Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

By Hwaa Irfan

This is a spice that not many people in the west use though it is widely available. Considered more as a food coloring (yellow), turmeric is used widely in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Known as “haldi” in India, and “curcum” in Arabic, turmeric begins life as a flowering plant, the roots are used to make the powder we refer to as turmeric in the west. Native to Asia, turmeric is a cultivated plant so it does not grow in the wild.

The medicinal properties of turmeric are still being discovered, but so far it has been found to contain:

• Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), its main bioactive (yellow) ingredient

  • • Protein
  • • Fat
  • • Minerals
  • • Carbohydrates
  • • Essential oil
  • • Sabinene
  • • Cineol
  • • Borneol
  • Polyphenol (curcumin)
  • • Zingiberene
  • • Sesquiterpines

Curcumin has been found to have the following actions:

• Anti-inflammatory – joints

• Antioxidant – prevents oxidation avoiding cell damage, and speeding up of the ageing process.

• Anti carcinogenic – under research

• Antimutagenic

• Anticoagulant – prevents cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels, and blood clots

• Antifertility – in Ayurvedic medicine

• Antibacterial – applied on wounds helps fast healing

• Antiviral

Medicinal Benefits

The curcumin in turmeric is 5 times stronger than vitamin E, and vitamin C. It has the ability to increase mucus activity in the stomach, therefore improving digestion, to increase the flow of bile and stomach acids, which in turn breaks down fats. Curcumin reduces intestinal gas formation. As an antioxidant, turmeric supports the functioning of the memory function, helps to maintain a healthy heart, and boosts the immune system.

As an adaptogen, turmeric helps to support reaction to changing circumstances when it comes to stress. In Ayurvedic medicine turmeric is known to help maintain a health nervous system, the absorption of needed vitamins and minerals, and to eliminate waste from the body.

Turmeric also reduces inflammation in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, and maintains blood sugar (lipase, sucrase and maltase) balance in the intestines.

Research by UCLA, has found that tumeric and curcumin are pwoerful anti-cancerous agents – they block cancer growth. Curcumin has been foudn to afffective by 81%.

Research by the Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India, looked at patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). The objective of the trial was to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in 60 patients diagnosed with MDD. They concluded:

“We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine [Prozac] (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77). This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”

In Ayurvedic medicine, the roots of the plant from which turmeric comes from is pounded down, then pressed to extract a juice, which when mixed with water is used to ease earaches, and clear sinuses.

Health Tips

Spices in general are thermogenic that is they boost metabolism therefore burn calories, this includes turmeric. Turmeric cleanses the skin, maintains elasticity, and balances the skin flora. The curcumnoid in turmeric supports normal blood and live functions, and in doing so, helps to maintain a healthy digestive system, supports healthy bones and joints, and helps to maintain a balanced level of cholesterol.

A teaspoon of turmeric powder in a cup of warm milk used three times daily has long been considered an effective Ayurvedic treatment for colds and influenza.

In South India, turmeric with oil is used as bath routine on a Friday by women to beautify their skin.

Caution: The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland advises that turmeric should not be used in pregnancy and with patients with gallstones or bile duct obstructions unless under advisement from their doctors.

If you are buying turmeric for its medicinal qualities, it is best to buy organic, as any artificial processing will undermine the medicinal value. Also to buy organic, avoids buying what may very well be a substitute!

Sources:

Chattopadhyay, I. et al. Turmeric and Curcumin: Biological Actions and Medicinal Applications
http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jul102004/44.pdf

Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory and Other Medicinal Properties of Turmeric http://autoimmunedisease.suite101.com/article.cfm/turmeric#ixzz0rhw70djL
University of Maryland. Turmeric http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/turmeric-000277.htm

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