Turmeric, or Haldi, is everywhere—the latte flavour of the moment, with even Starbucks serving a version of it in some of its coffee cafes worldwide. Part of the ancient pantheon of super-foods, turmeric plays a stellar role in Indian and Chinese culinary traditions and traditional medicine. As humans look to improve their physical and mental well-being, many roads are leading to turmeric.
Turmeric — while not many Indians require an introduction to the ubiquitous herb that is used in a vast majority of Indian dishes, right across the subcontinent, modern Indians, and possibly more globally, may require an update on just how useful it is. Humans of earlier times were convinced of its benefits though – its very name derives from the Latin word ‘terra merita’ or meritorious earth!
A native of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, turmeric (Curcuma longa), is actually a member of the ginger family, and has long found use in Ayurveda — for both culinary and medical purposes. While the taste in curries comes from a variety of ingredients, the rich golden yellow colour is almost exclusively turmeric.
Ground turmeric root has been used in Indian and Chinese cooking (and traditional medicine) for centuries. A staple in all Indian cooking, its primary compound is curcumin, which imparts that rich yellow hue to dishes. While it used as a colouring agent in most dishes, in parts of north India, especially Rajasthan, it is also the main ingredient in some dishes. Across all Niraamaya Retreats, turmeric is an essential ingredient that finds wide application.
Across the globe, store shelves are heaving with turmeric tea and there is also a turmeric cordial, which, by all reviews, is delicious with ginger beer or vodka and lime. Part of the ancient pantheon of superfoods, turmeric plays a stellar role in Indian and Chinese culinary traditions and traditional medicine. As humans look to improve their physical and mental well-being, many roads are leading to turmeric.
Turmeric’s Ritualistic Significance
While turmeric can be ingested, in food or as medicines, it is also applied over the skin as a paste or inhaled nasally. It is a significant part of India’s traditional rituals too, where it is used as a colouring agent. It finds its way into wedding rituals; the groom and the bride are smeared with a layer of turmeric paste before their marriage, to soften the skin and add a glow to it. In parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to create a Thali necklace, while among Maharashtrians, Konkani and Kannada Brahmins, turmeric tubers are tied with strings by married couple to their wrists during a ceremony.
Good for the Body and the Soul!
It is in health, however, that turmeric comes into its own. It is acknowledged as an antioxidant, with properties that include anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory. (See uses below) It is also thought to have many medicinal properties which includes improving the overall energy of the body.
It is used as a colouring agent in cheese, butter, and other foods as well as in manufactured food products such as canned beverages, dairy products, ice cream, biscuits, popcorn, sauces, and gelatins.
SOME LESSER KNOWN USES OF TURMERIC
- Provides relief from arthritic pain, and has been long used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- As an aid in digestion, especially after consuming all the delectable, but rich, Indian food. It stimulates the gall bladder to produce bile, making the digestive system more efficient.
- It provides relief to those who suffer from constipation.
- As a natural antiseptic it heals cuts, burns or infection, while its anti-bacterial properties make it an effective disinfectant. Its external application relieves inflammation, swelling and pain.
- It has uses in the cosmetic sector, too, as its application on the skin is said to improve skin complexion.
- It is also said to delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes as it helps moderate insulin levels.
- Known to increase the production of the vital enzymes that detoxify our blood in the liver by breaking down and reducing the toxins
- A substance called Lipopolysaccharide found in the herb helps boost immunity, acting as an anti-fungal agent
- It is beneficial in all urinary tract infections
- An unexpected one – turmeric is an excellent mosquito repellent and is also used as a pesticide.
At home, turmeric is most often used in a dried powdered form in cooing. However, increasing awareness about its benefits is leading people to use it fresh, and vegetable vendors are stocking fresh tubers. It looks like ginger, only bright orange in colour, with a smoother cover texture. The advantage of turmeric is that it can be easily integrated into anyone’s daily diet. Even if not in a cooked dish, you can just put a pinch of turmeric powder over anything you are eating to reap its benefits.
For those following Ayurveda, Pitta-dominant people may sometimes experience increased body heat with the use of turmeric. They can add a pinch of turmeric to a cup of milk to control pitta.
