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Herbs > Ayurvedic Herbs and their Healing Power > Turmeric
By Dr. Satish Kulkarni

The colloquial name for turmeric is halad or haldi and its botanical name is Curcuma longa. Turmeric is a perennial herb with short and thick stem and multiple branches with unforgettable aromatic smell. The stems are underground (called rhizomes) and have food, medicinal as well as ritual value. Turmeric is regularly included in Indian cookery for giving musky mouth watering flavor and beautiful yellow color to recipe.

The use of turmeric starts from day 1 in Indian life. A mixture of turmeric+ split gram floor+ milk is used to give bath to new born baby. Wet turmeric powder is applied to a bride and bridegroom before holy bath and ritual performances of wedding in a view to give them lustrous and smooth skin.

Powder of turmeric is called haldi which is yellow in color and processed powder of turmeric is called kumkum which is red in color. Both these forms are used in different worships and are accepted as sign of purity, holiness, innocence, auspiciousness in all sacred performances. It is a social belief that haldi and kumkum bring prosperity in life.

Turmeric has secured a important place in ayurved because of its antiseptic properties. Turmeric is applied to any minor wound or abrasion as a first aid. It also has some analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. A poultice prepared from turmeric powder with few other medicinal herbs is applied to sprained and/or swollen body part. A luke warm paste of similar group of medicines is a popular anti-inflammatory paste, used externally.

Turmeric can be taken internally also. A powder mixed with honey or a powder mixed in warm milk is given to sufferers of stomatitis, oro-pharyngitis, laryngitis etc. It is a good medicine for voice culture and many vocalists prefer to take it before public performance, which helps in improving their voice. A decoction of turmeric can be used for gargling when nightmare cough is a cause of sleep disturbance. It is effective household remedy for asthamatic bronchitis, bronchial asthama, pulmonary tuberculosis etc. where chronic cough is a problem. In measles where ‘locked’ cough is a problem, turmeric is a drug of choice. In catarrhal infections (in this mucous membranes are inflamed) like allergic rhinitis, sinusitis etc. steam inhalation of decoction, by nose is found effective.

Turmeric is used in treatment of boils, furuncles, carbuncles etc. where repeated infections are observed. An integrated approach like treating the condition with antibiotics for ruling out infection and giving decoction of turmeric for 15 to 20 days as a follow-up to avoid recurrence is worth trying. I have noted good results of this integration in my general medical practice. Turmeric can be used for external application also and proved helping effective suppuration.

Modern science says, turmeric is rich in iron. Ayurved has advised to include turmeric in diet of pregnant ladies, growing children and patients in a stage of early recovery, must be because of this reason. It should be taken on an empty stomach with honey early in the morning. Honey helps in masking bitter taste of turmeric in addition to increasing its effects. Turmeric is seen included in many herbal tonics also.

Turmeric acts good on digestive tract. Here it is claimed to have antiflatulant and digestive antibiotic properties. One ayurvedic school of thoughts has recommended this medicine in escaping from chronic diarrhea. I have given trials in few HIV positive patients and found mixed results.

Few traditional healers claim results in skin conditions like tinea infections, sore skin condition and scabies. External use in these conditions can improve the situation. We can say this is a harmless way and may benefit a few at least for avoiding relapse.

In short the herb has antiseptic properties. It is effective in respiratory troubles like common cold, cough etc. It is rich in iron so can be added to diet where there is need of ‘natural’ iron. It has nutritional, medicinal as well as religious status in Indian life.

For further information on Ayurveda and Visit India Herbs For Genuine Ayurvedic Medicines and Nutritional Supplements or contact Dr. Satish Kulkarni




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