Turmeric, a golden-coloured spice with a strong taste, is having a “moment.” This ancient spice, which has been used for millennia as both food and medicine, has made a comeback in the health and nutrition sectors owing to curcumin, the therapeutic ingredient that gives it its vivid colour.
Curcumin has been utilised in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years. Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory effects that are considered to be comparable to ibuprofen. Turmeric, unlike over-the-counter medications, has no harmful effects on the body. Curcumin has been proven to protect healthy cells, particularly those located in the colon, against cancer-causing chemicals due to its potent antioxidant properties. It assists the body in eliminating altered cancer cells before they spread to other places. Turmeric can also help reduce cholesterol and avoid heart disease. All of this, and it’s delicious!
Turmeric’s botanical name is Curcuma longa. The plant grows to only three feet in height and produces both a flower and an underground stalk known as a rhizome. The rhizome resembles ginger in appearance, and it is this root-like stem that generates the yellow turmeric spice. Though it is currently prevalent across the tropics, India has been the primary producer of turmeric since antiquity.
History of Curcumin
Curcumin has received a lot of attention recently for its natural healing powers, but it has actually been used medicinally for over 4,500 years. Analyses of pots found in New Delhi revealed turmeric, ginger, and garlic residue dating back to 2500 BCE. Turmeric became an essential element of Ayurvedic therapy in 500 BCE. Ayurveda is an old Indian natural treatment method that is still used today. Ayurveda is the Sanskrit word for “science of life.” Ayur is the Sanskrit word for “life,” while Veda is the Sanskrit word for “science or knowledge.” Inhaling the fumes of burning turmeric was claimed to relieve congestion, turmeric juice assisted in wound and bruise recovery, and turmeric paste was used for a variety of skin problems, ranging from smallpox and chickenpox to blemishes and shingles. In Ayurvedic literature, turmeric is recognised by almost 100 different names, including Jayanti, which means “victorious over diseases,” and Matrimanika, which means “as gorgeous as moonlight.”
Turmeric’s significance in Indian culture extends well beyond medicine. Turmeric is considered fortunate and sacred in Hinduism. A wedding day custom involves the groom tying a rope coloured yellow with turmeric paste around the bride’s neck. A Mangala sutra necklace signifies that the lady is married and capable of conducting a family. The custom is still practised in Hindu communities and has been compared to the Western custom of exchanging wedding bands. A chunk of turmeric rhizome is worn as an amulet in areas of southern India to ward off evil spirits.
Turmeric’s bright yellow natural colour has been used for ages to dye clothes and thread. Turmeric is used to colour saffron-coloured Buddhist garments. During the Onam celebration, children in Kerala, a state in southwest India, were given turmeric-dyed clothes to wear. The reason for this is unknown, although it is most likely related to the colour’s connection with Lord Krishna.
Turmeric may be grown in a variety of tropical climates, up to 1,600 metres above sea level, with temperatures ranging from 20-40 oC and rainfall exceeding 1500 mm. It’s a nine-month crop that’s planted in July and harvested in April. Turmeric grows best on well-drained, fertile, sandy, black, red, or alluvial loams that are humus-rich and homogeneous in texture.
The ideal soils are rich, loamy soils with natural drainage and irrigation. Turmeric is sensitive to both stagnant water and alkalinity. Depending on the time of seeding, the crops are available for harvest in seven to nine months. From January through March, the harvest is carried out. It takes around 9 months to mature. From February through May, the marketing season is in effect. On maturity, the crop’s leaves get dry and are light brown and yellowish in colour, and the crop’s height is approximately 1.5 feet after complete growth, with a maximum of 8-10 branches and cracks developing on the soil, indicating high turmeric harvests.
The ground is tilled, and the rhizomes are gently removed with a shovel. Harvested rhizomes are cleansed of any dirt or other foreign debris that has adhered to them. The green rhizomes are cooked in water before being spread out on a clean floor and dried in the sun for 15-20 days. To ensure consistent drying, they are swirled 3-4 times. Separately, the rounds and figures are dried. The former takes longer to dry. Turmeric hardens and stiffens when completely dried.
Curcumin-The Golden Elixir
Turmeric, like ginger, is a tropical plant that evolved in southern India through a cross between wild turmeric (Curcuma aromatica) and another natural species. Because it is a seedless plant, its spread across Asia and Africa is completely attributable to human cultivation (Bunting 2014), and the plant is not known to occur in the wild.
Curcumin, a hydrophobic, polyphenolic molecule also known as diferuloylmethane, is the active component in turmeric that gives the rhizome and powder its vibrant yellow colour. Curcumin, a potent antioxidant, scavenges and neutralises free radicals, which are damaging chemicals created by normal metabolic processes and taken up by the body in less-than-ideal conditions. Curcumin inhibits numerous inflammatory enzymes and has been found to reduce the development of diabetes in at-risk patients by lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity. Curcumin’s anti-cancer potential is perhaps its most striking and promising property. Curcumin has been discovered to hinder the continuation of the cell cycle and cause apoptosis—the planned death of cells—in addition to combating cancer progression with an anti-inflammatory strategy alone.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
Anti-Inflammatory Ingredient: One of turmeric’s most famous claims to fame is that it is frequently used to treat inflammation, and curcumin is responsible for the majority of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory therapy than conventional inflammation-fighting medicines such as Advil (ibuprofen) and aspirin in the proper amount.
Protect Against Heart Disease: Curcumin has been proven in trials to improve endothelial function or the health of the thin membrane that covers the interior of the heart and blood vessels. This membrane is crucial in the regulation of blood pressure. Lower endothelial function is linked to ageing and a higher risk of heart disease. As a result, curcumin may help guard against age-related loss of function and lower your risk of getting heart disease.
It May Prevent Cancer: Because inflammation is connected to tumour formation, anti-inflammatory substances like curcumin may be useful in treating and preventing cancers like colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, breast, and gastric cancer. It may do this through a variety of mechanisms, including inhibiting the development of malignant cells at various phases of the cell cycle, interfering with cell signalling pathways, and even causing cancerous cells to die.
It May Prevent Diabetes: Curcumin, according to a previous assessment of research, may help cure and prevent diabetes, as well as related diseases such as diabetic nephropathy (also known as diabetic kidney disease), which affects patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One disadvantage is that much of the research was conducted on animals rather than humans. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities may help prevent diabetes and reduce several of the risk factors for diabetes, such as insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and hyperlipidemia.
It May Reverse Alzheimer’s Disease: Turmeric may even protect your brain from prevalent neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. How? To improve learning and memory by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that plays a vital role in sustaining the health of nerve cells (neurons). Because prevalent brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s are connected with decreased levels of BDNF, turmeric (specifically curcumin) may help prevent or reverse brain deterioration.
Improves Skin Health: Turmeric may be a useful therapy for a number of skin problems, including acne, eczema (atopic dermatitis), photoaging, and psoriasis, due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant qualities. However, solid research is missing.
Protects Your Body from Free-Radicals: Antioxidants protect your body against free radicals, which are highly reactive atoms created in our cells as well as in environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke and industrial poisons. Curcumin, in particular, has the ability to scavenge various types of free radicals, regulate enzymes that neutralise free radicals, and inhibit certain enzymes from producing certain types of free radicals.
There is still more research being done on curcumin, but one thing we can conclude from all of this data is that curcumin is beneficial to humans. So, you should try to integrate this golden elixir into your daily diet. And if you would like to purchase authentic turmeric powder, you can do so from Vasant Masala. You can also find many other Indian spices at their online masala store and get them delivered to your doorstep.