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Turmeric: Versatile Spice

India produces so many spices like Black pepper, Cardamom, Ginger and Turmeric. Many expedition in the Europe were undertaken for establishing a foothold in India particularly Kerala for procuring its fabled spices. Vasco da Gama was first to reach India in pursuit of the spices.

Turmeric is one spice which is an integral part of Indian cooking. It is given as a suspension in the hot milk to persons who have sustained beatings and internal injuries to relieve pain and swelling because of its powerful antibacterial properties. It contains yellow pigments called curcuminoids. One member of a curcuminoids is curcumin. It has been suggested that curcuminoids may have a beneficial effect in some cancerous conditions, when applied externally. Other experimental studies suggest curcumin may have protective effects on the liver.

Scoop in bowl of turmeric powder with turmeric roots.

India alone produces about 94% of the world’s turmeric. It belongs to the ginger family. Its rhizomes are the source of a bright yellow spice and dye.  Turmeric is only known as a domesticated plant and not found in the wild. Its origin is in South and Southeast Asia, and prior to being used a s a popular spice may have been first used as a dye.

Some studies suggest that components of the essential oil, such as ar-tumerone, have anti-snake venom activity. The essential oil is also reported to have some insect repellent and insecticidal activity.

As a dye, its color varies depending on how it is processed. If mixed with alkaline fluids it turns bright red, but when mixed with acid it produces yellow. This property makes it an indicator of acidic or basic nature of a solution.

Extracts have been added to creams for use as a colouring agent and traditionally women would rub turmeric into their cheeks to produce a golden glow. The yellow pigment in turmeric is a compound called curcumin.

Turmeric has traditionally been used to counteract many conditions including the aging process in Ayurvedic medicine. In India, turmeric is associated with fertility and prosperity, and brings good luck if applied to a bride’s face and body, as part of the ritual purification before a wedding. Turmeric roots may be given as a present on special occasions, such as a visit to a pregnant woman.

Turmeric powder is also sprinkled on sacred images. The use of turmeric is prohibited in a house of mourning.Yellow and orange are both special colors in Hinduism, yellow being associated with Vishnu, and as the color of the space between chastity and sensuality. Orange signifies sacrifice and renunciation and courage. Originally associated with the sun and as part of solar symbolism, the colors were absorbed into the mythology of Hinduism.

In Hindu wedding ceremonies brides would rub turmeric over their bodies. Newborn babies had turmeric rubbed on to their forehead for good luck and they would be given a turmeric necklace to wear to keep away evil spirits. Pieces of the rhizomes are added to water to make an infusion that is used in baths. It is reported that washing in turmeric improves skin tone and reduces hair growth.

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  1. Pingback: Journey Kitchen: Turmeric Milk – Indian Home Remedy « The Mind Weave

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