Botanical and Common Names
- Family Zingiberaceae
- Curcuma longa syn. C. domestica (Turmeric, Haldi [Hindi], Jiang Huang [Chinese])
- Curcuma zedoaria (Zedoary)
- Curcuma amada (Mango-Ginger)
- Curcuma xanthorrhizia (Curcuma, Japanese Turmeric, Tewon Lawa, Temu Lawak)
- Turmeric should not be used if there is a bile duct obstruction.
- It should not be used during pregnancy.
- It should not be used by those with gallbladder disease as it will increase the flow of bile, creating a possible flare-up.
- It should not be used by those on blood-thinning medications.
Turmeric is an aromatic perennial, reaching about three feet in height. It produces long tapering leaves and white or pale yellow flowers that grow in spikes. Turmeric is likely indigenous to India where it is still cultivated as well as in other tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Zedoary is found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China, and Madagascar, the Moluccas, the Philippines, and New Guinea. Curcuma is indigenous to the forests of Indonesia and the Malaysian peninsula. It is cultivated mainly on Java, in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines and harvested in the second year of growth.
Better known as a food spice and colouring agent, turmeric has also long been used as a medicine. Only during the last two decades has research caught up with ancient knowledge to affirm its use as a treatment for digestive and liver problems and for relieving inflammatory conditions.
As its name suggests, mango-ginger rhizomes have the scent similar to that of mangoes. It is used as a food, medicine, and in perfumery, as are all the other relatives of the plant.
- eases stomach pain
- stimulates bile excretion
- volatile oil
- starch (30-40%)
Rhizome; leaves/stem/root (C. xanthorrhizia)
Some of the curcuminoids (curcumol and curdione) have anticancer properties.
The active medicinal ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is the substance that gives turmeric its distinctive pungent flavour and bright yellow colour. Curcumin is thought to reduce inflammation by lowering histamine levels and to stimulate the adrenal glands into increasing production of cortisone, a hormone that also reduces inflammation. Curcumin is said to protect against liver damage, which may also be caused by its potent antioxidant properties. Curcumin also has antiplatelet activity which reduces the blood’s ability to form clots. This may help improve circulation and offer some protection against heart attacks and strokes.
The bitter principles stimulate the flow of bile and other digestive juices relieving indigestion, gas, and other intestinal problems.
The uses for these related roots are basically the same. Turmeric is commonly used for dyspeptic complaints, particularly the feelings of fullness after meals and regular distention caused by gas. It is also used for diarrhea, intermittent fever, edema, bronchitis, colds, worms, leprosy, kidney inflammations, and cystitis.
Other uses include for headaches, flatulence, upper abdominal pain, chest infections, colic, amenorrhea, and blood rushes.
Externally, the root is mashed and used on bruising, leech bites, festering eye infections, oral inflammations, skin inflammations, and infected wounds.
In Chinese medicine, turmeric is used for chest pains, or pain in the rib, abdomen, or liver area, nose bleeds, vomiting with bleeding, and heat stroke. The rhizome is also used to treat certain types of tumors and in liver disease. Chinese research has proven zedoary’s use in reducing cervical cancer and increasing the cancer-killing effects during radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is used for inflammation, wounds and skin ulcers, itching, stomach complaints, flatulence, conjunctivitis, constipation, ringworm, and colic.
In India, zedoary is used for loss of appetite, tuberculosis, wounds, leukodermia, fever, bronchitis, and asthma; but it is used mainly as a stomachic for digestive problems and as a general body tonic.
Western herbalists use it mainly to treat inflammatory diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis.