With its yellow flowers, turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It is probably best known as the spice that gives curry blends their yellow colour, but due to its active ingredient curcumin, it also has amazing healing properties.
It is grown in Indonesia, China and other parts of the tropics where its large lily-like leaves can grow as high as 3ft. The medicinal part of turmeric comes from the fleshy underground rhizomes, which are harvested in winter, boiled or steamed and then dried.
History of Turmeric
Known as haridra in Sanskrit, haldi in Hindi and Jiang Huang in Chinese, turmeric has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years to relieve conditions ranging from flatulence to menstrual irregularities. It is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine where it is used as a digestive, circulatory and respiratory stimulant. It has also long been used to help cleanse the chakras, the seven points regarded in the East as the body’s energy channels running from the head to the base of the spine.
Current uses of Turmeric
It helps protect the liver
Ground turmeric can help protect the liver and lower cholesterol levels. Combine turmeric with artichoke and you have double the benefits. It increases bile flow, so helping the breakdown of undigested fats in the intestine, which can lead to flatulence, bloating and cramps.
It is good for hangovers
According to Ayurvedic traditions, turmeric can soothe the stomach and balance an upset digestion. In Japan turmeric preparations are used for curing hangovers. And in a recent animal study, extracts of turmeric root reduced secretion of acid from the stomach and protected against injuries such as inflammation along the stomach or intestinal walls and ulcers from alcohol.
It soothes IBS
Being a potent anti-inflammatory, turmeric is also recommended to help maintain a healthy bowel and may be beneficial for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Recent research conducted at the University of Reading has shown that a daily dose of a standardised turmeric extract supplement, can help relieve the symptoms of IBS, with 66 per cent of the study group reporting a definite or some improvement in their overall symptoms.
It can help relieve the pain of arthritis
Turmeric is now recognised as an effective anti-inflammatory remedy for arthritis.
How to take Turmeric
- Turmeric is often used in cooking but can also be taken, as a daily supplement, in tablet or capsule form. The normal daily dose is between 1.5 – 3 g of the herb, or the corresponding amount of extract.
- Turmeric should not be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- It may cause rashes in very sensitive skin.