Turmeric is an indispensible part of Indian cuisine, used in all kinds of curries and dishes, from north to south, west to east. This bright yellow spice lends a distinctive, earthy flavor and a beautiful yellow-orange color to curries.
Turmeric powder is obtained by grinding the dried rhizomes of the plant. India is a major producer as well as the biggest user of turmeric. Traditionally known as “Indian saffron”, it has been used since times immemorial as a part of Ayurvedic medicines due to its numerous curative qualities.
Curcumin is the chief chemical component in turmeric, besides manganese, iron, vitamin B6, fiber and potassium. It also contains sugars, proteins, resins and volatile oils but has a very low calorie-count and zero cholesterol. Curcumin, which gives it the distinctive yellow color, possesses anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory qualities,all of which make turmeric the golden spice with the magical abilities to treat a multitude of health disorders.
Curcumin is beneficial in regulating blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Researches have also shown it to be effective in inhibiting growth of tumor cells. Similarly, it has been found to help rheumatoid arthritis as well as relieving joint pains and stiffness. Because of all these health benefits, turmeric has been used in age-old home remedies for various ailments. Some of them are listed below:
1. Digestive health: Turmeric aids digestion by reducing the problem of gas and bloating and stimulation of bile production. For this purpose, add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a cup of yogurt and have it after lunch daily. Taking ½ teaspoon turmeric powder added to a cup of juice or water thrice a day helps in diarrhea.
2. Aches and pains: A common home remedy used in every Indian household is haldi doodh (turmeric milk), which provides relief from pain due to internal injuries, fractures and fever. Additionally, a paste made by mixing 1 part salt with 2 parts turmeric and some water applied on a sprain can help reduce swelling.
3. Skin allergies: Application of fresh juice of raw turmeric can help reduce skin problems like allergy, scabies, eczema and chicken pox.
4. Wounds: Turmeric powder can help stop bleeding when applied to the open wound. Mixed with slaked lime, it can be made into a paste and used over wounds as an anti-septic. This will also speed up the healing process.
5. Burns: A mixture of 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel is a wonderful remedy for burns, which provides immediate relief from burning sensation.
6. Conjunctivitis: Boil 1 tablespoon of crushed, raw turmeric in 1/3 cup of water and sieve it. Use 2-3 drops of this mixture as an eye-drop upto three times a day to relieve the symptoms of conjunctivitis. Alternatively, make a turmeric-water decoction in a 1:20 ratio, dip a clean cloth in it and use it as a compress on the eyes to get rid of the pain and itching.
7. Anemia: Turmeric can alleviate anemia by taking a daily dose of 1 teaspoon turmeric juice mixed with honey.
8. Glowing skin: Mixed with gram flour (besan) and milk, turmeric is used to make ubtan, which is a home-made exfoliating facial scrub, which not only helps in de-tanning but also lends a fresh glow to the skin. The haldi ceremony is an integral part of North Indian weddings, where turmeric paste is applied to bride’s face for a radiant complexion.
A paste made by mixing turmeric powder with buttermilk and sugarcane juice can help reduce wrinkles and dark circles. A mixture of turmeric and honey can be helpful for acne. Turmeric is used in many skin-care and cosmetic products.
9. Dental problems: A paste of 1 teaspoon of turmeric with ½ teaspoon salt and a few drops of mustard oil rubbed on teeth and gums twice daily helps get rid of dental problems.
10. Cough, congestion and sore throat: Inhaling the smoke of burned turmeric can help relieve cough, asthma and nasal congestion. 1 teaspoon turmeric added to a cup of hot milk also provides relief from sore throat, throat irritation as well as congestion.
Furthermore, when burnt, turmeric root can act as an insect repellant. Sprinkling turmeric powder can ward off insects, ants and termites. Besides being widely used as a key ingredient in curries, sauces, pickles, and rice, turmeric is also an integral part of many auspicious occasions and ceremonies like weddings and pujas in India.