10 uses of Turmeric that might surprise you
Turmeric powder (locally referred to as Haldi) is the dried and ground rhizome (a root with storing properties that looks very similar to ginger) of the Turmeric plant (Curcuma longa). Turmeric powder is known to be used since over 2,500 years in India where the plant most likely originated from. Nowadays India is the main supplier of the world-wide Turmeric demand, but the plant is also extensively grown in many countries of South-East Asia.
Turmeric is widely known as a spice in Indian cooking, but more importantly it is understood to be a powerful medicinal plant. While Eastern medicines have known about and applied the beneficial properties of the Turmeric plant since thousands of years the Western medicine only recently started researching and recommending the use of it. The main active constituent of Turmeric powder is known as ‘Curcumin’ and is usually consumed as a powder, juice or now in form of pills and capsules. Going through the list of the powder’s benefits on your health, you will really reconsider consuming more of it in your every-day-life, if you are not already doing it. Nevertheless many of us are not aware of the wide variety of properties of the plant and will be surprised by its many varying uses.
10 amazing uses of Turmeric
1) Anti-septic use: Known for its anti-septic, disinfectant and anti-bacterial properties Turmeric has a long tradition of being applied directly onto cuts, bruises and burns. Additionally it is known to help speeding up the wound healing process and remodeling damaged skin.
2) Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidant: Turmeric in India has been used against colds, bronchitis and even tuberculosis.
It has been found that the anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric also have an anti-arthritic effect. Given in form of capsules Turmeric is recommended against Osteoarthritis and Rheumatic Arthritis.
The Anti-oxidant properties of Turmeric are known to protect the body from free radicals and thus play an important role in cancer prevention, anti-aging and prevention of inflammations.
3) Digestive Aid: Since long Turmeric is been used to aid digestion, improve the intestinal flora and treat an upset stomach. In Thailand Turmeric is widely used as an anti-diarrheal agent and appetite stimulant. Even Western medicine nowadays recommends the consumption of Turmeric in food or through capsules to treat digestive problems.
4) Further medicinal uses: The list of medicinal uses of Turmeric is long. While many finds are still in an early stage and need further medical research it is interesting to know what this wonder plant might hold in stock for you!
Cancer: Even though studies are in an early stage Turmeric has shown in laboratory tests that it can lead to death of cancer cells and over-all minimize the growth of cancer cells. It was found that Turmeric inhibits the growth of melanoma (skin cancer) and also prevents tumor cells of breast cancer to spread to the lungs. Additionally it has been suggested that Turmeric combined with cauliflower can have a positive effect against prostate cancer. Some medical research has indicated the use of Turmeric to lower the risk of early childhood leukemia and effective use in the treatment of colon cancer. On top of that Turmeric is been said to reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
Liver: Recent studies suggest that Turmeric has a protective effect on the liver and can delay the damage of the liver tissue due to for example prolonged alcohol consumption or overuse of painkillers.
Alzheimer’s: Again research is in an early stage, but recent studies have found that Turmeric might prevent and slow down the disease by reducing amyloyd plaque accumulation in the brain tissue.
Furthermore Turmeric might help against Multiple sclerosis and depression and is known to be a powerful natural painkiller. It has been used in the Eastern traditional medicine to treat Gonorrhea, dizziness, peptic ulcers and even to eradicate ringworms when applied externally. Additionally Turmeric was found to enhance the immune system, protect the Central nervous System and to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and thus protecting the cardio-vascular system against Arthrosclerosis (clogging and hardening of the blood vessels).
PLEASE SEE NOTE BELOW THE ARTICLE before you now venture out to some self-medication experiments. Most of the medical research is still in its experimental stages and often hasn’t been verified on humans, yet. While the over-all indications to use more Turmeric in your everyday life are clearly positive, consuming high doses should always be discussed with your doctor first!
5) Use in cooking: Especially in India Turmeric, locally referred to as Haldi is one of the most important spices in cooking. Turmeric has a mild and slightly musky flavor and despite its magnificent health benefits and its nutritional advantages (high in fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, iron and manganese) it is also used to enhance the foods color to a light yellow till golden hue. Since the taste of Turmeric is very mild, you don’t have to cook Indian curries if you want to use it (though it might be a good idea for you try it out - for your health’ and taste-buds’ sake), but you can just add a few sprinkles to your regular dishes such as egg-salad or mashed potatoes without obstructing the original taste. Especially in heavy meat dishes/stews you can easily add a little larger quantities (1/2 – 1tsp) of Turmeric without noticeably changing the flavor, but still having the benefits of it. Especially adding turmeric to grilled/cooked over a high flame meat can reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are associated with higher risks of cancer. A recent study has found that Turmeric might reduce such HCAs by up to 40%. Additionally it has been suggested that Turmeric might be a natural weight-loss aid and helps you to speed up your metabolism. Who could say no to such a miracle ingredient (but be sure it is organic, see note below)?
