Turmeric : From Ancient Wonder To Modern Superfood


  • 28 May 2020

 

From Jamie Oliver’s Turmeric Chicken to Jessica Koslow’s Turmeric Tonic to the almost cult-like status of  Spiced Turmeric Latte, turmeric is today the new super-hero in the world of superfoods. But is this meteoric rise of turmeric in the West just a fad that will fizzle aways like all fads do, or is turmeric something more than a fad?
 
In this article, we go beyond the frenzy to the facts. Our team has met experts : from top practitioners of the ancient science of Ayurveda in India to internationally certified nutritionists to understand what is it that makes turmeric such a breakout star from India in the superfood category.   

It All Started In India, About 5000 Years Ago...

While the western world has discovered turmeric as a superfood only in the last decade, in India, it has been from a time before recorded history. Turmeric is innately Indian in origin, custom and usage. Evidence of turmeric has been found in the Harappa civilisation dating back to around 4,500 BCE. From cooking to cosmetics and from healing to housekeeping and dyeing, Indians were aware of the diverse properties and multiple health benefits of turmeric.

 

Ayurvedic healers used turmeric for healing and medicinal uses. Milk boiled with turmeric and sugar was a popular cold remedy. Turmeric juice was used to help heal wounds, bruises, and leech bites. A paste made from turmeric, lime and salt was commonly applied to sprains and inflamed joints. Smoke made by sprinkling turmeric over burnt charcoal was used to relieve scorpion stings. Inhaling the fumes of burning turmeric was also used commonly to release copious amounts of mucous and provide instant relief from congestion. A pinch of turmeric was also used as an insect repellent in the kitchen. A paste made of turmeric alone or with neem leaves was used for ringworm, itching, eczema, and any other parasitic skin condition. Turmeric was a key ingredient in remedy for jaundice. Pastes of turmeric were used for smallpox, chickenpox, shingles, ulcers, conjunctivitis, skin blemishes and malaria. This was also applied to the cut placenta after the birth of a child.


 

Turmeric was such an integral part of lifestyle that it has 53 different names in Sanskrit - the ancient Indian language. Each name celebrates the benefit of turmeric. These range from Jayanti ( one that wins over diseases) to Bahula (plenty) to Vishangi (killer of poison) to Pitika (which gives yellow colour). In fact, the biological name of the turmeric genus - Curcuma is derived from the Sanskrit word Kumkuma.

 

No wonder, turmeric is the golden child of Ayurveda!

 

To this day, turmeric features prominently every day Indian life. From common cold to fever, a glass of hot milk with sugar and turmeric powder is the ubiquitous home-made remedy in every Indian family. Diabetes to digestion and arthritis to Alzheimer’s, there is a turmeric based Ayurvedic treatment. 

 

Haldi (hindi for turmeric) is a quintessential marriage ritual where turmeric paste is applied to both the bride and the groom a day before the marriage or on the marriage day, purportedly to ward off evil eye, but more practically, for that extra glow to the skin. Be it acne or ulcer, boil or burn, gash or cut – application of turmeric is the time-tested first-aid that heals and cures.

  

So, What Actually Is Turmeric?                      Botanical Description and Etymology

 

Turmeric is the boiled, dried, cleaned and polished rhizome of Curcuma longa (of the ginger family). India is the largest producer cultivating more than 70 species, as well as the top consumer of turmeric globally, consuming almost 80% of its total production. In India, turmeric is known as Haldi in northern India and Manjal in southern India. The modern name turmeric is thought to be derived from Latin terra merita (meritorious earth).

 

What Makes Turmeric A Superfood? (Phytochemistry and Composition) 

Scientific research confirms there are over 250 compounds in turmeric. Of these, it is the volatile oils containing Turmerone and the polyphenolic compounds, collectively known as Curcuminoids that are the key bioactive compounds that make turmeric such a powerful superfood with health and medicinal properties. Curcumin - a key element is a potent anti-oxidant exhibiting anti-parasitic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-sceptic, anti-carcinogenic and gastro-intestinal properties in vitro.

