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Better Known as Turmeric (By: Ivy Cannon A.H.E.)

 Introduction

   Over thousands of years, turmeric has served many purposes. This versatile root's bright yellow color has always been used for paints and dyes. Far superior to its use for color are its many culinary applications and medicinal purposes. Because of its widespread use, this wonderful root has nearly as many names as uses.
 
   Numerous are the names given to this amazing root but it is most commonly known as Turmeric (Curcuma longa). "Curcuma is Latinization of Arabic al-kurkum [rfi..SJI], which originally means saffron but is now used for turmeric only." [1] Turmeric is sometimes called indian saffron, golden goddess, haridra, haldi, jiang huang, curcuma longa, kha
min chan by the Thai, kunir in Indonesia, kurkuma by the Germans and Terre-merite in France. In almost every language it means "yellow root." In India alone it has over 10 different names: halad, haradi, nisa, kancani, pasupu, makhal, halud, ladir, pivari and yositpriya.
 
   Haradi is a plant native to southern India and Asia, and it is closely related to ginger. 'Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae." [2] "A tall herb, rootstock large, avoid, with sessile cylindric tubers orange-colored inside. Leaves very large, in tufts up to 1.2 meters long, including the petiole which is as long as the blade, oblong-lanceolate, tapering to the base. Flowering in autumn, spikes 10-15 cm long; peduncle 15 cm or more, concealed by the sheathing petiole; flowering bracts pale green; bracts of coma tinged with pink." [3] The root looks much like ginger with a more orange skin that is thinner. The inside of risa is a yellowish-orange color. Another variation is known as kunkum. Kunkum is red on the inside and considered sacred thus not used for cooking. Only the yellow haridra is eaten, and it is essential in most Indian cooking. Aside from being such a great herb for cooking, nisa is one of the most important herbs for both internal and external medicinal use.
 
   Understanding the chemical components of ladir is necessary when learning how to use the root effectively. A closer look at curcumin through the lense of science reveals it's healing essence. "Turmeric contains up to 5% essential oils and up to 5% curcumin, a polyphenol." [5] "An active principle curcumin, yellow coloring matter and turmeric oil (or turmeriol) of specific odor and taste, and yellow color." [6] "Curcumin is the active substance of turmeric and curcumin is known as C.I. 75300, or Natural Yellow 3. The systematic chemical name is
(1E,6E)-1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione." [5] "Fresh rhizomes yield 0.24% oil, containing zingiberene." [6] The plant kingdom classification of turmeric shows its close relation to ginger.
  • Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
  • Class: Liliopsida - Monocotyledons,
  • Subclass: Zingiberidae
  • Order: Zingiberales
  • Family: Zingiberaceae - Ginger family 
  • Genus: Curcuma L. - curcuma
  • Species: Curcuma longa L. - common turmeric [4]

Traditional Uses

   Traditionally the active principle curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow color, was used as a fabric dye. It's use in this application has varying results and ultimately the color it produces fades fast. "Essentially turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast. However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks' robes." [7] Even though we now have superior synthetic dyes this root is still used by many cultures as a coloring agent.
 
   We may be able to easily replace kunir with a synthetic dye, but we can not employ a different herb to replace it's numerous culinary and medicinal applications. Probably best known for its classic application as a fundamental spice in the curry armamentarium, turmeric is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders. Its bright gold color gives curries their characteristic hue and adds an attractive tone, especially to vegetable combinations. Jiang Huang is mostly used in savory dishes, as well as some sweet dishes such as the cake sfouf. "Although most usage of turmeric is in the form of rhizome powder, in some regions leaves of turmeric are used to wrap and cook food. In Goa and Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka state, India), turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering rice flour and coconut-jaggery mixture on the leaf, and then closing and steaming it in a special copper steamer (goa)." [8] Indian saffron is used in so many indian culinary delicacies it's a shame one can't list them all. Some applications include dishes such as dal soup, kitchadi, bhaji, subji, rice khir, raitas, chutneys and pickling. In a more modern culinary application, "Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive, indicating how it is used as a food coloring since it normally gives food slightly yellow color) is used to protect food products from sunlight."[9] This commonly found food additive has also been proven beneficial to your health.
 
