Turmeric is aperenial herbacious plant that reaches up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) tall. Highly branched, yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes are found.
The leaves arealternateand arranged in two rows. They are divided into leaf sheath, petiole, and leaf blade.From the leaf sheaths, a false stem is formed. The petiole is 50 to 115 cm (20–45 in) long. The simple leaf blades are usually 76 to 115 cm (30–45 in) long and rarely up to 230 cm (91 in). They have a width of 38 to 45 cm (15 to 18 in) and are oblong to elliptical, narrowing at the tip.
At the top of the inflorescence, stem bracts are present on which no flowers occur; these are white to green and sometimes tinged reddish-purple, and the upper ends are tapered.
Thehermaphroditeflowers arezygomorphicand threefold. The threesepalsare 0.8 to 1.2 cm (0.3 to 0.5 in) long, fused, and white, and have fluffy hairs; the three calyxteeth are unequal. The three bright-yellowpetalsare fused into a corollatube up to 3 cm (1.2 in) long. The three corolla lobes have a length of 1.0 to 1.5 cm (0.4–0.6 in) and are triangular with soft-spiny upper ends. While the average corolla lobe is larger than the two lateral, only the medianstamenof the inner circle is fertile. The dust bag is spurred at its base. All other stamens are converted tostaminodes. The outer staminodes are shorter than the labellum. The labellum is yellowish, with a yellow ribbon in its center and it is obovate, with a length from 1.2 to 2.0 cm (0.5 to 0.8 in). Threecarpelsare under a constant, trilobed ovary adherent, which is sparsely hairy. The fruit capsule opens with three compartments.
In East Asia, the flowering time is usually in August. Terminally on the false stem is aninflorescencestem, 12 to 20 cm (5 to 8 in) long, containing many flowers. Thebractsare light green and ovate to oblong with a blunt upper end with a length of 3 to 5 cm (1.2 to 2.0 in).
Species……………….. Curcuma longa
Turmeric has been used in Asia for thousands of years and is a major part of Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani, and the animistic rituals ofAustronesian people.It was first used as adye, and then later for its supposed properties infolk medicine.
The greatest diversity of Curcumaspecies by number alone is in India, at around 40 to 45 species. Thailand has a comparable 30 to 40 species for example, but is much smaller than India. Other countries in tropical Asia also have numerous wild species ofCurcuma. Recent studies have also shown that the taxonomy ofCurcuma longais problematic, with only the specimens from South India being identifiable asC. longa. The phylogeny, relationships, intraspecific and interspecific variation, and even identity of other species and cultivars in other parts of the world still need to be established and validated. Various species currently utilized and sold as “turmeric” in other parts of Asia have been shown to belong to several physically similar taxa, with overlapping local names.
Furthermore, there is linguistic and circumstantial evidence of the spread and use of turmeric by theAustronesian peopleinto Oceania and Madagascar. The populations in Polynesia and Micronesia, in particular, never came into contact with India, but use turmeric widely for both food and dye. Thus independent domestication events are also likely.
Uses of Turmeric
I happened to be one of those teens who used the freshly cut of turmeric roots to paint the lips and nails as cosmetics. Little did I know that turmeric would turn out to be one of the most researched spice for its numerous use and benefits. These uses include:
Culinary Uses of Turmeric in Different Regions
Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes, imparting a mustard-like, earthy aroma and pungent, slightly bitter flavor to foods.It is used mostly in savory dishes, but also is used in some sweet dishes, such as the cake stouf.
In India, turmeric leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes,patoleo, by layering rice flour andcoconut-jaggerymixture on the leaf, then closing and steaming it in a special utensil (chondrõ).Most turmeric is used in the form of rhizomepowder to impart a golden yellow color.It is used in many products such as canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, cereals, sauces, and gelatin. It is a principal ingredient in curry powders.Although typically used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric also is used fresh, like ginger. It has numerous uses in East Asian recipes, such as apicklethat contains large chunks of fresh soft turmeric.
Turmeric is used widely as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. VariousIranian khoresh recipes begin with onionscaramelizedin oil and turmeric.
The Moroccanspice mixras el hanouttypically includes turmeric. In South Africa, turmeric is used to give boiled white rice a golden color, known asgeelrys(yellow rice) traditionally served withbobotie.
