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by Alexia Wambua |




In the West, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been known for years primarily as the powdered root that gives the characteristic golden color to curry powder and to most Indian dishes. However, in the East, turmeric has been used for more than mere culinary applications. For example, it has been used to dye the robes of Buddhist monks in Thailand. In Chinese medicine, turmeric has been highly valued as an anti-inflammatory for centuries, and as a remedy for colic and menstrual cramps.

Now, it would appear that the West is finally catching up to the East in its appreciation of turmeric, and for good reason. Turmeric contains significant amounts of manganese and iron. It's also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Turmeric aids in the digestion of fats, reduces gas and bloating, decreases congestion, and improves skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been attributed to its main pharmacological agent, curcumin. The effects of curcumin are comparable to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as some prescription medications. However, curcumin does not produce the side effects associated with some of these medicines, such as ulcers and internal bleeding. When used regularly, the curcumin in turmeric can reduce joint swelling and relieve joint pain, which allows for a greater range of motion. More recent research indicates that turmeric inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells. Many supermarkets have turmeric available in both tablet and capsule form.

Used externally, turmeric can stop pimples in their tracks. All that is required is to mix turmeric with a little water, in order to form a paste, and then apply it to the affected area. This is undoubtedly due to turmeric’s documented antibacterial qualities. In fact, a turmeric and water paste will keep bacteria away from cuts and burns, and aid in their healing.

Taken internally, turmeric can improve the elasticity of the skin, due to the spice’s many antioxidants. These same antioxidants are helpful when applied externally as well. One recipe combines equal parts rice powder, milk, and tomato juice, to be applied directly to the skin. Many people swear by turmeric as a way to even their skin tone. Products that are marketed for this purpose may use the Indian word for turmeric, which is “Haldi.” Turmeric can even be used – in combination with castor oil and coconut oil – to soften cracked heels, as well as other troublesome dry areas of skin.

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