   For many thousands of years kunir has been used in a laundry list of applications with effects on all the tissues of body and several body systems. "Turmeric is the best medicine in Ayurveda. It cures the whole person. Turmeric's rasa (taste) is pungent, bitter, astringent, the virya (effect on digestion) is heating with a pungent vipaka (post digestive effect). Turmeric can be used by all doshas (body types). Turmeric helps digestion, maintains the flora of the intestine, reduces gas, has tonic properties and is an antibiotic. Turmeric can be used for cough, sty, diabetes, hemorrhoids, cuts, wounds, burns and skin problems. It helps reduce anxiety and stress." [10] Its herbal actions include a digestive stimulant, carminative (dispel gas), alterative (cleanses circulatory system), vulnerary (heals the skin), hemostat (stops bleeding), antibacterial, purification of tissue while supporting tonification (increase tissue) and emmenagogues (action on female reproductive system). "Its use is indicated when indigestion, poor circulation, cough, amenorrhea, pharyngitis,
skin disorders, diabetes, arthritis, anemia, wounds, or bruises are present." [11] Over the centuries it has been used for the treatment of snake bites and scorpion stings. Even now when western medicine is unavailable to those living in more isolated areas, halad is an effective treatment. "The smoke produced by sprinkling powder of turmeric rhizome over burning charcoal will relieve scorpion sting when the part affected is exposed to the smoke for a few minutes." [12] More uses for this wonderful herb include:
  • for anemia, take a bowl of yogurt with 1 tsp turmeric. Eat on empty stomach morning and evening. Do not eat after dark.
  • for cuts, wound and fungal nail infections, apply mixture of Yz tsp turmeric & 1 tsp aloe vera gel to affected area.
  • for external hemorrhoids, apply a mixture of Yz tsp of turmeric and 1 tsp of ghee locally at bedtime. [10]

Effects on Body Tissues

   From an Ayurvedic perspective, we can look at each tissue of the body and see how turmeric plays a role in the health of that tissue (dhatu). Here are a few ways haridra works on each tissue of the body, although it is not limited to these actions. In the lymphatic system, known as the rasa dhatu, turmeric purifies the lymphatic fluid, removes stagnation, reduces excess heat associated with low intermittent fever and reduces inflammation of mucous membranes.
 
   In the circulatory system, the rakta (blood) benefits greatly from turmerics effects. Some of these include: stimulation of blood tissue development, regulation of blood glucose levels, removal of stagnation in the liver, antimicrobial properties that fight bacterial and viral infections as well as inflammatory conditions and a hemostatic property which acts as a coagulant. It's effectiveness as a hemostat makes it useful for mild internal bleeding due to diseases such as ulcerative colitis. The leaves of kunir also have an antipyretic (cools blood & liver) effect.
 
   In the mamsa dhatu or muscle tissue, one may notice benefits for complexion. A paste made of flour and halad is used for treatment of ringworm or other parasitic skin conditions. For a heated skin condition such as herpes simplex virus, one could apply ladir in aloe vera gel to the affected area. The same mixture of turmeric and aloe vera gel taken internally, is used to combat the systemic heat and viral infection associated with a herpes flare up. A haridra and salt paste may be applied to bruises or traumatic injuries where swelling has occurred to not only reduce the swelling, but alleviate some of the pain as well. Nisa may also be used for acne in conjunction with sandalwood.
 
   Fat tissue, also known as the medas dhatu, is affected in many ways by jiang huang. Through its purification and clearing stagnation in the liver, it increases function of gallbladder and bile production. This stimulates digestion of fats while also having the ability to aid in the digestion of protein through assisting the pancreas in its digestive functions. All of these factors lead to the maintenance of a healthy body weight.
 
   Turmeric stimulates flow through the circulatory system by promoting removal of old red blood cells and production of new red blood cells. The asthi dhatu, or bones, are the site of production for new red blood cells. Golden Goddess has an alkalizing effect on the blood which promotes healthy bones. When the blood ph is low and the body is highly acidic, the blood borrows minerals such as calcium from the bones to bring its ph to a more alkalized environment. This borrowing from the bones leads to a weakening. Over time this can lead to the disease osteoporosis. Through its antimicrobial properties and stimulation of healthy red blood cells, risa can prevent infections of the bones such as osteomyelitis.
 
   Indian Saffron is known as a protector against stress and anxiety. It purifies the plasma which is the vital spinal fluid that feeds the brain. With healthy pure rasa (lymph) feeding brain function the entire nervous system is supported. In a recent study on alzheimer's disease haldi was proven to be therapeutically beneficial. "Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder and the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 5.4 million people in the USA. Some natural products may be used as AD therapeutics from a variety of biological sources, including the anti-amyloid agent curcumin, isolated from turmeric." [21]
 
   While pivari has a purifying effect, lets not forget its support in tonification (building) of tissue. Mostly associated with use for the female reproductive system it is used as a general tonic and stimulant. Safe for use during later trimesters of pregnancy, its stimulating effect can promote menstruation and thus should be avoided during early conception. While its tonifying and purifying effects maintain healthy reproductive tissue, it's antimicrobial properties make it useful in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea.

