Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric is a leafy perennial herb in the Zingerberaceae family native to Southwest India. It has short stems, long, lanceolate alternate leaves, and a knobby, highly branching rhizome that is bright orange yellow, and even more vibrant when cut open. It needs warm temperatures between 68 and 86 °F and a large amount of annual rainfall to thrive, and will not survive frost. The plants grow best in wet or even boggy soils and can tolerate shade, making them perfect for dark and wet areas of a tropical garden. The plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and then propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season. Late summer is the typical blooming season for turmeric. The showy cone shaped hermaphrodite flowers are zygomorphic (symmetrical only down their middle line) and threefold, with typically three bright-yellow to cream colored petals that are fused into a corolla tube. The colors of the flowers range from fuchsias, creams, yellows, and reds to pale whitish greens.

Parts Used

Medicinal Uses
Turmeric has a long tradition as a culinary spice in India and Asia, where it is a main ingredient in curries, as well as a medicinal herb, acting as a stimulant, carminative, anti-oxidant, alterative, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. It’s be proven by researches to be useful in treating a wide array of symptoms and stabilize the systems, primarily benefitting and acting on the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory system. Some studies have even shown potentially effective in the treatment of certain types of cancers. In the digestive system, it’s useful for treating indigestion, balancing metabolism, dissolving gallstones, increasing bile flow, and treating acidic stomaches and gastritis. In the circulatory system, its shown to help improve and tone circulation, thin the blood, reduce risk of heart attack and strokes, ease arthritis, and lower cholesterol. In the respiratory system, it’s helpful for coughs and allergies. It also acts as a blood purifier and warmer, aiding new tissue growth. It’s also useful for women as an emmenagogue, regulating and harmonizing the menses, reducing menstrual pain and reducing uterine tumors. Turmeric also helps reduce inflammations in the body and strengthen the ligaments, aiding with injury recovery, especially when used in conjunction with yoga. It is also a skin and injury tonic both internally an externally; mixing with honey and applying to a sprain, trauma, psoriasis, fungal infections such as athletes foot, or bruises can help the area heal faster, even though it might stain your skin yellow.

Folk Uses
In Aryuvedic energetics, turmeric is thought to cleanse the chakras and purify the energy of the subtle body, and represents the energy of the divine mother. In both Chinese and Aryuvedic medicine, turmeric was used to remedy jaundice and counteract digestive problems and nausea. The entire plant is edible and used culinarily in parts of India.

Flavor Profile and Energetics
Bitter, astringent, pungent, heating, reduces Kapha, increase Pitta and Vata in excess. Smaller, less aromatic roots are considered cooling.

As a decoction, 1 tablespoon of root per cup of water, three times daily. As a tincture, 1 tsp three times a day. As a powder, can be added liberally to foods, mixed into milk or water, or applied as a poultice.

Combine with black pepper for an extra anti-inflammatory boost. In Chinese medicine, turmeric can be combined with barberry or oregon grape root to release the liver.

Individuals with jaundice or hepatitis should consult an herbalist before using medical amounts of turmeric. Large doses of turmeric can cause photosensitivity in some individuals. Pregnant women should not use more than culinary amounts.

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A turmeric flower

A turmeric flower


Turmeric plants growing in the garden.

Turmeric plants growing in the garden.