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  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

TURMERIC ( Curcuma longa ( L. ) )
Names in Other Languages:

English Indian saffron
French Curcuma, Safran des Indes
German Curcuma, Kurkuma, Indischer Safran, Gelbwurz
Spanish Cúrcuma, Azafrán arabe
Italian Curcuma
Turkish Hint safranı, Sarı boya, Zerdeçal, Safran kökü
Japanese 鬱金 Ukon, ターメリック Tamerikku

FAMILY: Zingiberaceae

ORIGIN:   Turmeric is native to Indonesia and Southern India and it is also cultivated in India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti and Jamaica.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:   Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.

USEFUL PARTS:

Rhizome. Fresh turmeric leaves are used as flavouring.

SENSORY PROPERTIES:

Its flavor is peppery, warm and bitter. The rootstock has an aromatic and spicy fragnance in fresh state, by drying it gives more medicinal aroma. The smell of turmeric can be change unpleasantly when it is stored. The colour of ground turmeric also may tend to fade if the spice is stored too long.

MAIN CONSTITUENTS:

Turmeric contains an essential oil which is max. 5% and it contains a variety of sesquiterpenes, many of which are specific for the species. Most important for the aroma are turmerone (max. 30%), ar-turmerone (25%) and zingiberene (25%). Conjugated Diarylheptanoids (1,7-diaryl-hepta-1,6-diene-3,5-diones, e.g. curcumin) are responsible for the orange colour and probably also for the pungent taste (3 to 4%).

MAIN USES IN FOOD PROCESSING:

Turmeric is used extensively in the East and Middle East as a condiment and culinary dye. In India it is used to tint many sweet dishes. It is principal use in culinary is in curries and curry powders.
It is widely used in Moroccan cuisine to spice meat, particularly lamb, and vegetables. It can mask fishy odours so that it is used in many fish curries. When used in curry powders, it is usually one of the main ingredients, providing the associated yellow colour. It can be added to sautéed apples, and steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. It can be added to creamy yogurt with some dried onion.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES:   Turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions such as flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.

--> A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

The volatile oil fraction of turmeric has anti-inflammatory activity. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

--> An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Curcumin has antioxidant activity ant it can inhibit a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B.


Curcumin can be also safe at very large doses, this component of turmeric was effective at a concentration as low as 0.25 per cent-an amount easily supplied by simply enjoying turmeric in flavorful curries.

--> Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Curcumin has very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. Consuming turmeric regulary can help to reduce some diseases such as arthritis and joint. Curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect that is responsible for cystic fibrosis.

--> Cancer Prevention
Curcumin's antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occuring approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly. Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function. Additionally, other suggested mechanisms by which it may protect against cancer development include inhibiting the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.

--> Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Metastases

Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer; laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.

Some researchers say that curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch and transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form.

There stil some recent studies about curcumin's chemopreventive and therapeutic properties against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and other research groups are investigating curcumin's ability to prevent oral cancer. [1]

--> Turmeric and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Curcumin, one of the main ingredients in Asian curries, might be effective in preventing and/or treating cancer in the lower intestine. Similarly, quercetin, an anti-oxidant flavonoid found in a variety of foods including onions, green tea and red wine, has been shown to inhibit growth of colon cancer cell lines in humans and abnormal colorectal cells in animals.

Liberal use of turmeric and onions can play a protective role against the development of colorectal cancer.

--> Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men and it rarely occurs among men in Indian men, the low risk is caused by Indian men uses turmeric in their diet.


Scientists tested turmeric, a concentrated source of the phytonutrient curcumin, along with phenethyl isothiocyanates, a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.

When tested singly, both phenethyl isothiocyanate and curcumin greatly retarded the growth of human prostate cancer cells implanted in immune-deficient mice. In mice with well-established prostate cancer tumors, neither phenethyl isothiocyanate nor curcumin by itself had a protective effect, but when combined, they significantly reduced both tumor growth and the ability of the prostate cancer cells to spread (metastasize) in the test animals.

The researchers believe the combination of cruciferous vegetables and curcumin could be an effective therapy not only to prevent prostate cancer, but to inhibit the spread of established prostate cancers.