In Vietnamese cuisine, turmeric powder is used to color and enhance the flavors of certain dishes, such asbánh xèo, bánh khọt, andmi guang. The stapleCambodiancurry paste, kroeung, used in many dishes including amok, typically contains fresh turmeric.
In Indonesia, turmeric leaves are used for Minang or padang curry base of Sumatra, such asrendang, sate padang, and many other varieties. In the Philippines, turmeric is used in the preparation and cooking ofkuningand Satay.
In Thailand, fresh turmeric rhizomes are used widely in many dishes, in particular in the southernThai cuisine, such as yellow curry and turmeric soup. Turmeric is used in a hot drink called “turmeric latte” or “golden milk” that is made with milk, frequentlycoconut milk.
The turmeric milk drink known ashaldi doodh(haldimeans turmeric inHindi) is a South Asian recipe. Sold in the US and UK, the drink known as “golden mylk” uses nondairy milk and sweetener, and sometimes black pepper after the traditional recipe (which may also useghee).
The golden yellow color of turmeric is due tocurcumin.It also contains an orange-coloredvolatile oil.Turmeric makes a poor fabricdye, as it is not very light fast, but is commonly used in Indian clothing, such assarisandBuddhist monks’s robes.It is used to protect food products from sunlight, coded as E100when used as a food addictive.Theoleoresinis used for oil-containing products. A curcumin and polysorbatesolution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcoholis used for water-containing products. Overcoloring, such as inpickles, relishes, andmustard, is sometimes used to compensate for fading.
In combination withannatto(E160b), turmeric has been used to color cheeses, yogurt, dry mixes,salad dressing, winterbutter, andmargarine.Turmeric is used to give a yellow color to some preparedmustards, canned chicken broths, and other foods—often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron.
Turmeric paper, also called curcuma paper or in German literature,Curcumapapier, is paper steeped in atintureof turmeric and allowed to dry. It is used in chemical analysisas an indicatorforacidityandalkalinity.The paper is yellow in acidic andneutral solutionsand turns brown to reddish-brown in alkaline solutions, with transition between pH of 7.4 and 9.2.
Traditional Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia, where it is collected for use in classical Indian medicine (Siddha or Ayurveda).
In Eastern India, the plant is used as one of the nine components ofnavapatrikaalong with young plantainor banana plant,taroleaves,barley(jayanti),wood apple(bilva), pomegranate(darimba),asoka,manaka(Arum), ormanakochu, and rice paddy. The Haldi ceremony calledgaye holuin Bengal (literally “yellow on the body”) is a ceremony observed during wedding celebrations of people of Indian culture all throughout the Indian subcontinent.
InTami NaduandAndhra Pradesh, as a part of the Tamil–Telugu marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to create aThali necklace. In western and coastal India, during weddings of theMarathiandKonkani people, Kannada Brahmins, turmeric tubers are tied with strings by the couple to their wrists during a ceremony,Kankanabandhana.
Fredrich Ratzelreported inThe History of Mankindduring 1896, that in Micronesia, turmeric powder was applied for embellishment of body, clothing, utensils, and ceremonial uses.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
The major reason for researchers conducting studies on most plants today is the health benefits. Let’s see what some health experts have been able to gather from their findings on health benefits of Turmeric.
1. Curcumin Is an Anti-Inflammatory
One of turmeric’s main claims to fame is that it’s commonly used to fight inflammation, and the bulk of turmeric’s inflammation-fighting powers can be credited to curcumin. In fact, in the right dose, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than common inflammation-fighting medications such asAdvil (Ibuprofen and Aspirin) according to a past study.
As chronic inflammation contributes to many chronic diseases, curcumin may help treat conditions like inflammatory bowel disease,pancreatiti, and arthritis. We’ll get into some of those specific benefits later.
2. Curcumin May Protect Against Heart Disease
A past study shows that curcumin may improve endothelial function, or the health of the thin membrane that covers the inside of the heart and blood vessels. This membrane plays a key role in regulatingblood pressure. Lower endothelial function is associated with aging and an increased risk ofheart disease.. Thus, curcumin may help protect against age-related loss of function and reduce your likelihood of developing heart disease.
In one study, researchers compared the effects of an eight-week aerobicexercise program and a curcumin supplement in improving endothelial function in postmenopausal women. Both the exercise and the curcumin group saw equal improvements in endothelial function, whereas the control group saw no changes.
