Turmeric is a popular spice traditionally used in Indian cuisine. The spice is produced from the root rhizome of Curcuma longa. India has been a largest producer of turmeric from ancient times. Turmeric has been used for over 2,500 years for treatment of various diseases. The use of turmeric dates back to old and ancient vedic culture in India where it is used as a spice and also has a religious significance.
Turmeric is described as one of the powerful natural healers in Indian traditional medicine, Ayurveda. As per Ayurveda, turmeric balances three basic elements of the body- vata, pitta, and kapha. It has a particular beneficial effect for rasa and rakta dhatus(the blood and plasma of the circulatory system). It also ignites agni (digestive fire), reduces kapha and ama (toxins). Turmeric is effective in treatment of various skin disorders, for pain and inflammation associated with acne, skin rashes and warts. Turmeric is traditionally used for supporting the blood, liver, joints, immune system, and digestive tract. However in excess amount, it causes increase in pitta and vata. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for various respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma, runny nose, cough, sinusitis, allergy, bronchial hyperactivity etc). Sushruta’s Ayurvedic compendium written around 250 B.C. revealed that turmeric contains a property to reduce effect of poisoned food.
Apart from Ayurveda, turmeric has a long history of use in Siddha, Unani and Chinese medicine systems, veterinary medicine, and folk medicine throughout South-East Asia. Turmeric is also popular in yogic traditions, as it is used to cleanse the subtle channels and chakras, and is used to support the ligaments in hatha yoga practices.
Turmeric contains a chemical ingredient called Curcumin. Around 2–5% of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is yellow in color and makes the turmeric yellow. Curcumin prevents oxidation and reduces inflammation (redness, swelling, pain, increased temperature and decreased function). By these functions, it maintains health, prevents diseases and reduces illnesses of multiple systems in the body.
Curcumin protects the lung cells in respiratory illnesses such as Asthma and COPD, Allergy. It reduces lung damage and fibrosis caused by radiation, chemotherapeutic medications, and toxicants. Curcumin also controls allergic diseases by inhibiting the production of chemicals that released after exposure to allergy causing agent (cytokines, MSF, interleukins etc). Studies have also shown that dietary turmeric can reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers and also inhibits growth and migration of lung and pancreatic cancer cells. Studies conducted in laboratory (in vitro) on basophils have shown that curcumin clears constricted airways and increase antioxidant levels.
Apart from this, curcumin has also been proven effective in diseases of nervous system such as anxiety, depression, dementia; musculoskeletal disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as post-workout muscle fatigue and premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps; cardiovascular diseases and arterial disease, and hypertension; Liver and gall bladder disorders such as fatty liver disease, cholecystitis and biliary dyskinesia; gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome; various types of cancers as well as autoimmune diseases. The protective effect of curcumin against various chemicals and environmental pollutants are seen in several studies
From over the centuries, turmeric have shown to be more and more as a natural wonder that is beneficial in various conditions of health. In true terms, it is a “Golden Spice of India”.
[Please read part 2 of this blog for information on dosage and ways of turmeric consumption.]
- Acharya YT (1994) Charaka Samhitha of Agnivesh with the Ayurveda Dipika commentary. (4thedn), Chaukambha Sanskrit Samstha, Varanasi, India 32-33.
- Rathaur PWR. Turmeric: the golden spice of life. international journal of pharmaceutical science and research, (2012, june 12): 3(07).
- (For additional resources on scientific studies on effect of turmeric and curcumin, please write to the author.)