Curcurma domestica Valeton
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) // is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical Tamilnadu, in southeast India, and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C (68 °F and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. 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 about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Tamil 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.
Also known as haldi, turmeric has been used in South India for thousands of years and is a major part of Siddha medicine. It was first used as a dye and then later for its medicinal properties.
The name appears to derive from Middle English/early modern English as turmeryte or tarmaret having uncertain origin. There may be Latin origin, terra merita (merited earth).
Turmeric is a perennial herbaceous plant, which reaches a stature of up to 1 meter. There are highly branched, yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes . The leaves are alternate and arranged in two rows . They are divided into leaf sheath, petiole and leaf blade. From the leaf sheaths, a false stem is formed. The petiole is 50 to 115 cm long. The simple leaf blades are usually of a length of 76 to 115 cm and rarely up to 230 cm. They have a width of 38 to 45 cm and are oblong to elliptic narrowing at the tip .
Inflorescence, flower and fruit
In China, the flowering time is usually in August. Terminally on the false stem there is a 12 to 20 cm long inflorescence stem containing many flowers. The bracts are light green and ovate with a length of 3 to 5 centimeters to oblong with a blunt upper end.
At the top of the inflorescence stem bracts are present on which there are no flowers, these are, white to green and sometimes tinged reddish-purple and its upper end is tapered.
The hermaphrodite flowers are zygomorphic and threefold. The three 0.8 to 1.2 centimeters long, sepals are fused, white, have fluffy hairs and the three calyx teeth are unequal. The three bright yellow petals are fused into a corolla tube up to 3 centimeters long. The three corolla lobes have a length of 1 to 1.5 cm, triangular with soft-spiny upper end. While the average corolla lobe is larger than the two lateral. Only the median stamen of the inner circle is fertile. The dust bag is spurred at its base. All other stamens are converted to staminodes. The outer staminodes are shorter than the labellum. The labellum is yellowish, with a yellow ribbon in its center and it is obovate, with a length from 1.2 to 2 cm. Three carpels are under a constant, trilobed ovary adherent, which is sparsely hairy.
The fruit capsule opens with three compartments.
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. In addition there are other important volatile oils such as turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene. Some general constituents are sugars, proteins, and resins.
Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes. Tamil traditional medicine, called Siddha, 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 Thailand, fresh turmeric rhizomes are widely used in many dishes, in particular in the southern Thai cuisine, such as the yellow curry (แกงเหลือง)and turmeric soup (ต้มขมิ้น).
In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron because it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.
Folk medicine and traditional uses
In Tamilnadu, 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. In the Siddha 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.
Manjal Pal (turmeric milk) is warm milk mixed with some turmeric powder. It is commonly used in Tamilnadu as a home remedy when someone is suffering from fever. Turmeric paste is often used in Tamilnadu 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 Tamilnadu.
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 clinical medicine. In Chinese medicine, it is used for treatment of various infections and as an antiseptic.
Preliminary medical research
According to the 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."
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. As of December 2013[update], turmeric is being evaluated for its potential efficacy against several human diseases in clinical trials, including kidney and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, several types of cancer and irritable bowel disease.
However, according to various basic research studies, administration of curcumin or turmeric can suppress several stages of cancer development in multiple tumor models. One study of curcumin on human cancer cells in vitro used hybrid molecules with the anti-nausea drug thalidomide to induce apoptosis in myeloma cancer cells. Some research shows compounds in turmeric to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties; however, curcumin is not one of them.
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. Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive) 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).
Turmeric is considered highly auspicious and holy in Tamil nadu and has been used extensively in various Tamil ceremonies for millennia. Even today it is used in every part of Tamilnadu during wedding ceremonies and religious ceremonies.
Turmeric has played an important role in both Hindu and Tamil spiritualism. The robes of the Tamil 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 Thirumal in the mythology of ancient Tamil religion. Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra, which in traditional Tamil Siddha 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 poosai to represent a form of Kottravai 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 poosai to make a form of Ganesha. Yaanaimugathaan, the remover of obstacles, is invoked at the beginning of almost any ceremony and a form of Yaanaimugathaan 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 Tamil festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with fresh rhizomes is offered as a thanksgiving offering to Suryan, the Sun god. Also, the fresh plant sometimes is tied around the sacred Pongal pot in which an offering of pongal is prepared.
In Tamil nadu, as a part of the Tamil marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used temporarily or permanently as opposed to the Mangalasutra of Hindus in India . The Tamil 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, Kannada Brahmins turmeric tubers are tied with strings by the couple to their wrists during a ceremony called Kankanabandhana.
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. 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.
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