Another study found that curcumin was equally effective at improving endothelial function in people with type 2 diabetes(heart disease is a common comorbidity of type 2) as the drugLipitor (atorvastatiom), a medication commonly prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attack andstroke.
Still, more research is needed to determine if curcumin is a safe and effective long-term treatment strategy for people with heart disease.
Curcumin May Prevent (and Possibly Help Treat) Cancer
As inflammation is linked to tumor growth, anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin may play a role in treating and preventing a variety of cancer types, includingcolorectal, prostate, breast, and gastric cancers. (1) In fact, research in mice suggests that curcumin may help slow the spread of tumor cells and may even prevent tumors from forming in the first place. It may do this in several ways, including disrupting the formation of cancerous cells at various stages in the cell cycle, interfering with cell signaling pathways, and even causing those cancerous cells to die. (11)
Whether curcumin can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be determined, but the research is ongoing.
4. Curcumin May Help Ease Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may be a safe and effective long-term treatment option for people with osteoarthritis, (AO). In a past study, people with osteoarthritis who took 1,000 mg/day of Meriva experienced significant improvements in stiffness and physical function after eight months, whereas the control group saw no improvements. Meriva is a proprietary treatment made up of a natural curcuminoid mixture (75 percent curcumin; 15 percent demethoxycurcumin; and 10 percent bisdemethoxycurcumin), phosphatidylcholine (a chemical found in eggs, soybeans, and other foods), and microcrystalline cellulose (a refined wood pulp commonly used by the pharmaceutical and food industries).
And a study in mice published in the June 2016 issue ofArthritis Research & Therapyfound that 50 mg oral curcumin per kilogram (kg) body weight significantly slowed the progression of OA, whereas a topical curcumin treatment provided pain relief. That said, whether these benefits would apply to humans has yet to be seen.
5. Curcumin May Help Treat or Prevent Diabetes
According to a past review of studies, curcumin may help treat and prevent diabetes, as well as associated disorders like diabetic nephropathy (also called diabetic kidney disease), which affects people withtype 1 diabetesandtype 2 diabetes.One drawback: Many of the studies have been done only in animals, not humans.
For example, one study found that feeding 80 mg of tetrahydrocurcumin (one of the main substances of curcumin) per kg body weight to rats with type 2 diabetes for 45 days led to a significant decrease in blood sugar, as well as an increase in plasma insulin.
A study in obese mice with type 2 diabetes published in the July 2019 issue ofNutrition & Metabolismreveals that curcumin supplements helped lower blood insulin levels after 16 weeks.
Meanwhile, curcumin may help prevent diabetes through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and improve many of the factors that contribute to diabetes, includinginsulin resistance, high blood sugar, and hyperlipidemia (a medical term to describe elevated levels of fat in the blood; one type of hyperlipidemia is characterized by high levels ofLDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Still, more human studies are needed to confirm.
6. Turmeric May Help Delay or Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease
Turmeric may even protect your brain against common degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. How? By increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that plays a key role in keeping nerve cells (neurons) healthy, as well as regulating communication between nerve cells, which is critical for learning and memory. As common brain disorders like Alzheimer’s are associated with lower levels of BDNF, turmeric (curcumin in particular) may help delay or reverse brain degeneration.
That said, much of the research has been done in mice. Researchers note more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of turmeric in the prevention and treatment of common brain diseases.
7. Turmeric May Play a Role in Treating Depression
Like Alzheimer’s, depression is also associated with lower levels of BDNF. Thanks to turmeric’s ability to boost levels of BDNF, the spice shows promise as an effective antidepressant. In fact, one study found that injecting rats with 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg of curcumin for 10 days led to a dose-dependent increase in BDNF, with the higher dose of 200 mg/kg showing greater antidepressant effects.
Meanwhile, in a study in humans that was published in the April 2014 issue of Phytotherapy Research, researchers randomly assigned 60 patients with major depressive disorder to one of three groups: one group received daily 20 mg of fluoxetine is a common brand name), another received 1,000 mg of curcumin, and a third received a combination of the two. By the end of six weeks, the three groups saw comparable improvements, leading researchers to suggest that curcumin may be a safe and effective treatment for major depressive disorder.
Still, scientists don’t fully understand the role of turmeric and curcumin in treating depression, and more research in humans is needed to confirm it is a safe and effective treatment.
