Health Benefits and Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a root that has been used for centuries as a spice in India, Asia and other parts of the world. Using a herb is not the same as using an extract of the herb. The way Ayurved makes extracts is different from the modern method. In most cases the extract is more effective but in the case of Turmeric its main active component of the extract Curcumin is not properly absorbed by the body so it is advisable to use the whole herb powder. Curcumin theoretically is more powerful than Turmeric due to its concentration. Turmeric is a very potent herb and can possibly only be compared to the mighty Neem which is called ‘Sarvaroghar’ or destroyer of all diseases.
All herbs have certain qualities that were discussed and recorded in detail by the Ayurvedic tradition as well as their method of use. Turmeric is bitter in taste, drying, and heating. It is a rather pungent or sharp spice. It is not meant to be used directly all by itself by say making turmeric tea or swallowing a spoonful. It should be first cooked in oil or ghee till it turns dark yellow then the vegetables, rice or pulses (dal) should be cooked along with it. If it is added to the food later in the cooking usually one can distinguish that it has not been fried because it bites the throat somewhat. The cooking in oil or clarified butter (ghee) makes the oil soluble component of the lipids in Turmeric/ constituents of Turmeric more bio-available. Traditionally, in India it is used with some other spices such as Cumin, Coriander, Fennel that have a cooling effect so as to not overwhelm the liver with its drying and heating effect. It can also be taken with hot milk for colds or flu. To use with milk add half to one teaspoon in hot milk. One can also boil it in the milk. Please also note that if taken cold it will cool down the body somewhat.
Somehow in all the modern articles available; nowhere is the mention of the traditional ayurvedic medicine Haridra Khand that contains Turmeric along with other herbs and is used since ages to treat skin problems. Vaidya’s (Ayurvedic Physicians) use it for different ailments with the possibilities of combinations with hundreds of ayurvedic medicines that are available to them for treating diseases according to each one’s own understanding and experience.
Uses of Turmeric:
- Turmeric has antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, properties.
- Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), the main yellow bioactive component of turmeric has been shown to have a wide spectrum of biological actions that include its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anticoagulant, anti-fertility, anti-diabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-protozoal, antiviral, anti-fibrotic, anti-venom, antiulcer, hypotensive and hypocholesteremic activities.
- It acts as an immunobooster.
- Traditionally, after pregnancy, given to women, in milk, to boost their immune system.
- It acts as a painkiller without the side effects compared to other chemical based drugs.
- It produces more bile and improves the digestion.
- Reduces symptoms like bloating and gas.
- Helps treat all forms of inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis.
- Helps reduce the occurrence of Ulcerative colitis.
- Natural liver detoxifier.
- Turmeric increases the production of liver enzymes that help to detoxify the liver.
- It inhibits Hepatitis-B virus replication in liver cells (extract of turmeric).
- Improves the skin.
- Helps fight and cure skin diseases like Uticaria (Hives), Pruritis (Itching), Eczema, Psoriasis, etc.
- Considered to help in protecting against progression of Vitiligo (white spots).
- Heals wounds both internally and externally. Turmeric powder can be sprinkled on the wound.
- It helps cure Asthma especially due to infections and swelling of lungs due to its antibiotic properties, it is especially good to get rid of any infection of the lungs that is often the precursor for an asthmatic attack or for similar breath related problems.
- Boosts the metabolism and hence helps lose weight.
- In India, it is traditionally used to cure colds and flu by drinking in hot milk.
- Reduces risk of childhood leukemia.
- Treats cancers. Helps prevent and treat prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancers, Lung cancer, Melanoma (Skin Cancer), T-cell Leukemia, tumours, radiation induced tumours.
- Destroys multi-drug resistant cancer.
- Destroys cancer stem cells (the source or base of cancers).
- Reduces Inflammation.
- Helps heal Arthritis--both osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- It improves blood circulation.
- It is considered to act as a blood purifier.
- Helps control Diabetes.
- Moderates insulin levels.
- Helps reduce insulin resistance.
- Reduces Cholesterol levels.
- Protects against heavy metal toxicity.
- Protects against radiation induced damage.
- Considered to prevent, treat and reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
- Curcumin helps cure and reverse depression.
- Curcumin suppresses the formation of amyloid plaques (Amyloid Beta in the brain) that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- In one study Turmeric was found to be effective in treating gram positive Urinary Tract infections.
- Turmeric extract in one study was shown to inhibit chemically induced DNA damage in human WBC’s.
- In a study Curcumin was used to treat uveitis (inflammation of the eye’s Iris).
- In a study done on mice it was shown to slow the progression of multiple Sclerosis.
Turmeric as a Beauty Aid:
- A face mask is used to make the skin fairer or to treat pigmentation. Turmeric is mixed with Neem, and Lime and applied as a face mask. This can also be used to treat acne. The face mask should be held for 15-20 minutes and then washed off with cold water.
- Turmeric mixed with Sandalwood is used as a mask to treat acne.
- To treat acne face masks use Turmeric with Gram flour (besan), milk or water too. It can also be used every day over the entire body before a bath to get glowing skin. It will also act as an exfoliant.
- To reduce unwanted hair, it is mixed in warm coconut oil and applied on the body. It can also be used on cracked heels. It can also be used as a natural shampoo. Apply on the scalp for 15 minutes then wash.
- Turmeric is mixed in Honey and used as a facemask to get beautiful glowing skin.
- Turmeric can be mixed with sugarcane juice or buttermilk and applied as a face mask to get rid of wrinkles.
- To avoid stretch marks, a paste of turmeric and curd is applied over the stomach during pregnancy.
- In India, traditionally during weddings a paste of Turmeric and other herbs is made and applied over the skin and as a face mask. So entrenched is this custom that there is a special ceremony before each wedding where the bride and groom are, by each of their own families, covered in turmeric paste. In olden days the bride was covered in turmeric paste for a couple of days, because it improves the skin. Nowadays it is only a custom.
- These days one can also buy natural Turmeric soap which improves the skin as well as some Turmeric is absorbed into the body by the skin.
- It can be used in homemade toothpaste and helps to whiten the teeth.
- It is used as a natural dye for clothes.
- It is used as a natural food colorant.
- People with gall bladder disease, gall stones or bile obstruction should use turmeric with care.
- Should not be used in excess during pregnancy.
- People with GERD should not use in excess.
- Turmeric extract should be used with care.