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Nutrition

Spices

Healthy Living: Asafoetida
By Renu Gulati

Hing (Hindi)
Hingu (Sanskrit)
Ferula Narthex (botanical name)



Hing is made from the resinous sap of the Asafoetida plant, which grows in Kashmir and the Himalayas. It is pungent, with a strong smell and is used as a spice in very small quantities. Hing is a powerful digestive agent and is commonly used to treat indigestion, flatulence, abdominal distention and colic pain. It has a slightly laxative effect, promoting the cleansing action of the intestines and helping to destroy worms. Hing is also a strong expectorant and is used for the treatment of chest congestion and colds.

Home Remedies

  • Hingashtak Churna is a very popular Ayurvedic remedy used to improve digestion. It is made from equal parts of roasted hing, saunth, pippali, ajwain, jeera, kali mirch and rock salt. After roasting and cooling these ingredients, finely grind them and mix well. Take 1/2 tsp regularly at the beginning of each meal.
  • To relieve painful menstruation, drink a cup of buttermilk with a pinch of hing, 1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek powder, and a pinch of rock salt.
  • To soothe a toothache, mix 1/2 teaspoon of hing powder with 2 teaspoons of lime juice. Warm the solution slightly then moisten a cotton ball and place it on the affected area.
  • To control diabetes, consume 2 teaspoons of bitter gourd (karela) juice with 1/4 teaspoon of hing powder.
  • To relieve asthma and respiratory disorders, mix 1/4 teaspoon hing with 1/2 teaspoon onion juice, 1/2 teaspoon betel leaf (paan) juice, and 2 teaspoons honey. Consume three times daily.
  • For tension and migraine headaches, mix 1 teaspoon each of hing, dried ginger and camphor with 2 teaspoons pepper in a little milk to make a paste. Apply the paste on the forehead for 15 minutes or until nearly dry.
  • To soothe stomach ache, dissolve a bit of hing in a cup of water. Soak a cotton cloth in the solution and apply it on the stomach.
  • To reduce flatulence, mix 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger powder with a pinch of hing and black salt in a cup of warm water. Alternatively, take just a pinch of hing mixed with a cup of buttermilk or lukewarm water.
  • To treat indigestion, mix 1 teaspoon each of the powders of dried ginger, long pepper, curry leaves, ajwain, black pepper, cumin and hing. Fry this mixture in a teaspoon of sesame oil. Add some rock salt and consume with steamed rice.

 

Healthy Living: Mustard Seeds
By Renu Gulati

KaliRai/KaliSarson (Hindi)
Brassica Nigra (Botanical name)



Both brown and black mustard seeds are pungent and heating. They help heal the bronchial system, support good digestion by stimulating the appetite, and can even help eliminate intestinal worms. In topical application, they are very effective in treating sprains and pain.

Both brown and black mustard seeds are pungent and heating. They help heal the bronchial system, support good digestion by stimulating the appetite, and can even help eliminate intestinal worms. In topical application, they are very effective in treating sprains and pain.

Yellow mustard seeds have similar properties but are less potent than the black and brown ones.

Mustard has stimulant, irritant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, emetic, and aphrodisiac properties. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. It contains magnesium, selenium, iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin B complex.

Mustard oil also contains natural isothiocyanates – chemical compounds known to fight cancer, especially gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer.

Home Remedies

  • For bronchial asthma, take 1 tsp of mustard oil mixed with 1 tsp natural sugar 2 or 3 times a day on an empty stomach. Rubbing mustard oil on the chest also brings relief.
  • For persistent cough, mix 1/2 tsp each of ground mustard seeds and ginger powder with 1 tsp honey and eat it 2-3 times a day. 
  • During an asthmatic attack, a massage with a mix of mustard oil and a small amount of camphor promotes easy breathing by breaking down phlegm. 
  • For itching, apply mustard oil to the affected area an hour before bathing. Do not use on sensitive areas.
  • For ankle sprain, muscular or arthritic pain, or edema in the legs, soak the feet or hands in a large pot of hot water with a mustard seed tea bag (2 tsps of seeds tied up in some cotton or muslin cloth.) Rubbing mustard oil on the affected joints also helps.
  • A poultice made of mustard seed pulp placed on the affected area can help relieve muscle pain.

