Turmeric is known as the “golden spice” as well as the “spice of life.” It has been used in India as a medicinal plant, and held sacred from time immemorial. Turmeric has strong associations with the socio-cultural life of the people of the Indian subcontinent. This “earthy herb of the Sun” with the orange-yellow rhizome was regarded as the “herb of the Sun” by the people of the Vedic period.
No wonder the ancients regarded turmeric as the Oushadhi, the healing herb, the most outstanding herb, the one herb above all others. Turmeric has at least 6000 yr of documented history of its use as medicine and in many socio-religious practices.
Turmeric is cultivated most extensively in India, followed by Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines. India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of turmeric.
The name turmeric has originated from the Medieval Latin name terramerita, which became terremerite of French, meaning deserved earth or meritorious earth, a name by which powdered turmeric was known in commerce.
Ancient Indians had given many names for turmeric, each one denoting a particular quality as listed below;
Ranjani Denotes that which gives color, Mangal prada Bringing luck , Krimighni Killing worms, antimicrobial ,
Mahaghni Indicates antidiabetic properties , Anestha Not offered for sacrifice or homa, Haridra Indicating that it is dear to Hari (Lord Krishna), Varna-datri That gives color, indicating its use as enhancer of body complexion, Hemaragi Having golden color, Bhadra Denotes auspicious or lucky, Pavitra Holy, Hridayavilasini Giving delight to heart, charming, Shobhna Brilliant, indicating the brilliant color, The medicinal uses of turmeric and curcumin are indeed diverse, ranging from cosmetic face cream to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Turmeric is also qualified as the queen of natural Cox-2 inhibitors. Recent researches on turmeric are focused on its antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimicrobial properties, in addition to its use in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders.
Properties of turmeric: Turmeric is bitter in taste and its action is “pungent-like” after digestion and metabolism. Being hot, light, acrid, and irritant, it is able to reduce corpulence; stimulate all functions, and clear channels. Bhavamisra (an Ayurvedic scholar, the author of the ancient lexicon Bhavaprakasa Nighantu) denotes turmeric as a curing agent for Kapha and Pitta. It is very good for skin afflictions and acts as an enhancer of complexion. It is effective in all types of skin diseases, diabetes, bleeding, and other blood-related diseases, inflammations, anemia, and abscess. In Rajanighantu (another ancient lexicon by Narahari), Haridra (turmeric) is stated to be an effective remedy for rheumatoid arthritis and itching, in addition to the above. Nighanturatnakara (yet another ancient lexicon of Ayurveda) points out more actions such as anthelmintic property, antipoisonous effects, and curative property in catarrhal affections, anorexia (absence of appetite), and enlargement of neck glands. Indications for the use of turmeric as a specific single drug are available in Charaka samhita, Susruta samhita, Ashtanga sangraha, and the lexicons of Chakradatta and Vangasena (all of which are ancient treatises of Ayurveda), for diabetes, leprosy, extreme thirst, elephantiasis, and calculus.
The use of turmeric in India generally comes under different headings as shown below:
• As a spice
• As an auspicious substance in Indian religious rituals
• As a dye
• As a cosmetic
• As a medicine
• In tribal medicine
• In Ayurvedic medicine
• As a home remedy (folk medicine)
• In other traditional systems
Investigations on its unlimited uses are going on even now, although the saga of turmeric started probably about 4000 yr ago.
INDICATIONS : Turmeric has got a wide range of activities, properties, and uses as per the ancient traditional medicine texts, some of which are as aromatic, stimulant, tonic, carminative, and anti helminthic. It is effective in treating liver obstruction and dropsy, is externally used for ulcers and inflammation, cures flatulence, dyspepsia, anorexia, intermittent fevers, prurigo, eczema, sprain, bruises, wounds, inflammatory troubles of joints, small pox, chicken pox, catarrhal and purulent ophthalmia, conjunctivitis, cough, ring worm and other parasitic skin diseases, piles, common cold, catarrh, coryza, hysterical fits, relieves pain in scorpion sting, chronic otorrhoea, reduces indolent swellings, and is used in the treatment of urinary diseases, leucoderma, diseases of blood, bad taste in mouth, elephantiasis, diarrhoea, bronchitis, vertigo, and gonorrhoea, Coryza, Cramp, Dermatosis, Diabetes etc.
Other uses of turmeric in traditional system are:
1. It is an essential substance to purify the gum resin of Commiphora mukul (Guggul) before it is made use of in Ayurvedic formulations.
2. Turmeric powder is mixed with the latex of Snuhi (Euphorbia nerifolia) plant and is then coated over the surgical thread repeatedly. This thread is known as Ksharasoothra, which is tied on piles and fistula to cure them effectively.
3. In veterinary medicine, turmeric is used to heal wounds or ulcers of animals.
4. In “leech therapy,” turmeric powder is sprinkled over the leech to detach it from the biting site. Again turmeric powder is added to the water, in which the leech is kept, to make it vomit the sucked blood.
5. Turmeric powder is used as an insect and ant repellant and sprinkled around the vessels to be protected.
Healing Property, Skin Care: According to Ayurveda, turmeric is Vranahara (ulcer healing), Varnya (improve complexion), Tvakdoshahara (cure skin diseases), and Kandoohara (cure itching). Till recently, before the onslaught of synthetic and herbal skin care products in the market, womenfolk were dependent more on turmeric, and they used to smear their bodies with a mixture of turmericsandal paste for gaining a golden glow to their skin. Turmeric helps to remove hair and impart colour and improve complexion of skin.
The fresh juice of turmeric is believed to have antiparasitic property in many skin afflictions.
A coating of turmeric powder or a thin paste is applied on small pox and chicken pox patients to facilitate the process of scabbing.
Haridrakhanda, a traditional preparation described in Bhaishjya ratnavali, is very effective in prurigo, boils, urticaria, and chronic skin eruptions.
Oil of turmeric and its ether and chloroform extracts have proved to be antifungal, antiprotozoan, antiviral, and antibacterial.
Lecturer Deptt. Of Swasthvritta
Dayanand Ayurvedic College & Hospital,