Curcuma Longa L, the botanical name for turmeric, has been known to man for more than 5000 years and is well known not only as a condiment, used widely in Indian cooking, but also as a healing agent , in beauty treatments, has medicinal properties and is used extensively in India. This humble yellow root finds its place in almost every Indian household and is a very strong contender for Grandma’s favorite kitchen remedy. The benefits of this wonder root has been revealing itself through the ages and is used extensively as an anti-inflammatory, anti depressant and anti- bacterial and is effective in treating a wide range of disease and ailments from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
The active ingredient in turmeric is Curmin. This is a rhizome which grows underground and grows in a hot humid climate. It needs light black or red clayey soil and is generally sown in spring and harvested after seven to ten months when the leaves start to turn yellow.
Turmeric is one of the most useful substance which is very easily accessible to all and a natural cure for many ailments. Apart from its unique flavor and color, it also has a high nutritional value and contains calcium, prosperous, iron carotene thiamin and niacin.
Uses of Turmeric
Some of the main areas where turmeric is used are:
Use of Turmeric in Cooking
No Indian curry is complete without a pinch of turmeric. It is used to add flavor and color to curries. It is a cheaper alternative to saffron. Dairy products such as butter, cheese, flavored milk, use turmeric as a coloring and flavoring agent. Turmeric also substitutes for mustard in cattle feed. Also read about the health benefits and preparation of turmeric milk
Medicinal Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric is capable of curing many health disorders such as liver problems, cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other disorders. It is an effective pain killer, anti bacterial and anti inflammatory. The active ingredient in turmeric, Curcumin, is known to have a wide range of therapeutic properties.
It is shown to be quite effective in treating prostate cancer and also prevents spreading of breast cancer to the lungs.
It helps to detox the liver.
It helps to slow down Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
It is a natural inflammatory and painkiller and assists in quicker healing of wounds.
In Ayurveda also it finds mention as a cure for poisonous snakebites and the turmeric leaf is a repellant for mosquito bites. Applying a paste of turmeric helps ward off alligators and crocodiles when swimming in crocodile infested waters. Growing turmeric plants around your house helps to keep snakes away.
Religious Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric finds a prominent place in Hindu religion too. It is considered to be a symbol of purity and prosperity and is also considered to improve fertility. Since this has anti bacterial properties, it is used as a purifying agent in most religious ceremonies and rituals. Clothes are dyed in Turmeric and worn by priests during religious functions like marriages and important festivals. In South India, the bridegroom ties a thread called the mangalsutra which has been dipped in turmeric paste around the brides’ neck. The bride and groom also apply a paste of sandal and turmeric on themselves before the ceremon. This is an act of purification and cleansing. Rice mixed with turmeric is showered on the newly married couple. Even in temples turmeric and kumkum (a mixture made of turmeric powder and lime) is widely used. The Idols of Gods and Goddesses are given a bath with this water. Hindu women apply kumkum on their forehead and in the parting of their hair as a symbol of their marital status. During ceremonies, Hindu women are offered dried turmeric roots and betel leaves which symbolize good luck and fertility.
Uses and Benefits of Turmeric for Skin
From time immemorial, good looks and beauty have been on a woman’s (and man’s) mind. Using turmeric along with other easily available natural products makes for great skincare which is totally safe from side effects. Using the original turmeric might stain the skin; we can instead use a variety of turmeric known as Kasturi Manjal (turmeric) which has the same properties. Some Ayurvedic fairness creams contain this Kasturi Turmeric, but there are cheaper and easier remedies for attaining a fair and glowing skin, some of which are mentioned below:
- Make a paste of fresh turmeric. Apply on skin for thirty minutes and then wash it off with luke warm water. This will make your skin glow.
- Make a paste of turmeric powder, besan, milk cream and lime and apply on areas of the body which is tanned. This is very effective in tan removal. Frequent use of this also helps to remove unwanted facial hair.
- Make a paste of turmeric powder, rice powder, raw milk and raw tomato juice. Apply to face and neck. Leave for half an hour and then wash off with warm water. This helps to remove wrinkles and makes your skin glow.
- Since turmeric has anti – bacterial and anti – fungal properties, it is also very effective in getting rid of pimples and acne. Add turmeric paste to a few drops of coconut oil or sesame oil and apply over the pimples. Alternatively, adding a few drops of lime juice or cucumber juice with a pinch of turmeric can also have the same effect. This remedy helps in getting rid of pimples and also helps in erasing the marks left due to acne to a large extent.
- Add one and a half tablespoons of sandalwood powder and a pinch of turmeric to three tablespoons of orange juice. Apply on face and leave for ten to fifteen minutes. This mask is very good for oily skin as turmeric is also shown to help in regulating the production of sebum, an oily substance produced in the sebaceous glands. The orange juice helps to clear blemishes in the skin and sandalwood is a natural and excellent astringent.
Grandma’s home remedies for common ailments:
- Drink a glass of milk which has been boiled with a pinch of turmeric, cloves and sugar. This speeds up healing of wounds. A paste of turmeric applied directly to wounds also helps in a faster healing process.
- Drinking milk boiled with turmeric at bedtime is also an excellent cure for cough. (Read more about Turmeric Milk)
- In a glass of water, add a pinch of turmeric, pinch of pepper and some finely grated ginger. Bring this mixture to a boil. Cool and drink. Gives relief from cough.
- Another effective remedy to treat cough is to mix a pinch of turmeric with jiggery and allow remaining in your mouth till it melts. Jaggery can also be substituted by honey.