 

Healthy Living: Cinnamon
By Renu Gulati

Dalchini( Hindi name)
Tvak( Sanskrit name) CinnamomumVerum ( Botanical name)



Cinnamon is a small tree that is commonly found in South Asia and the Middle East region. The cinnamon that we typically purchase is actually the bark of this tree, either sold as sticks or ground into a powder. The two most popular types of cinnamon are Ceylon and Cassia, each of which are derived from different trees.

Cinnamon is a sweet, pungent, bitter and heating spice. It helps digestion, detoxifies and improves circulation. It helps to prevent heart attacks due to its blood thinning properties.Cinnamon also contains powerful antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious and anticlotting properties.It is an exceptional source of antioxidants, polyphenols and minerals such as calcium, manganese, iron and dietary fibre. In addition, it is a natural source of sugars, carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids.

You can include cinnamon in your diet by sprinkling small amounts of the powder into deserts or adding it to your tea.

Home remedies

  • For common cold, cough or congestion, mix ½ tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp honey. Eat this 2 or 3 times a day.
  • For sinus headache take ½ tsp cinnamon with sufficient water to make a paste and apply it locally
  • For diarrhea take ½ cup of yoghurt, ½ tsp cinnamon and a pinch of rocksalt  2-3 times a day
  • For poor circulation, to reduce cholesterol levels and relieve asthma make a tea of 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp trikatu ( a mixture of equal quantities of dry ginger, long pepper ( pipali) and black pepper) in a cup of hot water, Steep for 10 mins then add 1 tsp honey. Take twice a day.
  • To treat toothaches mix 1 tsp cinnamon powder with 5 tsp honey and make a smooth paste. Apply 2 to 3 times a day to the affected tooth.  This paste can be stored in a small container at room temperature.

 

Healthy Living: Cardamom
By Renu Gulati

Choti Elaichi (Hindi Name)
Ela (Sanskrit name)
Elettaria Cardomum (BotanicalName)



Native to South India, cardamom is a herbaceous perennial plant from the ginger family. It is sweet, pungent and heating and is helpful for cough, breathlessness, burning urination and haemorrhoids. It improves digestion and enhances the flavour of food. Cardamom has antiseptic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, and tonic properties. A good source of minerals and vitamins, cardamom contains potassium, calcium, sulphur, and magnesium along with iron and magnesium as well as vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

It contains essential phytonutrients that are proven to hunt down and destroy free radicals. Research shows that consuming cardamom on a regular basis can prevent certain cancers.

Home remedies

  • To use cardamom for digestive problems, you can eat the seeds, sprinkle ground cardamom on your food or make a cup of cardamom tea.  Cardamom tea can be made by coarse grinding two cardamom pods with their skins. Add ground cardamom to a cup of water, bring to the boil then simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Simply chew on a cardamom pod after every meal or whenever you need to freshen up your breath.
  • Drink a cup of cardamom tea or rinse your mouth with lukewarm cardamom tea twice daily. It will work as an effective antiseptic mouth rinse.
  • For sexual weakness drink I cup of hot milk with ½ teaspoon of ghee and a pinch each of cardamom and hing.
  • For cough and breathlessness take a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of rock-salt mixed with 1 teaspoon of ghee and ½ teaspoon of honey mixed together into a paste.
  • For relief from burning urination, take a pinch of cardamom in ½ cup of cucumber juice 2 times a day.
  • Drinking tea and coffee is highly stressful to the adrenal glands. Add a pinch of ginger and cardamom to tea/coffee to reduce this effect.
  • Gargle with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of powdered cardamom to relieve hoarseness from the throat.
  • Grind together 2 – 3 pods of cardamom, a small piece of ginger, 2 – 3 cloves and few coriander seeds. Add the powder into warm water and consume it for instant relief from indigestion, bloating, and gas.
  • Add a pinch or two of cardamom powder and half a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warm milk to ease inflammation.
  • Add a few drops of cardamom essential oil to a pot of boiling water for steam inhalation to relieve a stuffed nose or blocked sinuses.

 

Healthy Living: Fenugreek
By Renu Gulati

Methi (Hindi name)
Methika (Sanskrit Name) Trigonellafoenum-graeceum (Botanical name)



Part Used: Green leaves of the fresh plant or the light brown seeds.

Fresh fenugreek leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable dish in India. The leaves have a cooling effect and are beneficial in the treatment of indigestion, anaemia and inflammation. Fenugreek cleanses and detoxifies the body by drawing out waste matter and expelling it.

