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Turmeric – the divine herb & medicine

Turmeric – the divine herb & medicine

The latest research by archaeologist Arunima Kashyap at Washington State University Vancouver, who, along with Steve Weber, has been studying the cooking techniques of people in the Indus Valley Civilization has some interesting revelations. Arunima suggests that turmeric, along with Ginger, was a key ingredient in the Indian cuisine and used extensively by cooks in the Indus Valley civilization around 2500-2200 BC. Yes, 4000 years ago, we were using turmeric to spice up our food.

Cultural significance of turmeric

Turmeric has been an integral part of Asian culture and cuisine for thousands of years. For Indians, turmeric is not just a spice or a medicine. Rituals in the Hindu religion consider turmeric auspicious and divine. Haldi is an elaborate ceremony where the bride and groom are given a bath with the paste of turmeric and oil. Turmeric is used to dye the holy-thread bright yellow which forms the Mangala Sutra – indicating the acceptance of the bride as the wife and member of the new household. The use of turmeric root as an amulet tied to a string for protection against evil also shows how significant turmeric is in Indian culture.

Traditional usage of turmeric as medicine

Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine since centuries. A wide variety of health benefits have been attributed to it. Many Ayurvedic, Unani texts extensively mention the use of turmeric for its medicinal benefits. Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium, written around 250 BC, mentions the use of Turmeric as an ointment.

Curcumin, the most biologically active curcuminoid in turmeric, is currently being examined in pre-clinical and clinical trials for its role in disease prevention and cure. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, anti-proliferative and antimicrobial effects. Turmeric is used as a herbal medicine for treating rheumatoid arthritis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, smallpox, chicken pox, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments.

Did you know, the name turmeric is derived from the Latin word terra merita (meritorious earth)?

Several studies are currently being conducted to understand the therapeutic benefit of turmeric for skin ailments. Of the numerous skin conditions being researched now, the prominent ones are for acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, facial photoaging, oral lichen planus, pruritus, psoriasis, radiodermatitis, and vitiligo. While there is early evidence that turmeric/curcumin products and supplements, both oral and topical, may provide therapeutic benefits for skin health, further studies are essential to evaluate the efficacy and mechanisms involved better.

Turmeric might well be adjusting to be in the spotlight as there are hundreds of studies being conducted to understand its efficacy as a healer. Here are some of the health conditions that are being researched with turmeric as a possible solution.

Turmeric as a medicine: Areas of interest

  • Turmeric is believed to decrease multiplicity and onset of skin tumors. Turmeric has many ingredients and is believed to contain several substances capable of inhibiting chemical carcinogenesis.
  • Turmeric also seems beneficial in preventing diabetes-induced oxidative stress.
  • Turmeric is also effective against neuronal, cardiac, and kidney disorders.
  • Turmeric might be useful against depression. Promising results from the studies are yet to surface but the interest in this area is still very active.
  • The anti-arthritic effects of turmeric include inhibition of joint inflammation and periarticular joint destruction.
  • Turmeric has amazing wound-healing abilities. Even today in many South Asian countries, turmeric is used as an antiseptic for cuts, burns, and bruises, and as an antibacterial agent.
  • Turmeric acts as a digestive stimulant and is believed to help digestive disorders; to reduce flatus, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, and colic; for abdominal pain and distension.
  • Turmeric extract might be able to improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults.
  • Turmeric is also found useful in healing peptic ulcers.

PLANTSCIENCE TAKE:

Is turmeric the wonder herb? Does it hold the key to heal many skin related problems?

While we need to have a precise understanding of the effective dose, safety, and mechanism of action required for the rational use of turmeric in the treatment of human diseases, further clinical studies are essential to understand if turmeric is to be employed in meeting human needs. With the regards to the possible use of curcumin in combination with other traditional drugs, the developing of formulations and novel delivery systems, we can say that it is a very promising area of research.

What do you think about the use of turmeric as a medicine? Do you have any interesting stories where turmeric is used for therapeutic uses? Share with us in the comments.

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