8. Curcumin May Play a Role in Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Curcumin shows promise as a treatment forrheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that commonly affects the joints but may spread to other areas, such as the eyes, lungs, skin, heart, and blood vessels. RA causes a painful swelling of the joints that can cause the bones to erode over time and ultimately lead to deformities and physical disabilities. (29)
In one study, people with RA were given 500 mg of curcumin, 50 mg ofdiclofenac sodium(a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), or the two in combination. After eight weeks, the curcumin-only group saw significant improvements in joint tenderness and swelling when compared with the other two groups. Researchers note the curcumin treatment was also safe, resulting in no harmful events.
9. Turmeric May Improve Skin Health
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, turmeric may be an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including acne,eczema (atopic dermatitis), photoaging, andpsoriasis. Yet robust research is lacking.
One review published in the January 2018 issue ofOpen Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciencessuggests oral curcumin in particular may be an effective and safe treatment option for psoriasis(a chronic inflammatory skin disease), but more studies are needed before making recommendations.
According to the authors of another review, topical curcumin treatments may be useful in treating skin disorders, especially as past research suggests curcumin is relatively safe even at high doses. But curcumin’s bright yellow-orange color, poor solubility, and poor stability at a high pH make it an unappealing topical skin treatment.
10. Turmeric Protects Your Body From Free Radicals
Antioxidants help protect your body against damage caused by free radicals, a class of highly reactive atoms that are generated in our bodies, as well as in environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke and industrial chemicals. Too much exposure to free radicals can mess with the fats, proteins, and even DNA in your body, which may lead to a number of common diseases and health conditions, including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Therefore, antioxidant-rich spices like turmeric may play a role in protecting you from free radical damage.
Curcumin in particular is able to scavenge different types of free radicals, control enzymes that neutralize free radicals, and prevent certain enzymes from creating specific free radical types, according to a review in the October 2017 issue ofFoods.
11. Turmeric May Work As an Anti-Aging Supplement
Currently, there’s no evidence that turmeric or curcumin directly influence longevity, but thanks to their ability to fight inflammation, protect your body against free radicals, and potentially delay brain degeneration and other age-related diseases, turmeric and curcumin may be effective anti-aging supplements, according to past research.
Studies also suggest that turmeric and curcumin are mostly safe, although some negative side effects (diarrhea, headache, rash) have been reported at doses ranging from 500 to 12,000 mg.
12. Curcumin May Prevent Eye Degeneration
Glaucoma, a group of eye conditions, is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over age 60. And, unfortunately, once your vision is gone, it can’t be restored.
But preliminary research published July 2018 inScientific Reportsshows topical curcumin treatments may help protect the eyes against degeneration. Researchers applied a proprietary curcumin eye drop solution to rats two times per day for three weeks. By the end of the study, the untreated rats experienced a 23 percent reduction in retinal cells compared with the treatment group, suggesting that loss was prevented by the curcumin treatment. The study findings sound impressive, but more studies are needed to determine if curcumin is effective in preventing eye degeneration in humans.
Negative Side Effects of Turmeric
It is a known fact that whatever have a good side also has its bad side. Turmeric is very beneficial when it comes to health. But, then, too much of it can be harmful to the health. Health experts have been able to figure out the following as the possible side effects of Turmeric:
Turmeric can upset your stomach
The same agents in turmeric that support digestive health can cause irritation when taken in large amounts. Some participants in studies looking at the use of turmeric for cancer treatment had to drop outbecause their digestion was so negatively affected. Turmeric stimulates the stomach to produce more gastric acid. While this helps some people’s digestion, it can really do a number on others.
It thins your blood
Turmeric’s purifying properties may also make you bleed more easily. It’s not clear why this happens. Other suggested benefits of turmeric, such as loweredcholesteroland loweredblood pressure, probably have something to do with the way turmeric functions in your blood.
People who take blood-thinning drugs like warfarin (Coumadin) should avoidconsuming large doses of turmeric.
It may stimulate contractions
You may have heard that eating foods seasoned with curry can stimulate labor. Although there’s little clinical data to back up this claim,studies suggest turmeric can ease symptoms of PMS. So there may be something to the old wives’ tale.
Because of its blood-thinning effects alone, pregnant women should avoid taking turmeric supplements. Adding small amounts of turmeric as a spice to food shouldn’t be a problem.
It appears that there are health benefits to including turmeric in your diet. The golden spice supports immune health, helps relieve pain, and can aid in digestion, among other things. But because of some of its side effects, turmeric may not be worth taking for some people.