The dry seeds are commonly used in cooking to flavour and spice various foods. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, iron and calcium and are easily assimilated. They are beneficial for weakness, particularly of the nervous, reproductive and respiratory systems.  They are also useful in treating neuralgia, paralysis, constipation, bloating, productive cough, asthma, bronchitis, and chest congestion as well as a sluggish digestive system.

The leaves and seeds of fenugreek are both known to possess antimicrobial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. 
Modern research has shown that regular long term use of fenugreek seeds reduces fat deposits and lowers cholesterol and sugar levels in the body..

Home remedies

  • Fenugreek improves breast milk secretion hence 1 teaspoon of its seed paste or powder can be administered to a lactating mother once or twice a day.
  • For tiredness or bodyache, eat a spoonful of fenugreek seeds daily.
  • The powdered seeds can be made into an effective poultice for painful and swollen rheumatic joints as well as for boils as they have draining and healing properties.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon each of fenugreek powder, lemon juice and raw honey. Consume it twice daily to fight cold and flu symptoms.
  • To get rid of a sore throat, gargle with warm fenugreek tea twice daily.
  • Fenugreek contains compounds that have estrogen-like properties, which help reduce menstrual-related discomforts. These compounds even ease menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, depression, and mood fluctuations. Plus, the high iron content in fenugreek aids new red blood cell production to make up for the loss of blood. Drink warm fenugreek tea twice daily to reduce menstrual discomforts.You can also use fenugreek leaves in your cooking, especially in soups and dahls.
  • Diabetics can eat 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds an hour before each meal. The powder of the seeds can also be taken or a decoction of the seeds made and drunk like a herbal tea.
  • As a beauty aid, coarse grind 2 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds, mix with a little yoghurt or honey to make an exfoliating scrub. Gently rub on the face to prevent pimples, wrinkles and blackheads and enhance complexion. Leave on the face for 15 mins and then wash with warm water.
  • Fenugreek seeds make the hair silky and lustrous, preserve the natural colour of the hair and eliminate dandruff. Soak 4 tablespoons of the powdered seeds overnight in 2 litres of water to make a cold infusion. Use the infusion in the morning to wash your hair.
  • A popular traditional Indian recipe made in winters is fenugreek laddus. These are made by powdering the seeds and roasting them with wheat flour in pure ghee to which sugar has been added. On cooling slightly, a couple of tablespoons of this mixture are shaped into small round balls. One laddu with a cup of milk makes a nourishing winter breakfast. Also these laddus are given to women after childbirth to enable them to recover their strength quickly and enhance lactation. A simpler version of this laddu is a laddu made with fenugreek powder mixed with melted jaggery and made into small balls.

Caution

  • Avoid taking fenugreek in large amounts, as it can lead to side effects like nausea and diarrhea.
  • Before using this herb on the skin or scalp, do a patch test to reduce the possibility of skin irritation and rashes.
  • Do not use this herb during pregnancy. It has the potential to induce labour.
  • If you take any medications, consult your doctor before including this herb in your diet.

 

Healthy Living: Fennel
By Renu Gulati

Fennel (English name)
Sauf( Hindi name)
Foeniculumvulgare( botanicalname) Madhurika( sansksritname)



Fennel is sweet, astringent and cooling. It is unctuous and calming. It acts as a digestive aid and as a diuretic. It helps to get rid of intestinal worms and can relieve hemorrhoids. In addition to its popular use as a breath freshener, it helps relieve a number of ailments and facilitates better health due to its stomachi, carminative, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, antimicrobial,expectorant, diuretic, emmenagogue, depurative, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties.

It contains vitamin C, potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and fibre. It is also rich in phytonutrients and has a high concentration of volatile oils.

Fennel seeds’ emmenagogue properties promote and regulate menstrual flow. The herb also has phytoestrogens that help with issues like premenstrual syndrome, menopausal disorders, and breast enlargement. Studies have shown that fennel can help reduce symptoms of dysmenorrheal or painful menstruation. Apart from menstrual benefits, fennel is traditionally used as a galactagogue to promote lactation in nursing mothers.