--> Reduce Risk of Childhood Leukemia

Eating foods spiced with turmeric could reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia.

Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia than Western countries, which may be due to differences in diet, one of which, the frequent use of turmeric. The curcumin in turmeric can:

• inhibit the mutagenicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (carcinogenic chemicals created by the burning of carbon based fuels including cigarette smoke)
• inhibit radiation-induced chromosome damage
• prevent the formation of harmful heterocyclic amines and nitroso compounds, which may result in the body when certain processed foods, such as processed meat products that contain nitrosamines, are eaten
• irreversibly inhibit the multiplication of leukemia cells in a cell culture [1]

--> Improved Liver Function

In a recent rat study conducted to evaluate the effects of turmeric on the liver's ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals, levels of two very important liver detoxification enzymes were significantly elevated in rats fed turmeric as compared to controls.
Curcumin has been shown to prevent colon cancer in recent studies.

It is thought by researches after several experiments that curcumin mixed with the diet achieves drug levels in the colon and liver sufficient to explain the pharmacological activities observed and suggest that this mode of administration may be preferable for the chemoprevention of colon cancer.[1]

--> Cardiovascular Protection

Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high. Homocysteine, an intermediate product of an important cellular process called methylation, is directly damaging to blood vessel walls. High levels of homocysteine are considered a significant risk factor for blood vessel damage, atherosclerotic plaque build-up, and heart disease; while a high intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In research published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, when 10 healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days, not only did their blood levels of oxidized cholesterol drop by 33%, but their total cholesterol droped 11.63% , and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 29% [3]

--> Turmeric Lowers Cholesterol

Tumeric's cholesterol-lowering effects are the result of the curry spice's active constituent, curcumin, which research reveals is a messaging molecule that communicates with genes in liver cells, directing them to increase the production of mRNA that direct the creation of receptors for LDL cholesterol. With more LDL-receptors, liver cells are able to clear more LDL-cholesterol from the body.

LDL-receptor mRNA increased sevenfold in liver cells treated with curcumin at a concentration of 10 microM, compared to untreated cells. [4]

--> Protection against Alzheimer's Disease

Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's are very low.

--> Curcumin Crosses Blood-Brain Barrier, May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Research conducted at UCLA and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (December 2004), which has been confirmed by further research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (April 2006), provides insight into the mechanisms behind curcumin's protective effects against Alzheimer's disease.

--> Turmeric Boosts Amyloid Plaque Clearance in Human Alzheimer's Patients

The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer's patients, helping them to clear the amyloid beta plaques characteristic of the disease.

In healthy patients, immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and destroy abnormal cells and suspected pathogens, efficiently clear amyloid beta, but macrophage activity is suppressed in Alzheimer's patients.

Using blood samples from Alzheimer's patients, Drs. Milan Fiala and John Cashman have shown that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosts macrophage activity to normal levels, helping to clear amyloid beta. Fiala and Cashman also observed that bisdemethoxycurcumin was more effective in promoting the clearance of amyloid beta in some patients' blood than others, hinting at a genetic element. Further study revealed the genes involved are MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, which are also responsible for a number of other key immune functions. Bisdemethoxycurcumin enhances the transcription of these genes, correcting the immune defects seen in Alzheimer's patients. [2]

REFERENCES and SOURCES:

http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Curc_lon.html

http://www.plantcultures.org/plants/turmeric_landing.html

http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/turmeric.html

http://web.archive.org/web/20070225024331/unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=26

http://web.archive.org/web/20040811104825/www.spizes.com/spiceonline/CategoryList/Turmericat.asp

[2]Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 31;104(31):12849-54.

[1] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78#purchasequalities

[3]Soni KB, Kuttan R. Effect of oral curcumin administration on serum peroxides and cholesterol levels in human volunteers. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992 Oct;36(4):273-5. 1992. PMID:1291482.

[4] Peschel D, Koerting R, Nass N. Curcumin induces changes in expression of genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis. J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Feb;18(2):113-9. Epub 2006 May 18. 2007. PMID:16713233.