Effects on Body Systems

   There are specific body systems that the golden goddess has more of an effect on than others. One of these is the circulatory system. "The rhizome is used as a stimulant; and is externally applied to bruises, cuts, ulcers, sprains and pain. It is orally given in blood diseases. Employed in intermittent fevers. Its used externally on bruises and snake bites." [13] In the event of a sprain or pain one can employ various applications of turmeric rhizome. "For general muscle strain, apply warm ginger paste with turmeric (one tsp ginger with Yz tsp turmeric) to the affected area twice a day. Wrap the affected area in a piece of gauze or cotton cloth. A warm compress may be applied for further relief of pain." [14] Healing time for this kind of injury can be increased by daily internal use. "A good antibacterial for those chronically weak or ill. It not only purifies the blood, but also warms it and stimulates formation of new blood tissue. Golden Goddess gives the energy of the Divine Mother and grants prosperity. It is effective for cleansing and purifying the channels of the subtle body." [11] Long term use of ladir has been proven to be an essential part of preventative and holistic medicine.
 
   In the digestive system indian saffron is best known for its treatment of inflammation and indigestion with flatus. Although this herb is warm and stimulating, it does not create heat in the liver and actually moves stagnant heat out of the liver and small intestine. For this reason it is sometimes given during bouts of diarrhea. Kunir may be added to high protein food to assist digestion and prevent the formation of gas. It is effectively used to maintain the flora of the large intestine and prevent the formation of toxins. Best taken in a portion of 1-3 grams of powder with food. In one western study scientist looked at the effects of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory in the colons of mice. "The biological activity of Curcuma extract was evaluated against Carbachol induced contraction in isolated mice intestine." [19] Alternating administration of either curcuma longa or a placebo, observations were held for a period of two weeks. In conclusion the study demonstrated, "Curcuma extract has a direct and indirect myorelaxant effect on mouse ileum and colon, independent of the anti-inflammatory effect. The indirect effect is reversible and non-competitive with the cholinergic agent. These results suggest the use of curcuma extract as a spasmolytic agent." [19] Ultimately this study confirms the anti-inflammatory and bowel tonic effect nisa has on the digestive system.
 
   Golden Goddess is said to assist in the digestion of proteins which in turn assists the pancreas in its activities. These effects are not limited to the pancreas' exocrine functions. For reasons that are still being studied turmeric helps support blood glucose levels. "Health benefits of curcuminoids from C. longa as antioxidants, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory molecules have been well documented. We report here for the first time that Bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) from C. longa, acts as an inhibitor to inactivate human pancreatic a-amylase, a therapeutic target for oral hypoglycemic agents in type-2 diabetes." [20] "For the treatment of diabetes, turmeric is also useful. Take four to five 00 capsules after each meal to return the blood sugar levels to normal." [15] Certainly halads promotion of a healthy liver aids in the storage of glycogen and regulation of glucose. This storage and regulation allows the pancreas to function optimally.
 
   In the respiratory system haridra is good for fighting infections such as bronchitis. A common treatment for a cold is; "Fresh juice (10-20 gms) of turmeric or drink 1 cup milk boiled for 3 minutes with 1 tsp turmeric before bed." [16] To combat cough, sore throat and relieve inflammation in the throat, prepare a turmeric and salt gargle (2 pinch : 2 pinch) in one cup hot water. A "milk turmeric decoction is said to be beneficial for cold, diarrhea, intermittent fever, dropsy, jaundice, liver disorders, urinary diseases, worms (add sugar follow with purgation & enema), trauma and fracture." [17] For sinus inflammation add a pinch of risa to your neti pot or make a medicated oil. The kunir oil may be added to a neti pot or a few drops inserted directly into each nostril.

