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Curcuma longa

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Curcuma longa

Indian Turmeric
Curcuma longa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Curcuma
Species: C. longa
Binomial name
Curcuma longa
L.[1]
Synonyms

Curcurma domestica Valeton

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) /ˈtɜrmərɪk/ is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.[2] It is native to tropical Indian Subcontinent and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C (68 °F and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive.[3] Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for several minutes (about 30–45 minutes) and then dried in hot ovens,[4] after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Indian cuisine and even curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell. Curcumin has been a centre of attraction for potential treatment of an array of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and other chronic illnesses.[5]


India and Pakistan are significant producers of turmeric[6] which has regional names based on language and country. The name appears to derive from the Latin, terra merita (merited earth) or turmeryte .[7] The name of the genus, Curcuma is from an Arabic name of both saffron and turmeric (see Crocus)

As turmeric is a natural botanical compound, it is not patentable.[8][9]

History

Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years and is a major part of Ayurvedic medicine.[10] It was first used as a dye and then later for its medicinal properties.[11]

Composition


The most important chemical components of turmeric are a group of compounds called curcuminoids, which include curcumin (diferuloylmethane), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. The best studied compound is curcumin, which constitutes 3.14% (on average) of powdered turmeric.[12] In addition there are other important volatile oils such as turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene. Some general constituents are sugars, proteins, and resins.[5]

Uses

Culinary

Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes. Indian traditional medicine, called Ayurveda, has recommended turmeric in food for its potential medicinal value, which is a topic of active research. Its use as a coloring agent is not of primary value in South Asian cuisine.

Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, but is used in some sweet dishes, such as the cake Sfouf. In India, turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering rice flour and coconut-jaggery mixture on the leaf, and then closing and steaming it in a special copper steamer (goa).

In recipes outside South Asia, turmeric is sometimes used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow color. It is used in canned beverages and baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, sweets, cake icings, cereals, sauces, gelatins, etc. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders.

Most turmeric that is used is in the form of rhizome powder, in some regions (especially in Maharashtra, Goa, Konkan and Kanara), turmeric leaves are used to wrap and cook food. This use of turmeric leaves usually takes place in areas where turmeric is grown locally, since the leaves used are freshly picked. Turmeric leaves impart a distinctive flavor.

Although typically used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric is also used fresh, like ginger. It has numerous uses in Far Eastern recipes, such as pickle made from fresh turmeric that contains large chunks of soft turmeric.

Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient. Almost all Iranian fried dishes consist of oil, onions, and turmeric followed by any other ingredients that are to be included.

In Nepal, turmeric is widely grown and extensively used in many vegetable and meat dishes for its color as well as for its potential value in traditional medicine. In South Africa, turmeric is used to give boiled white rice a golden color.

In Vietnam, turmeric powder is used to color, and enhance the flavors of, certain dishes, such as bánh xèo, bánh khọt and mi quang. The powder is also used in many other Vietnamese stir fried and soup dishes.

In Indonesia, the turmeric leaves are used for Minangese or Padangese curry base of Sumatra, such as rendang, sate padang and many other varieties.

In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron because it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.[13]

Folk medicine and traditional uses

In India, turmeric has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores, basically for its supposed antimicrobial property.[14] In the Auyurvedic system (since c. 1900 BCE) turmeric was a medicine for a range of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. A fresh juice is commonly used in many skin conditions, including eczema, chicken pox, shingles, allergy, and scabies.[15]

Haldi doodh (turmeric milk) is warm milk mixed with some turmeric powder. It is commonly used in India as a home remedy when someone is suffering from fever. Turmeric paste is often used in India as an antiseptic in open wounds, while chun-holud (turmeric with slaked lime) is used to stop bleeding as home remedies. It is also used as a detanning agent in India.[16]

The active compound curcumin is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities, which indicate potential in veterinary and clinical medicine.[17] In Chinese medicine, it is used for treatment of various infections and as an antiseptic.[18]

Preliminary medical research

According to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, "there is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted."[11]

Although trials are ongoing for the use of turmeric to treat cancer, doses needed for any effect are difficult to establish in humans. It is not known what, if any, positive effect turmeric has against cancer or any disease.[19]

Turmeric is being investigated in relation to Alzheimer's disease,[20] arthritis, diabetes,[21] and other clinical disorders.[22][23] As an example of such basic research, turmeric reduced the severity of pancreatitis-associated lung injury in mice.[24] A laboratory study of 2013 found that created hybrid molecules with the anti-nausea drug thalidomide and turmeric killed myeloma cancer cells.[25] Some research shows compounds in turmeric to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties; however, curcumin is not one of them.[26]

Dye

Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast. However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks' robes.[27] Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive)[28] is used to protect food products from sunlight. The oleoresin is used for oil-containing products. A curcumin and polysorbate solution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcohol is used for water-containing products. Over-coloring, such as in pickles, relishes, and mustard, is sometimes used to compensate for fading.

In combination with annatto (E160b), turmeric has been used to color cheeses, yogurt, dry mixes, salad dressings, winter butter and margarine. Turmeric is also used to give a yellow color to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broths and other foods (often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron).

Ceremonial uses

Turmeric is considered highly auspicious and holy in India and has been used extensively in various Indian ceremonies for millennia. Even today it is used in every part of India during wedding ceremonies and religious ceremonies.

Turmeric has played an important role in both Buddhist and Hindu spiritualism. The robes of the Buddhist monks were traditionally colored with a yellow dye made of turmeric. Because of its yellow-orange coloring, turmeric was associated with the sun or the vishnu in the mythology of Hinduism. Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra, which in traditional Indian medicine is the energy center relating to the metabolic and digestive systems. Orange is the color of the sacral chakra, and tied to the reproductive system.

The plant is used in pujas to represent a form of Durga who is said to reside on this plant as herself. The plant is used as a component of navapatrika along with plantain (Banana), Kachvi or Kacci or kochu or Taro, jayanti/ Barley, wood apple (Bilva), pomegranate (darimba), Asoka, manaka or Manakochu and rice paddy or Dhanya.

It is used in pujas to make a form of Ganesha. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, is invoked at the beginning of almost any ceremony and a form of Ganesha for this purpose is made by mixing turmeric with water and forming it into a cone-like shape.

Gaye holud (literally "yellow on the body") is a ceremony observed mostly in the region of Bengal (comprising Bangladesh and Indian West Bengal). The gaye holud takes place one or two days before the religious and legal Bengali wedding ceremonies. The turmeric paste is applied by friends to the bodies of the couple. This is said to soften the skin, but also colors them with the distinctive yellow hue that gives its name to this ceremony. It may be a joint event for the bride and groom's families, or it may consist of separate events for the bride's family and the groom's family.

During the south Indian festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with fresh rhizomes is offered as a thanksgiving offering to Surya, the Sun god. Also, the fresh plant sometimes is tied around the sacred Pongal pot in which an offering of pongal is prepared.


In southern India, as a part of the marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to replace the Mangalsutra temporarily or permanently. The Hindu Marriage act recognizes this custom. Thali necklace is the equivalent of marriage rings in western cultures. In western and coastal India, during weddings of the Marathi and Konkani people turmeric tubers are tied with strings by the couple to their wrists during a ceremony called Kankanabandhana.[29]

Modern Neopagans list it with the quality of fire, and it is used for power and purification rites.

Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind reported in 1896 that in Micronesia the preparation of turmeric powder for embellishment of body, clothing and utensils had a highly ceremonial character.[30] He quotes an example of the roots being ground by four to six women in special public buildings and then allowed to stand in water. The following morning, three young coconuts and three old soma nuts are offered by a priestess with prayer, after which the dye which has settled down in the water is collected, baked into cakes in coconut molds, wrapped in banana leaves, and hung up in the huts till required for use.

See also

References

External links

  • National Institutes of Health
  • Turmeric List of Chemicals (Dr. Duke's)
  • Plant Cultures: review of botany, history and uses
  • Scientists say curry compound kills cancer cells

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