Home Remedies

  • Munching on a few fennel seeds will sweeten and refresh your breath after a meal and get rid of bad breath after an odorous meal.
  • Drinking fennel tea on a regular basis helps flush out excess fluids from the body as it works as a diuretic. It can also relieve menstrual problems. Fennel tea can be made by boiling 1 tsp of fennel seeds with a cup of water. 
  • Dry roast, grind and sieve fennel seeds and consume one-half teaspoon of the powder with warm water twice daily to induce weight loss.
  • For indigestion chew ½ tsp roasted fennel seeds and cumin seeds after each meal.
  • For acute diarrhea, mix ½ tsp each of fennel powder and ginger powder and take 2/3 times a day.
  • For acute cold/cough and upper respiratory congestion, chew 1 tsp fennel seed powder with 1 tsp of natural sugar 2 or 3 times a day
  • For edema, take fennel tea made from 1 tsp fennel seeds steeped in 1 cup boiling water, twice a day.
  • In cases of burning urination, drink fennel tea with 1 tsp of natural sugar

 

Healthy Living: Cumin
By Renu Gulati

Cuminum Cyminum (Botanical name)
Jeera (Hindi)
Jeeraka (Sanskrit)



Cumin, known as Jeera in Hindi and Jeeraka in Sanskrit is an aromatic seed that can be used by all constitutions. Cumin is an essential ingredient in Ayurveda cooking because of its unique taste and numerous medicinal qualities. Cumin kindles the digestive fire and enhances the assimilation and absorption of nutrients. It helps reduce excess gas and can act as a mild pain reliever. Stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea can be relieved by cumin.Cumin is an excellent source of fibre, antioxidants and anti-flatulent properties and is a great remedy to cure constipation, bloating and heaviness.

Modern research has found that cumin can help fight cancer, due to the ingredient cuminaldehyde, which has been shown to slow the growth of tumours. It also has characteristics that accelerate the production of certain anti - carcinogenic enzymes, which can aid the prevention of colon cancer. Cumin is an excellent source of iron and therefore beneficial for anaemia. It also contains Vitamin E, which enhances skin tone and texture. Consumption of cumin  helps regulate sleep pattern, especially for people who suffer from insomnia.

Home Remedies

  • To relieve fever, mix equal quantities of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds. Add I tsp of this mixture to 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes then drink
  • For stomach pain, make a mixture of 1/3 teaspoon cumin powder, a pinch of hing and a pinch of rocksalt. Mix and chew well. Follow with warm water.
  • For nausea or stomach upset, make a tea from 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and a pinch of ground nutmeg in 1 cup boiling water steeped for 10 minutes.
  • For some relief from menstrual pain, roast cumin seeds in an ungreased iron pan/griddle until they smell pungent. Slowly chew a teaspoonful followed by 1 tablespoon of aloe vera juice.
  • Chew a teaspoon of dry roasted cumin seeds to cure constipation.
  • Mix half a spoon of powdered cumin into a glass of pomegranate juice to get relief from IBS.
  • Mix equal amounts of powdered cumin and cardamom and take this three times a day to get relief from bloating due to gas.
  • Make cumin tea using one teaspoon of cumin seeds with a 1cm piece of ginger in one litre of water to boost a weak immune system. To maintain the integrity of the  immune system you can also replace normal water with cumin water by boiling one teaspoon cumin in 5 liters of water and drinking that instead of regular water
  • Add I/2 teaspoon of powdered cumin to boiled water, allow it to cool and add a pinch of cardamom powder to it. Gargle with this water to keep your mouth fresh and free from any smell or mouth diseases.
  • A face pack made from the paste of one teaspoon cumin seeds, one teaspoon of  sandalwood powder and half a teaspoon of turmeric  is useful against acne and enhances complexion.

Healthy Living: Coriander
By Renu Gulati

Coriandrum Sativum (Botanicalname) Dhanyaka (Sanskrit)
Dhanya (Hindi)



Coriander is sweet and cooling. It suits all constitutions.It helps digestion, can reduce fever and is a diuretic.

Coriander has multiple health benefits. It is a source of dietary fibre, manganese, iron and magnesium.In addition, coriander leaves are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and protein. They also contain small amounts of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, thiamin, niacin and carotene.

