Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) is a small rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia. Curcuma Longa extract has significant effects in the laboratory on arthritis, amyloid-beta (Alzheimer's polymers), cancer and diabetes.
- Anti-arthritis: inhibiting inflammation, possibly inhibits something in the pathway of Cox-2 but not Cox-2 itself; not only does it not cause ulcers but is currently being used experimentally as a treatment for ulcers in western countries
- Anti-Alzheimer's: inhibits formation of, and breaks down, Amyloid-beta oligomers (fibres) and aggregates in rodents
- Anti-cancer effects: causes apoptosis in various cancer cell types including skin, colon, forestomach, duodenum and ovary in the laboratory; we await clinical trials in humans
- Anti: -viral, -fungal, -bacterial effects (inhibits Helicobacter Pylori)
- Inhibits NFkappaB, 5-lipoxygenase, glutathione S-transferase and cytochrome P-450 isoenzyme 1A1
- Anti-diabetic effects in rodents; we await clinical trials in humans
Uses in folk medicine
In Ayurvedic practices, turmeric has many medicinal properties and many in South Asia use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. 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. Pakistanis also use it as an anti-inflammatory agent, and remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders. In Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan, turmeric is applied to a piece of burnt cloth, and placed over a wound to cleanse and stimulate recovery. Indians, in addition to its Ayurvedic properties, use turmeric in a wide variety of skin creams that are also exported to neighboring countries.
Preliminary medical research
- Turmeric is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer's disease, cancer, arthritis, and other clinical disorders.
- Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of some sunscreens. Turmeric paste is used by some Indian women to keep them free of superfluous hair. Turmeric paste is applied to bride and groom before marriage in some places of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where it is believed turmeric gives glow to skin and keeps some harmful bacteria away from the body.
- The government of Thailand is funding a project to extract and isolate tetrahydrocurcuminoids (THC) from turmeric. THCs are colorless compounds that might have antioxidant and skin-lightening properties and might be used to treat skin inflammations, making these compounds useful in cosmetics formulations.
- Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye as it is not very lightfast (the degree to which a dye resists fading due to light exposure). However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian clothing, such as saris.
- Turmeric can also be used to deter ants. The exact reasons why turmeric repels ants is unknown, but anecdotal evidence suggests it works.
- Turmeric is also used in various rituals, such as the turmeric ceremony or gaye holud, part of the Bengali wedding. It is widely used in all parts of India during wedding ceremony, particularly in North India and the Deccan Plateau.
- It is also used in Pujas to make a form of the elephant God Ganesha. It is made by mixing turmeric with water and forming it into a cone-like shape.
- During the south Indian festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with the root is placed as part of the ceremonial decorations. Also, fresh root is some times tied around the pot boiling the ceremonial rice.
- In southern India, as a part of the marriage ritual, a piece of dried turmeric tied with string is sometimes used to replace the Thali necklace temporarily or permanently.
- Modern Neopagans list it with the quality of fire, and it is used for power and purification rites.
- In Goa and Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka state, India) turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering on the leaf — rice flour, and coconut-jaggery mixture, and then closing and steaming in a special copper steamer (goa).