Western Studies

There have been many studies held on the effects of jiang huang as an anti-inflammatory for the bowels, an antimicrobial for the blood and a blood sugar regulator. More recent studies are showing the effects of halad on cancer cells. One thing we know from collective research is that it reduces heat in the liver by balancing or alkalizing the blood ph. In many cases cancer patients have a low ph. Here are two studies that support the theory of turmeric's benefits for cancer patients.
  • Study 1 "Animal and laboratory studies have found that curcumin, an antioxidant that is an active ingredient in turmeric, demonstrated some anticancer effects.  Antioxidants are compounds that can protect the body's cells from damage caused by activated oxygen molecules known as free radicals. However, clinical research is needed to determine curcumin's role in cancer prevention and treatment in humans. Several types of cancer cells are inhibited by curcumin in the laboratory, and curcumin slows the spread of some cancers in some animal studies." [22]
  • Study 2 "Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), the yellow pigment in Indian saffron (Curcuma longa; also called turmeric, haldi, or haridara in the East and curry powder in the West), has been consumed by people for centuries as a dietary component and for a variety of proinflammatory ailments. Extensive research within the last decade in cell culture and in rodents has revealed that curcumin can sensitize tumors to different chemotherapeutic agents. Chemosensitization has been observed in cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas, gastric, liver, blood, lung, prostate, bladder, cervix, ovary, head and neck, and brain and in multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma. Similar studies have also revealed that this agent can sensitize a variety of tumors to gamma radiation including glioma, neuroblastoma, cervical carcinoma, epidermal carcinoma, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Although it acts as a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for tumors in some cases, curcumin has also been shown to protect normal organs such as liver, kidney, oral mucosa, and heart from chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced toxicity. These preclinical studies are expected to lead to clinical trials to prove the potential of this age-old golden spice for treating cancer patients." [23]

   While there are many theories to support kunir's versatile uses, some studies suggest otherwise. "Curcumin (CUR) is the major orange pigment of turmeric and believed to exert beneficial health effects in the gastrointestinal tract and numerous other organs after oral intake. However, an increasing number of animal and clinical studies show that the concentrations of CUR in blood plasma, urine, and peripheral tissues, if at all detectable, are extremely low even after large doses. In view of the very low intestinal bioavailability, it is difficult to attribute the putative effects observed in peripheral organs to CUR. Without testing the fecal matter for concentrations of CUR it can't be said that turmeric has, poor permeation from the intestinal lumen to the portal blood." [18] Just because haridra hasn't shown up in the urine, blood or plasma, doesn't mean it's confined to the intestine. Perhaps once in systemic circulation the compound changes or is picked up by different organs resulting in a low concentration of CUR in the blood, plasma and urine. It would be helpful to conduct a study that could confirm the concentration of CUR in the intestine and fecal matter after high dosages. With the growing trend of turmeric studies, we will soon gain a deeper understanding of the many benefits of this amazing herb.

   Even with all the recent studies, thousands of years of use are evidence that turmeric is a priceless resource. It is an essential part of everyone's health. Used in preventative measures and ongoing treatment, it has countless uses and applications. Its is no wonder that nisa has been so prized for so long in India and other eastern cultures. Through it's culinary applications and medicinal uses, golden goddess has become an integral part of the survival of human health. Now readily available around the world, it is being used more and more. The bright orange color of turmeric can be spotted wherever you go even when you may not recognize it by name.

Bibliography

1/3. Dr. Gyanendra Pandey. "Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy." Krishnadas Ayurveda (K.A.S.) Series48. "Dravyaguna Vijnana." Part - 1. Page 737-745. "Haridra." Chowkhamba Press, Varanasi. Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 2005
 
2. Chan, E.W.C. et al.; Lim, Y; Wong, S; Lim, K; Tan, S; Lianto, F; Yong, M (2009). "Effects of different drying methods on the antioxidant properties of leaves and tea of ginger species". Food Chemistry 113 (1): 166-172.doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.07.090.
 
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11. Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad. The Yoga of Herbs. Second Edition. Page 149. Lotus Press Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. Copyright 1986, 2001
 
12. Dr. Gyanendra Pandey. "Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy." Krishnadas Ayurveda (K.A.S.) Series48. "Dravyaguna Vijnana." Part - 1. Page 737-745. "Haridra." Chowkhamba Press, Varanasi. Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 2005
 
13. Dr. Gyanendra Pandey. "Chowkhamba Krishnadas Academy." Krishnadas Ayurveda (K.A.S.) Series48. "Dravyaguna Vijnana." Part - 1. Page 737-745. "Haridra." Chowkhamba Press, Varanasi. Oriental Publishers & Distributors. 2005
 
14. Dr. Vasant Lad. "Ayurveda The Science of Self-Healing." Page 160. "Muscle Strain & Pain." Lotus Press Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.
 
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16. Usha Lad & Dr. Vasant Lad. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing. Second Edition. Page 215-216. The Ayurvedic Press, Albuquerque 87112. Copyright 1994, 2009
 
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About the Student Research Papers

The papers published on our website have been written by students of the California College of Ayurveda as a part of their required work toward graduation. After reviewing each paper, Dr. Halpern selects those papers that he feels are appropriate to publish. The information in each paper should not be construed as the final word on any subject nor should it be assumed that errors do not exist.