6) Cosmetic use: Consumption of Turmeric is said to have a positive effect on your skin due to the above mentioned medical properties of the plant. Nevertheless, most of the cosmetic usages of Turmeric are applied externally as a paste, oil, lotion or ointment. Especially in India Turmeric is vastly used as an external cosmetic and is said to result in clearer, cleaner skin with a brighter and shinier complexion. Of course the effects on darker and lighter skin will vary, so if you are super-white you might want to reconsider using a turmeric facial mask, as it can leave you with a yellowish face for a few days! Nevertheless, in many cases it will still be worth considering treating your skin with Turmeric, as it is said to be very effective against Acne, cracked heels, wrinkles, pigmentation issues and as a scrub. Furthermore Turmeric can be used in soaps, in make-up foundations, or as a mix with oil to improve the condition of your scalp and minimize dandruff.
7) Natural dye: Turmeric powder is known for its rich yellow-orange color that can stain anything it touches in a short time, including your hands when not careful while cooking. Since Turmeric is a direct dye, it doesn’t need a fixative when being used to dye textiles. You can find a detailed instruction on How to dye textiles with Turmeric here and follow my step-by-step guide. It is very simple, absolutely organic and brings wonderful bright colored results! Of course dyeing is not only limited to textiles, but can also be used for eco-friendly Easter eggs or yellow home-made play dough.
8) Pest control and insect repellant: Newer research has found Turmeric powder, the plant extract and its essential oils to be promising as pest controls for a variety of known agricultural insect pests and even some important fungal threats. Being non-toxic for humans Turmeric thus could pose a new option for organic pest control and replacement of mineral oil based not-sustainable synthetic pesticides. An Israeli company recently has developed special plastic packaging for food in which a layer of turmeric oil has been laminated to prevent food being attacked by insect pests. While the research for food packaging is still under development the same sheets are already in use by now to protect sensitive crops effectively against a variety of pests.
Additionally it was found that the application of Turmeric oil brought complete protection against mosquito landing and biting for up to 9 hours!
9) Gardening: Apply Turmeric powder on fresh cuts when pruning trees and shrubs in your garden. It is said to accelerate the plant’s healing process, as well as preventing it from catching a bacterial or fungicidal infection through the exposed tissue.
10) Pets: The medical benefits of Turmeric seem to apply not only to humans, but to your pets at home, too! Therefore it is recommended to add some Turmeric to your dog’s/cat’s food, too to enhance even your four-legged friend’s health. Nowadays many ready-made products claim to include Turmeric in their mix, but you can be neither sure that the quantity is significant, nor that the used product is of good quality – which is essential as cheap Turmeric is associated with high levels of pesticides. It is easy to add some Turmeric to your pet’s food – you just simply sprinkle some into the mix, of course preferably home-made. Even though dogs are very sensitive to smells they seem not to be put-off by the scent.
Note: Make sure you use only organic Turmeric from a reliable supplier to avoid counter affecting the benefits of Turmeric with the negative effects of high levels of pesticides and herbicides in your food and cosmetics. When dyeing textiles or objects you might consider cheaper Turmeric, but in the end of the day even these products might be in close contact to your skin. Once you have a good quality Turmeric powder at home make sure you store it in a tightly sealed container and keep it in a cool, dark and dry location. Fresh turmeric rhizomes should be kept in the refrigerator.
Medical Note: As seen above Turmeric is a potent medicinal plant and if you have pre-conditions or need to battle serious ailments it is crucial to consult your medical practitioner or in case of your pet the veterinary! If you are a healthy adult and just add some Turmeric to your daily cooking you most likely will be safe, but if you are planning on self-medication with high doses of Turmeric in capsules you should seek professional advice beforehand. Even such a beneficial plant like Turmeric can under certain circumstances be harmful and is not recommended for people who suffer from gallstones, obstructive jaundice, hepatitis, acute bilious colic, stomach ulcers or hyperacidity. Pregnant women should consult their gynecologists before the extended use of Turmeric. This list might be incorrect and is not complete.