneficial in diabetic patients.
REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM: Turmeric is extremely beneficial for uterus and after delivery of a child, helps uterus to contract back to its normal size and position. It also helps in production and purification of milk in lactating mothers.
Some common conditions that can be treated using turmeric are as follows:
1. Open wounds: Heat some turmeric powder along with oil and apply to wounds. It works as an antiseptic.
2. Swelling: Sometimes due to bruising, painful swelling occurs which recedes on application of warmed turmeric paste in water.
3. Piles: Rub dry turmeric root in cow's milk and apply directly.
4. Mouth ulcers: Boil two spoons of turmeric in a glass of water, let it cool and use this to gargle.
5. Cracked heels: Prepare a paste of turmeric in castor oil and apply to cracks. Using this regularly keep your feet smooth and soft.
6. Dandruff, hair fall: Prepare a concoction of turmeric with shikekai and use this water to wash hair regularly.
7. Excessive perspiration: Apply paste of turmeric and triphala churna (easily obtained in medical stores) to your body for half an hour before bathing.
1. Cough, sore throat: Boil a spoon of turmeric in a glass of milk and drink it hot twice a day.
2. Diabetes, increased blood sugar levels: Boil 1 spoon turmeric and 1 spoon amla powder in a glass of water and drink it after every meal.
3. Worm infestation: This is often seen in children and occurs because of not washing hands properly, contact with infected soil etc.
This can be treated by giving 1 spoon of turmeric with 1 spoon of vavding powder (also called vidang, Embelia ribes) in hot water regularly.
4. Anaemia: 1 spoon of turmeric powder mixed in 3 spoons of curds is very beneficial.
Irrespective of whether you have any of these conditions or not, regularly having a glass of warm milk with turmeric the last thing before going to bed will help you sleep peacefully, will boost your immune system greatly and will also to some extent keep a check on your weight.
Uses of turmeric as a cosmetic:
1. To improve skin texture, apply a mixture of turmeric with homemade butter 10 minutes before bathing. This is especially beneficial during the dry winter months and can be used regularly for dry skins.
2. To tighten loose, sagging skin, apply a pack of besan (chana dal flour), turmeric and camphor in milk and apply for 10-15 minutes before bath.
3. To reduce the wrinkles, prepare a paste of sesame seeds with turmeric and apply regularly.
4. An excellent body scrub can be made using wheat bran with turmeric and fresh milk cream. It removes dead cells and keeps the pores clean and clear.
A lot of research is being carried out on turmeric in the recent years and it has been established that turmeric can be used in the cure of mouth cancers. It also has been proved to boost the function of tamoxifen used in various types of cancers.
On a more homely note, turmeric can easily be grown in earthern pots and it looks very beautiful on flowering. The fresh roots are available with the green grocers from November to February and this can be planted in the soil. These are quite hardy plants and require low maintenance. Keep in direct sunlight.