Turmeric is also known as a great preservative. Turmeric supplements are available in the pill form. However, most experts recommend using raw turmeric for its benefits to be most effective. For those so inclined, it is relatively easy to grow at home. It grows best where the temperatures are between 20 and 30 °C, with generous amounts of annual rainfall.
The golden yellow spice is also a great flavour enhancer, an excellent spice to flavour your food as it’s low in sodium and calories, and sugar-free too. Turmeric may not still be regarded as a superfood, but do you still have any doubts that it should be?
DID YOU KNOW
- Turmeric requires temperatures between 20 and 30°C and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive.
- Plants are gathered each year for their rhizomes, some for propagation in the following season and some for consumption.
- To store fresh turmeric, put in a plastic, airtight bag in the refrigerator. This can used for up to three weeks.
- Besides Ayurveda, turmeric is also part of other schools of medicine such as Siddha, traditional Chinese medicines, Unani, and the animistic rituals of Austronesian peoples.
- Turmeric was first used by ancient humans as a dye.
The chefs at Niraamaya Retreats make extensive use turmeric in their cooking. Here’s a recipe from Kerala for you to try at home, courtesy Chef Prakash Nayak.
- Pineapple – 200g
- Coconut oil – 20ml
- Mustard seeds – ½ tbsp
- Red chilly whole – 2
- Curry leaves – 8
- Coconut – ½
- Ginger – 10g
- Green chili – 1
- Cumin – ½ tbsp
- Garlic – 10g
- Curd – 100g
- Turmeric powder – ½ tbsp
- In a pan pour the coconut oil and heat.
- Put mustard seeds and roast till they crackle, add split red chili, curry leaves, chop ginger, green chilli, coconut paste (grated Coconut, cumin, garlic, curry leaves, green chilli, mustard seeds) and sauté for ten minutes.
- Add salt, turmeric powder, pineapple cubes and sauté well again for a few minutes.
- Remove from the fire.
- Then add the whisked curd, pour the coconut mixture, stir well. Check the salt
- Simmer till done, and remove from fire.
A HOMEMADE REMEDY
Turmeric milk for cold and sour throat
- Milk – 1 cup
- Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
- Crushed pepper – 2to 3
- Dry ginger – ½ tsp
- Honey to taste
- Heat the milk on a medium heat.
- Add the spices – turmeric, ginger and pepper and stir well.
- Let the milk begin to simmer but not boil.
- Turn off the heat and let the spices infuse for a couple of minutes.
- Strain the milk, add honey for taste and serve warm.
Ayurveda recommended medicines that use turmeric as a main ingredient
- Haridra Pramehaharaanam – Of all the herbs useful in diabetes, turmeric is the most beneficial.
- Vishanut – useful in toxic conditions.
- Mehanut – useful in diabetes and urinary tract infections.
- Kanduhara – relieves itching sensation due to allergy.
- Ksuhtahara – used in wide variety of skin diseases.
- Vranahara – useful for quick wound healing.
- Dehavarna vidhayini – improves skin complexion.
- Vishodhini – natural detoxifier.
- Krumihara – relieves intestinal worms and infected wounds.
- Pinasa nashini – useful in running nose, Upper respiratory tract infection.
- Aruchinashini – useful in anorexia.
- Panduhara – useful in anemia, initial stages of liver disorders.
- Apachihara – useful in wounds, sinuses.
- Twakdoshajit – detoxifies blood and skin.
- Vishothajit – natural anti-inflammatory.
- Vatasranut – useful in gout.
TURMERIC – IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES
This is one superfood that finds mention in several cultures and is part of different linguistic heritage.
- English – Turmeric
- Hindi – Haldi, Hardi
- Telugu – Pasupu, Pasupu Kommulu
- Tamil – Manjal
- Kannada – Arishina
- Punjabi – Haldi, Haldar, Halaj
- Bengali – Halud
- Gujarati – Haladar
- Marathi – Halad
- Arabian – Kumkum
- Farsi – Zardchob
- Malayalam – Manjal
Resources and links
Unlock the healing powers of turmeric
Turmeric: 5 things you did not know about the superfood
Turmeric Root: Immune Boosting, Anti-Inflammatory