Home Remedies

  • For burning sensation in the urethra or excessive thirst, mix 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds and ½ tsp each of amalaki (dried or powdered) with natural sugar in 1 cup boiling water. Steep overnight and drink it first thing the next morning.
  • For fever take ½ teaspoon each of coriander and cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon dried ginger. Steep this mixture in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes then drink.
  • For conjunctivitis, make an eye wash by steeping 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds in 1 cup boiling water for at least 15 mins. Strain well and cool. Wash the eye with this infusion.
  • A tea made from equal portions of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds is an excellent digestive aid. Use about 1 teaspoon of this mixture per cup and steep in hot water for 10 minutes.
  • To treat Leucorrhoea, take 10gms of Coriander seeds and soak them in 100ml of water over night and drink the water in the early morning. It gives relief in 7 to 8 days in most cases.
  • To stimulate appetite and improve digestion, make a paste by mixing a handful of coriander leaves, ½ teaspoon Black pepper, a pinch of rock Salt and ½ teaspoon Cumin powder.
  • To treat mouth ulcers,make a paste of Corianderleaves and apply on the mouth ulcer 2 to 3 times a day
  • For effective treatment of menstrual cramps, boil 5-6 Coriander seeds in a cup of water for 2-3 minutes and drink the liquid.
  • To pacify excessive thirst, boil a cup of water with 1 teaspoon of Coriander seeds for a few minutes and drink.
  • ChewCoriander seeds to get rid of bad or foul smelling breath.

Healthy Living: Black Pepper
By Renu Gulati

Black Pepper
Kali Mirch (Hindi name)
Marica (Sanskrit name)
Piper Nigrum (Botanical name)



Pungent and heating, black pepper is useful for digestion, cough, worms,promoting healthy lungs and heart. It has a host of health benefits and is therefore used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.  Health benefits include improving appetite and digestion, relieving gas and congestion, facilitating weight loss and enhancing immunity.  Black pepper has been found to contain iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, vitamins A and C, and other nutrients.

Research shows that black pepper can increase the assimilation of the compound curcumin (found in turmeric) twentyfold. Curcumin helps fight cancer, infection, and inflammation.

Black pepper powder is usually added to savoury dishes after cooking, otherwise volatile oils tend to evaporate and diminish its flavour. Freshly ground black pepper has the most flavour.

Home Remedies

  • For indigestion and heaviness in your stomach, take a glass of buttermilk mixed with one-quarter teaspoon each of black pepper and cumin powder.

OR

To get relief from indigestion, mix equal quantities of ground black pepper, dry ginger and rock Salt. Add 1/3 teaspoon of this mixture to a glass of buttermilk and consume it.

  • Massage your belly with black pepper oil mixed with a carrier/base oil to relieve gas pain.
  • To clear congestion and phlegm drink a glass of warm water with ½ teaspoon black pepper 2-3 times a day before meals.
  • For hoarseness of voice, take ¼ teaspoon of black pepper powder and 1 teaspoon of melted warm ghee after food.
  • For cough take 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 teaspoon honey after food.
  • To treat pus in the gums, take finely powdered black pepper, mix with salt and massage over the gums.
  • For muscular pains, take a tablespoon of black pepper powder fried in sesame oil for some time. Apply this on the painful areas.
  • To get relief from toothache, boil a tablespoon of black pepper in 1 cup of water, cool and strain it and use the water to gargle.
  • For weight loss, take a cup of water mixed with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of honey and a 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper powder 2-3 times a day.
  • To increase appetite, consume 1 tablespoon of jaggery mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper everyday before meals or with the first morsel of food.

Healthy Living: Ginger
By Renu Gulati

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the most ancient and sattvic among herbs and is grown all over India throughout the year. It is referred to as maha aushadhi (great medicine). In Sanskrit it is also called vishwabhesaj  (the universal medicine). A Sanskrit sloka likens ginger to a lion and all diseases to small animals which run away and disappear when the lion appears.



Fresh ginger root is pungent and heating and has an alkaline effect on the body. Although it balances all doshas, pitta individuals should use it in moderation, Dry ginger on the other hand is pungent and heating. Those with excess body heat are advised to take fresh ginger rather than dry ginger (sunthi) and that too in moderation. It is also advisable to consume less ginger in the hot summers.
 
Both types of ginger kindle digestive fire and improve digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. Ginger can improve circulation, relieve congestion, help break down blood clots and may aid in preventing heart attacks. It is a good home remedy for common cold, cough and breathlessness. Fresh ginger increases immunity. It is a keen stimulant for the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems and helps to revitalise sluggish circulation and remove dullness and inertia.
 
Chewing a small quantity of adraka with salt before meals is good for health. It enhances digestive fire, taste perception and purifies the tongue and throat. Chewing adrak is not advisable in diseases like leprosy, anaemia, dysuria, bleeding diseases, ulcers, fevers and burning sensation.
 
