TURMERIC: A ROOT FOR MULTIPLE USES
DR. S.M ALAM
Oct 4 - 10, 2010
Turmeric or 'haldi' as it is popularly called in Urdu is the powder of an underground root of the plant. The word 'kurkum' in Arabic means yellow color. Like the other spices, viz. cinnamon, clove, coriander, ginger and pepper etc. turmeric is widely used to flavor meat, mutton, pulse and some vegetable dishes in the oriental cooking. The flavor in turmeric is due to a volatile oil 'terminol'. Besides flavoring which is the main use of turmeric, it is also used as a household remedy, as a coloring agent to dye cotton and wool fabrics, and is an important constituent of some cosmetic preparations.
The original home of turmeric is either China or India. India is a large producer and exporter of turmeric. Other turmeric producing countries are Indonesia, China, Jamaica, Peru and Sri Lanka.
In Pakistan, it is a small crop. The main turmeric producing districts are Kasur, Okara, Lahore and Sialkot districts in Punjab, Bannu and Haripur districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mirpurkhas and Sanghar districts in Sindh.
The turmeric plant does well in tropical and sub-tropical climate under the rain-fed or irrigated areas. Rich loamy, sandy, clayey soils with good drainage are best suited for its cultivation. It loves shade and can be grown under the shade of fruit trees in an orchard.
Stagnation of water around the root zone of the plant is detrimental for its growth. The small corms are divided longitudinally with two-three eye-buds in each piece that sprout into new seedlings.
The sowing season is Punjab, which is the major producer of turmeric, extends from mid-March to mid-April and the crop is due in January. April to May is the best sowing period is Sindh and the crop is due from December to January in Sindh. Haripur and Bannu districts are better suited for turmeric cultivation in NWFP. After digging, the corms are sun-dried to 10 to 15 days. Thereafter the crop is boiled and dried in sun again for its proper curing.
Medicinal benefits of turmeric have been recognised by Ayur Vedic and Tibb-i-Unani system of treatment. Turmeric relieves in flatulence. It is recommended in liver problems and given with other herbs in treating jaundice. Its smoke is inhaled in cold and gives relief in stuffed nose. Turmeric with other constituents made into a paste is applied to sprained muscles and reduces inflammation. As a styptic it checks bleeding.
According to information available, research on turmeric is lacking, because of which only indigenous varieties are cultivated. Research is needed to develop turmeric varieties that are early maturing and high yielding to reduce its growing period of 9-10 months to six to eight months. In order to make turmeric cultivation more remunerative, other short duration vegetable crops can also be cultivated with turmeric to enhance better returns.
The area and production of turmeric fluctuate and the figures are more or less static. Being a small crop producer with a long growing period of eight to 10 months, research is needed to evolve improved varieties to replace the indigenous varieties that are poor in yield, and take long time to mature. Turmeric provides protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium and vitamins.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.
Turmeric was traditionally called Indian saffron since its deep yellow-orange color is similar to that of the prized saffron. It has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye. Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. This herb has a very interesting taste and aroma. Its flavor is peppery, warm and bitter while its fragrance is mild yet slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, to which it is related.
Turmeric is native to Indonesia and southern India, where it has been harvested for more than 5,000 years. It has served an important role in many traditional cultures throughout the East, including being a revered member of the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. While Arab traders introduced it into Europe in the 13th century, it has only recently become popular in Western cultures. Much of its recent popularity is owed to the recent research that has highlighted its therapeutic properties.
Turmeric powder should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Fresh turmeric rhizome should be kept in the refrigerator. Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber and potassium.
Turmeric has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of ailments. Studies show that turmeric may help treat a number of illnesses. However, it is important to remember several facts when you hear news reports about turmeric's medicinal properties. First, many studies have taken place in test tubes and animals, and the herb may not work as well in humans. Second, some studies have used an injectable form of curcumin (the active substance in turmeric). Finally, some of the studies show conflicting evidence. Nevertheless, turmeric may have promise for fighting infections and some cancers, reducing inflammation, and treating digestive problems.
Turmeric is widely used as a food coloring and gives Indian curry its distinctive flavor and yellow color. It is also used in mustard and to color butter and cheese. Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. The curcumin in turmeric has been shown to stimulate the production of bile by the gallbladder. Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant; antioxidants scavenge particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can neutralise free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause. In addition, curcumin reduces inflammation by lowering levels of two inflammatory enzymes in the body and stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.
A relative of ginger, turmeric is a perennial plant that grows 5 - 6 feet high in the tropical regions of Southern Asia, with trumpet-shaped, dull yellow flowers. Its roots are bulbs that also produce rhizomes, which then produce stems and roots for new plants. Turmeric is fragrant and has a bitter, somewhat sharp taste. The roots, or rhizomes and bulbs, are used in medicinal and food preparations. They are generally boiled and then dried, turning into the familiar yellow powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient, has antioxidant properties, which some claim may be as strong as vitamins C and E. Other substances in this herb have antioxidant properties as well.