(CURCUMA LONGA, INDIAN SAFFRON)
Article by Kaniz F. Shah
|Botanical Name:||Curcuma Longa|
|Popular Name(s):||Indian Saffron, Turmeric|
|Parts Used:||root (rhizomes), leaves|
|Habitat:||South Asia, India, Pakistan|
|Planting:||Rich, well drained soil; very warm but not direct sun|
|Taste:||warm, bitter, pungent|
|Odor:||musky, bitter sweet.|
|Effect / Energy:||warming|
|Extraction method:||distilled from roots|
Iron, albumen, curcumin, potassium, Vitamin C, volatile oil
Cleansing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antitumor, colorant
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a close relative of ginger family and a native to India and Pakistan. It is a perennial that grows up to 4 feet tall with shiny, pointed pairs of lace shaped leaves, dense spikes of yellow flowers and a yellow colored root. Once the rhizomes have matured (after about 12 months), the root is boiled, peeled, dried and then ground into a powder and used as a spice. It is stored in a dark place away from light.
Although a native of the tropics, turmeric can be grown quite easily in temperate countries in a heated greenhouse or a similar warm, light place where the temperature does not drop below 7-12 C (4554 F) in summer. It requires well-drained moist and well-nourished soil so it thrives in tropical rain forest areas where the soil is covered by inches of humus and despite rain, drains quickly.
The eyes of the root are planted about 2-4 inches deep. Watered regularly, it will develop long stately leaves (not like those of banana plants), and flowers at the center. It makes an elegant pot plant, but will not produce any seeds.
Turmeric is widely used as a dye and in curries and many other dishes. In Thailand they use it to dye the robes of Buddhist monks and in India and Pakistan it is one of the main constituents in curries. Turmeric is a vital cooking spice and traditional remedy in India and Pakistan, where it originates. The root is also used as a yellow dye in place of saffron, which is more expensive.
The use of turmeric dates as far back as 10,000 years where it was used in Siddha medicine to heal wounds and many other health concerns. In Ayurvedic and Unani medicine it is used as a blood purifier, an anti-inflammatory that fights chronic inflammation and an antiparasitic remedy. Recent scientific research has confirmed its beneficial effects on the intestines, suggesting that turmeric in the diet may account for the low incidence of bowel cancer in India. It is also used in Ayurvedic practice to treat digestive and skin problem, as well as a healer of wounds and damaged skin. An infusion of 2.5g turmeric powder in 200ml of warm milk is used in India and Pakistan for intestinal parasites, diarrhea and sluggish digestion as well as coughs, colds or sore throat. There, it is also used as a tonic for anemia because it is rich in iron. Turmeric powder mixed to a paste with a little chickpea flour and water is applied externally to cuts and wounds to speed up healing, as well as skin-smoothing paste to improve and brighten the complexion.
This article is for informational purpose only. Turmeric is not a treatment for any disease or condition. It is generally safe when used on the skin or hair, but to ensure safety, it is best to do an allergy test. Consult your doctor before using for medical purposes.
- Chand Multani, Hari. Herbal Encyclopedia of Indian and Pakistani Herbs (In Urdu language)
- Harding, Jennie. The Herb bible. Chester: Marks & Spencer
- De la Bedoyere, Charlotte. Herbs & Spices
Article last updated: 1/27/19