Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TURMERIC - Curcuma Longa

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae which is native to tropical South Asia. It needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C, and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and re-seeded from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

It is often misspelled (or pronounced) as 'tumeric'. It is also known as kunyit (Indonesian and Malay), Besar (Nepali) or haldi (Hindi) or arishina (Kannada) or pasupu (Telugu)or manjal(Tamil) in Asian countries. In Assamese it is called Halodhi. In HawaiƬ, it is called "`Olena." In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian Saffron, since it is widely used as an alternative to far more expensive saffron spice.

Its rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has an earthy, bitter, peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.

Turmeric as traditional Asian medicine

The rhizome (root) of turmeric ( Curcuma longa Linn.) has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gastrointestinal upset, arthritic pain, and "low energy." Laboratory and animal research has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties of turmeric and its constituent curcumin. Preliminary human evidence, albeit poor quality, suggests possible efficacy in the management of dyspepsia (heartburn), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and scabies (when used on the skin).

Herbal remedies using Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Also known as haridra and was previously classified as Curcuma domestica. The use of herbal remedies, including the herb turmeric (also known as haridra) and classified as Curcuma longa, (previously classified as Curcuma domestica) are popular as an alternative to standard Western allopathic medicine for a variety of problems, including lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of stroke and heart attack as well as eczema.

Curcuma longa is an effective remedy for various ailments, and this natural holistic approach to health is becoming more and more popular, but should NOT replace conventional medicine or prescription drugs.

Medicinal uses

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties and many in India use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine say it has fluoride which is thought to be essential for teeth. It is also used as an antibacterial agent.

It is taken in some Asian countries as a dietary supplement, which allegedly helps with stomach problems and other ailments. It is popular as a tea in Okinawa, Japan. It is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer's disease, cancer and liver disorders.

Scientists have studied turmeric for the following health problems:

Antioxidant - Some research suggests that as an antioxidant, turmeric may help in the prevention of conditions such as cancer and heart disease. These studies, however, are small and of poor quality, and most have involved animals. Better studies performed in humans are needed to provide more definitive answers.

Cancer - Several laboratory studies, animal studies and low-quality studies in humans have examined the effects of turmeric on different types of tumors. However, currently it is not clear if turmeric is effective in the prevention or treatment of cancer. There are several ongoing studies in this area.

Heartburn and stomach ulcers - Turmeric has been used traditionally for stomach and intestinal conditions. There is limited study in this area, and the effects of turmeric are not clear. Turmeric may actually cause heartburn or ulcers when used long-term or in high doses.

Arthritis treatment - A few small studies suggest turmeric may help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, larger studies are needed to determine the exact benefit of turmeric for these conditions.

Other - Turmeric has been studied for the treatment of high cholesterol, inflammation, scabies, viral infections, HIV, AIDS and a vision disorder called chronic anterior uveitis. Other studies suggest that turmeric may prevent gallstones and the formation of blood clots and may have a protective effect on the liver. Turmeric has not been proven for any of these uses, and more research is needed before turmeric can be recommended for these conditions.

Unproven Uses

Turmeric has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care provider before using turmeric for any unproven use.

Alzheimer's disease
Antifertility agent
Appetite stimulant
Bile flow
Cervical cancer
Cystic fibrosis
Decreased breast milk
Fungal infections
Gastric cancer
High blood pressure
Human papillomavirus
Insect bites
Insect repellent
Kidney stones
Lack of menstrual period
Liver protection
Menstrual cramps
Multidrug resistance
Neurodegenerative disorders
Ovarian cancer
Prostate cancer
Protozoal infections
Snake venom
Sperm count
Sperm motility
Stomach bloating

Potential dangers of Turmeric

Allergies - Individuals who are allergic to spices that include turmeric or to yellow food colorings should avoid turmeric. Contact allergy to curcumin has been reported. Turmeric is a member of the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family and should be avoided by people with allergies to these plants.

Side Effects - Few side effects have been reported when turmeric is used at recommended doses. There are reports of skin rash and mild giddiness. Stomach irritation, including heartburn and ulcers, may occur with long-term use. In animal studies, turmeric has caused hair loss, changes in blood pressure and liver damage. In theory, turmeric may increase the risk of bleeding. You may need to stop taking turmeric before some surgeries; discuss this with your health care provider.

Individuals with gallstones, blocked bile ducts, stomach or intestinal ulcers, high levels of stomach acid or immune system diseases should speak with a health care provider before using turmeric in amounts greater than commonly found in foods.

Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding - Turmeric cannot be recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding in amounts greater than usually found in foods. Turmeric may stimulate contractions of the uterus and may alter menstrual periods.


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