Thursday, June 21, 2007

How turmeric helps keep us healthy

Turmeric has been used in India since ages not only as a common household spice but also as a curative herb. Well documented by ancient ayurvedic texts and supported by a large number of scientific studies, the last few years have seen an increased interest in its medicinal properties. Turmeric (commonly called haridra or haldi) is the rhizome of the plant curuma longa which is used for medicinal and culinary purposes.

The major chemical constituent of turmeric is known as curcumin which is responsible for many of its pharmacological activities. Turmeric possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-hepatotoxic (liver protective) and anti-allergic properties. Ayurvedic texts have additionally described it to be good for skin ailments and also as a blood purifier, wound cleanser and healer, remover of body toxins, killer of abdominal worms and a wind-repellent agent.

Data obtained from several studies suggest that turmeric definitely has an anti-cancer role, may it be the countering of initiation, promotion and progression of the disease or of increasing the immunity by enhancing natural anti-oxidant functions of the body. Curcumin has shown good results while being used to treat squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and the ulcerating oral cancer. Evidence from laboratory and animal studies suggests that curcumin has potential in various other forms of malignancies like those of prostate, breast, cervix and colon.

Turmeric induces the flow of bile, which helps break the fats in our food. In its anti-allergic role, it is a drug of choice to be used for naso-bronchial afflictions, sinusitis and common coughs and colds. Added with any other herbal cough formula, turmeric enhances its efficacy. Because of its ability to reduce inflammation, turmeric is an effective adjunct to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Old ayurvedic texts additionally indicate it to be beneficial in many other health disorders like anaemia, jaundice, obesity and diseases of the urino-genital tract.

Turmeric is also known as a household beauty aid. As a constituent of “ubtans”, it enhances glow on the face and is a trusted medicine to treat blemishes, pimples and non-specific skin allergies and inflammations. Mixed and crushed with the same amount of dried amla and sugar, half a teaspoonful of this combination, if taken with water two times a day, boosts body immunity and can be given along with any other therapy to treat stubborn skin ailments. As a ready first aid, turmeric powder is applied on minor cuts, wounds and abrasions after mixing it in a little of desi ghee.

Since many of the herbs also have their contra-indications, an over-dose of turmeric, instead of protecting the digestive tract, can enhance acidity. Though turmeric gives all its routine benefits when used as a kitchen spice, its per day medicinal dose is one to three gm in two or three divided doses. Turmeric should not be taken singularly by those who are suffering from gall stones or the obstruction of the bile passage. Similarly, it should also be used carefully where the patient is taking any other medicine which acts as a blood thinner agent or delays its coagulation.

By: Dr R. Vatsyayan - The writer is a Ludhiana-based senior ayurvedic consultant.
Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Chandigarh, India

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