 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of turmeric powder has 29 calories and contains 0.91g of protein, 0.31g of fat, 6.31g of carbohydrates, 2.1g of fibre and 0.3g of sugar.  It also provides 26% of daily manganese needs, 16% of daily iron, 5% of daily potassium and 3% of daily vitamin C requirements

Proven Health Benefits

External Uses

  • Natural Anti-Inflammatory compound externally used for burns and ulcers

  • Heals wounds, cuts, gashes, boils

  • Fights eczema and psoriasis

  • Better skin - reduces acne and removes dark circles

  • Fights sun damage

  • Natural fairness when used as ointment

In Vitro Uses

  • Increases anti-oxidants to fight free radicals

  • Boosts brain functions and reduces risks of brain diseases

  • Lowers risks of heart diseases and regulates blood pressure.

  • Protects lungs from pollution and toxins

  • Preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease

  • Prevents diabetes

  • Fights ageing and age-related chronic diseases

  • Treatment of arthritis and joint pains

  • Helps digestion

  • Known to prevent (and perhaps also) cure cancer 

Used Widely In India...Now Make Turmeric Part Of Your Lifestyle (Uses)

Turmeric has been used as a spice, dye, cosmetic and medicinal herb in India for centuries. Amongst its popular uses in India are :

  • Turmeric power is used as spice in Indian cuisine that gives curry its distinctive yellow/golden colour. Besides adding flavour, turmeric also helps in healthy digestion due to its anti-inflammatory properties

  • Haldi-Milk or hot, sweetened milk with turmeric powder is a widely used in India for treatment against common cold and fever


  • Ghee (clarified butter) mixed with powered turmeric is known to relieve cough

 

Turmeric stood the test of time of over four centuries. Its magical secrets, are only now being unlocked, understood and validated by scientific research and clinical trials across the world. Modern food, medicine and nutrition experts have confirmed that turmeric is not a fad…it is a superfood.

 

This superfood from India can easily be made part of the western life. Here are some simple ways to eat and drink turmeric everyday:

 

  • Turmeric powder is also used as marinate meat. This prevents the formation of HCA during grilling of the meat.

  • Add a pinch of turmeric powder in scrambled eggs and frittatas.

  • Add a sprinkling of turmeric powder to ride to give it a brilliant sunshine hello hue

  • Add it with salt and pepper when roasting vegetables or sautéing greens

  • Use it in soups

  • Create a stunning smoothie

  • And for those cold and dull winters, add turmeric powder to hot-milk with a dash of saffron to brighten the gloom and keep away cough and cold!

 

VAHDAM Turmeric Lattes and Teas - Drink A Cup Of Sunshine

At VAHDAM, we have made it super-easy for you to get your dose of daily superfood - turmeric. Our range of organic, keto-friendly, caffeine-free lattes mixes are created with the best ingredients and packed with utmost care. All you need to do is Just add Water or Milk - and drink in a cup of sunshine!

 

At VAHDAM, we bring the magic of India…turning ancient wisdom into modern wonders.

 

About the Author :

Ketan Desai | Chief Educator |  ketan@vahdamteas.com

  
  

Ketan Desai is the Chief Educator at VAHDAM Teas. After a brief stint with the family tea business, Ketan went on to work with some of the top tea planters, tasters, blenders and marketers across India, Sri Lanka, Russia and the CIS countries, the UK, Bangladesh, Indonesia  and Africa. 

A seasoned tea-taster and a passionate raconteur, Ketan conducts tea workshops and events, regaling participants with amusing stories while explaining the finer nuances of tea during live tasting sessions.

At VAHDAM Teas, Ketan spearheads content and community initiatives. He leads TEAch Me, VAHDAM’s social initiative focused on education of children at tea estates.

Ketan's favourite tea is Darjeeling First Flush, which he prefers to have without milk or sugar. He can be contacted at @ketdes on twitter or at ketan@vahdamteas.com