Turmeric is the boiled and dried rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant. It finds mention in the Ebers Papyrus (c. 1500 BC) from Egypt, where, as in India, it continues to be used as a home remedy as an anti-septic and for wound healing. The spice mixed with honey is used to prepare an external ointment. In India, turmeric and clarified butter are heated, and the ointment is used to treat wounds. Turmeric enhances circulation in the affected region and aids the healing process.
Turmeric is water-soluble and contains oxalates. It thins the blood and so is contraindicated with aspirin and warfarin. It is placed in the “generally recognized as safe” category of food additives by the FDA.
The chemical composition of turmeric has been studied. The most important turmeric chemical components are a group of compounds called curcuminoids, which include curcumin (diferuloylmethane), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin constitutes 3.14% (on average) of powdered turmeric and gives the spice its peppery taste.
Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. Black pepper substantially enhances the absorption of curcumin.
Ayurvedic physicians and nutritionists recommend mixing a pinch of turmeric in milk to be consumed at bedtime. This is said to help build immunity and is beneficial against multiple other ailments.
Curcumin, the bioactive molecule in turmeric, has been extensively studied for its anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Human clinical trials in some cases have been initiated, but the conclusive recommendation for any of its medicinal properties is yet to be obtained. It is, though, a promising molecule and has the potential of being converted into a scientifically validated medicinal molecule.
Additional reading on herbs:
- Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants
- Asian herbs and their wondrous health-giving properties
- Natural Solutions for Cancer
- Natural Solutions for Diabetes
- Natural Solutions for Obesity