Home remedies

  • To improve digestion take a 1cm piece of ginger with salt just before a meal or eat it with the first morsel of food.
  • For respiratory problems lick a teaspoon of ginger juice mixed with honey or make a herbal tea by simmering fresh or dry ginger with equal quantities of black pepper and tulsi.
  • Hot ginger tea is useful in bringing on a delayed menstrual period and in relieving menstrual cramps. Take 1cm of ginger and boil in a cup of water till the liquid is golden brown.
  • A mixture of 1 tsp each of fresh ginger juice and lime juice after food aids digestion and relieves excess gas, constipation and lower abdominal pain.
  • A mixture of fresh ginger juice and fresh onion juice helps calm nausea and vomiting
  • Rubbing a little fresh ginger around the belly button will help stop diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • A mixture of 1 tsp each of fresh ginger juice and honey taken 2-3 times a day helps relieve sinus congestion
  • For cold cough congestion and flu symptoms, make a cup of tea with 1 tsp each of dry ginger, cinnamon and fennel
  • A mixture of 1 tsp each of ginger juice and lime juice and 2 pinches of rocksalt relieves hoarseness of the voice, chest pain, wheezing and coughing
  • An application of tsp dry ginger powder paste made with dry ginger and water applied on the forehead helps a sinus headache. Hot bodied individuals should be careful as it may cause a slight burning of the skin. Always wash the area after treatment.
  • Homemade ginger ale is a delicious and nutritious drink. Wash and cut a medium sized piece of ginger. Simmer it with a glass of water until the water is reduced by half and is a dark yellow colour. When cool, strain out the ginger. Add sugar or honey to taste. If needed add water.

Healthy Living: Turmeric
By Renu Gulati

As one of the most widely researched spices, turmeric has been found to have antioxidant, antibiotic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae).  Known as Haldi in Hindi and Haridra in Sanskrit, it is native to Southern Asia and requires a temperature of 20-30 degrees centigrade and a good amount of rainfall to survive. It is harvested annually for its rhizome.  The rhizomes are boiled and dried before they are ground into a powder. Fresh turmeric root looks a little like ginger but inside it can be red or yellow. The red is called kumkum and is considered sacred. Only the yellow root is used in cooking and medicinally. It is a potent medicinal spice that is used in the kitchen regularly and almost in every kind of food in India. It is also used in many religious ceremonies in one form or other.

Turmeric is pungent, bitter, dry and heating. It bestows colour, cures diseases of the skin, is helpful in diabetes, diseases of the blood, dropsy, anaemia and ulcers.
 
As one of the most widely researched spices, turmeric has been found to have antioxidant, antibiotic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps digestion, maintains the balance of intestinal flora, reduces gas and has tonic properties. It is recommended in the treatment of indigestion, poor circulation, cough, chest congestion, skin disorders, diseases of the blood diabetes, anaemia, ulcers and for the healing of wounds and bruises.
 
The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin or diferuloyl methane, which laboratory studies have shown does have anticancer effects on cancer cells. A phase I clinical trial looked at giving curcumin to 25 patients with precancerous changes in different organs. This study seemed to show that curcumin could stop the precancerous changes becoming cancer. Research has also shown that there are low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100mg to 200mg a day over long periods of time. However, there is still no conclusive research evidence to show that turmeric or curcumin can prevent or treat cancer.
 
Home Remedies

  • For bronchial cough, dry sore throat, tonsillitis and pharyngitis, cold and chest congestion, boil 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 cup of milk for 3 minutes and drink at bedtime.
  • Gargle with warm turmeric water 2-3 times a day to relieve a sore throat
  • For external haemorrhoids, apply a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon of ghee locally at bedtime.
  • For cuts wounds and fungal nail infections, apply 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel to the affected area.
  • For swollen gums, apply turmeric directly to the affected area of the mouth.
  • Turmeric is good for the eyes, especially for conjunctivitis and sore eyes. Bring to a boil 1 teaspoon of turmeric in a cup of water. Strain through a muslin cloth and wash the eyes regularly with this liquid or apply a gauze soaked with this water on the eyes.
  • A poultice of turmeric paste with ghee or oil applied hot is an effective treatment for sprains, bruises wounds and inflammatory troubles of the joints
  • Turmeric taken with an equal amount of amla powder or fresh amla juice and honey can be used in the treatment of diabetes.
  • Turmeric can be used externally on the skin for a radiant and smooth complexion and for the treatment of pimples. Turmeric ubtan or scrubs have been traditionally used to beautify brides at Indian weddings.
  • A pickle made with fresh Turmeric in the winter season boosts immunity. Cut the Turmeric into thin long pieces and add lemon juice and salt.


 
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