Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2010
Turmeric Nature's Yellow Gold
Gyan Marwah
Turmeric or haldi is not just a flavouring agent or a condiment. It is one of nature's most potent healers, with some researchers saying it can cure a host of diseases - including cancer

It was almost every grandmother's magic healing spice. Whenever children in the family got bruised or were stung by a bee, whenever someone burnt a finger during Diwali or Christmas, grandma had one remedy for all - a concoction of turmeric (Curcuma Longa) that was applied to the affected area. The remedy for a persistent cough was a teaspoon of haldi stirred into warm milk. Young girls were made to rub a paste of haldi, curd and besan (gramflour) on their bodies, which worked as an outstanding exfoliating agent for their skin.

From time immemorial haldi has been used as an antibiotic, an antiseptic agent and also a pain reliever. Its healing properties have been passed on from one generation to another but have remained confined to the realms of traditional remedies. Even now, many traditional Indian families make a paste out of turmeric to apply on wounds. It is also said to act as a catalyst in healing fractures of bones. Turmeric, which comes from the ginger family, is a known antiseptic agent and an excellent anti-oxidant.

Healing Yellow
Like neem, turmeric has traditionally been the common man's healing medicine, which not only purifies blood and cures cuts and bruises, but also banishes gas. In fact, leading scientists in the West, taking a cue from the Vedas and the Upanishads, have been doing extensive research on the therapeutical importance of this miracle spice found in India and Indonesia.

Medical researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Health are said to be currently conducting studies to investigate the other qualities of this spice - to fight a host of diseases. And research is revealing far more serious restorative qualities of the yellow spice. Studies - though inconclusive yet - are indicating that turmeric may help patients with Alzheimer's disease, liver disorders, arthritis and even cancer! Curcumin, the compound that gives it that distinctive yellow colour, is said to prevent cancer and also help restrict its spread in those who are already afflicted by it. Turmeric is believed to be particularly useful for women with breast cancer as it curbs it from spreading to other parts of the body.

Realising the lack of recorded information, Western scientists have been showing great interest in the spice. Some years ago, two Indian scientists in America claimed they had developed a new medicinal use for haldi powder. However, the Indian government contested their claim and finally proved that such knowledge already existed in ancient Hindu scriptures. In the light of this evidence, the US Patent and Trade Office struck down the patent.

Plant-based Medicines
One positive fallout of the legal battle over haldi is that it has brought into public glare what Indian Ayurvedic science knew all along - the potency of plant based medicines. Says well known American medical researcher, Dr. Alan Calbright, "Any system developed through trial and error over centuries must have made quite a few significant discoveries. We are now discovering the importance of Ayurveda."

Dyeing Aroma
Apart from it being used as a condiment in a wide range of curries and vegetables, turmeric has many other benefits. In earlier times it was used as a textile dye. Many who like to wear natural, organic clothes still prefer to use the haldi dye. Turmeric is also used in some perfumes and incenses because of its peculiar pungent aroma.

Weight-loss Medicine
In case you are still not convinced about the benefits of this wonder spice, here's even better news. Turmeric may play a key role in reducing weight among obese people! Haldi inadvertently helps in weight loss since it is known to detoxify the liver. A clean liver secretes bile, which helps in breakdown of dietary fat. This prevents deposit of fats in the body and the resultant weight loss. Convinced? Go ahead, take a spoonful of the miracle spice!
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