Zingiberaceae are used on all continents, and mainly in tropico-equatorial regions, for their odoriferous, culinary (spices) and medicinal properties, which are shared to varying degrees by all species.
The best known, Zingiber (ginger), Turmeric, Hydechium, come from Eurasia but are cultivated throughout the world.
Other are American genera (Costus, Renealmia).
Other important members of zingiberaceae : Kaemferia, Alpinia, Ammomum, Boesenbergia.
These are usually large wild grasses, perennial by a rhizome and preferring damp places.
They are grown for their rhizome (turmeric, ginger) or as decorative plants for their colorful flower spikes and large leaves .
In traditional medicine they are used to treat many conditions:
as "regulators" of female genital disorders: emmenagogue, regulator of menstruation,
as anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, anti-rheumatic,
in bronchopulmonary diseases: anti-asthmatics, antitussives and expectorants,
finally, to treat various digestive disorders: anti-emetic, anti-ulcerous, anti-spasmodic and anti-dyspeptic.
TURMERIC (CURCUMA) is an important crops in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China but also in the Caribbean and some Pacific islands.
Perennial by its rhizome, turmeric has large, enveloping leaves and an ear of yellowish flowers with bracts tinged with pink or purple.
The rhizome is harvested after desiccation of the aerial parts, it is slightly dried and freed of its scaly roots.
The cut shows the yellow to red-orange interior with an aromatic odor.
Turmeric, in addition to being a spice used almost daily in many countries, is a very important traditional medicinal plant in the Indian sub-continent, it has been part of the Ayurvedic and Unani pharmacopoeias for a very long time.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
The turmeric rhizome contains :
- A lot of starch, (45 to 55%), because it is a reserve organ for the plant.
it is from the buds of the rhizome that the new stems, leaves and roots are born.
- A variable amount of essential oil (2 to 5%) whose composition is dominated by TURMERONE, approximately 60%, (oxygenated terpene = ketone) and zingiberene (also present in ginger as the name suggests) is a terpene carbide (about 25%).
- Yellow or orange-yellow coloring substances (be careful they stain fingers and clothes), curcuminoids (up to 8%), of which the majority and most important compound in medicine is CURCUMIN (50 to 60%) along with other substances chemically very close.
TURMERIC ESSENTIAL OIL
Turmeric essential oil, is obtained by hydro-distillation of fresh and fragmented rhizomes, is also present in the fresh juice of turmeric or the hydro-alcoholic extract ( tincture), but almost absent in the powder of turmeric because the majority of the components of this essential oil are volatile.
TURMERIC essential oil is:
- Antiseptic, antimicrobial (staphylococcal infections) and anti-fungal infections (mycotic infections of the skin, scalp (ringworm)).
- It promotes digestion and calms various intestinal disorders by an effect on digestive spasms or perhaps by acting on the secretion of digestive enzymes.
- Repulsive for insects, in Asia or in the Pacific Islands, parts exposed to mosquitoes are covered with fresh turmeric juice when working in a plantation, undergrowth etc ... the skin and the clothes then take a yellow color of the most beautiful effect! -
- It can be incorporated in cosmetic preparations, it has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power but some people are allergic to it
CURCUMIN AND CURCUMINOIDS
CURCUMIN is a small molecule chemically quite stable, resistant to heat (but much less to light), INSOLUBLE IN WATER, but soluble in ethyl alcohol, vinegar and fats (vegetable oil, butter, fat).
It is accompanied in the turmeric rhizome by chemically closely related but less abundant compounds.
It is especially a food coloring that gives a yellow color to curry, or to many culinary preparations.
Curcumin has a very interesting pharmacological potential, the pharmacological properties of this natural and inexpensive substance have been studied all over the world for about fifteen years, it is:
- strongly ANTI-INFLAMMATORY by its action on certain enzymes (cyclo-oxygenases) present in the cascades reactions of the inflammatory reaction.
This anti-inflammatory power, against acute or chronic inflammation, allows it (in theory) to act on many parts of the body that are inflamed: joints, digestive system, liver, but also kidney or even the eyes.
Curcumin shows anti-ulcerogenic activity on the stomach: protection against the ulcer by stress or toxic and with restoration of the gastric mucosa.
Curcumin alleviates inflammatory disorders of the large intestine (colitis) caused in animals.
- The ability to limit inflammation is enhanced by the ANTI-OXIDANT (anti-free radical) power of curcumin: protection of liver cells for example by the hydroalcoholic extract of rhizome (which contains curcumin and essential oil) against toxicity induced by carbon tetrachloride .
- ANTIBACTERIAL power.
- In vitro observations show that curcumin can help to fight against cancer development by either increasing directly or indirectly the destruction of cancer cells (apoptosis) or by inhibiting the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) necessary for cancer to increase in size.
- Curcumin, curcuminoides and turmeric essential oil have anti-parasitic properties on leshmaniasis, shistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, on some intestinal parasites .
Research is in progress to evaluate the active components of the plant and the methods of use (doses and preparation of drugs).
CURCUMIN IS NOT EASILY ABSORBED AT DIGESTIVE LEVEL, and the little that passes into the bloodstream is rapidly transformed by the liver into less active or inactive secondary metabolites rapidly eliminated in the bile, all of which limits its use in medicine.
It is therefore necessary to consume very regularly and in sufficient quantity turmeric powder to obtain a protective effect (of curcumin).
Current research focuses on ways to improve the absorption and persistence of curcumin in the body: combination with other substances, or special conditioning of curcumin (nanoparticles).
FRESH RHIZOME OF CURCUMA
Turmeric juice and grated fresh rhizome .
- Can incorporated in food (without heating), they bring vitamins including vitamin C, curcumin and essential oil.
The juice is an aromatic liquid, very coloring and slightly "peppered".
It promotes digestion.
- In absence of other treatments it can be applied on an infected dermatosis.
- It repels mosquitoes but stains skin in yellow .
Turmeric Ethanolic tincture : it is very easy to make a "domestic" alcoholic tincture with fresh rhizome.
Example of proportions: 200 g fresh rhizome, finely shredded or chopped, covered with alcohol at 70 ° if possible but rum at 55 ° can do the trick, keep 2 to 3 weeks in the cool and dark .
Example of dosage: 100 drops or a teaspoonful 2 to 3 times a day diluted in a little water.
INDICATIONS : Turmeric tincture is useful:
- in case of acute or chronic DIGESTIVE DISORDERS: gastritis, additional treatment of a peptic ulcer, intestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome,
- in long-term treatment to prevent inflammatory complications of ARTHROSIS, "rheumatism", to strengthen the DEFENSE OF THE ORGANISM (immunity) including against cancerous degeneration.
CURCUMA POWDER, CURCUMIN
The commercially available CURCUMA POWDER comes from turmeric rhizomes, lightly cooked in boiling water, then dried and crushed.
It is a slightly aromatic and somewhat bitter yellow-orange powder, a main ingredient in the CURRY powder.
CURRY which is a mixture of spices usually contains cayenne pepper. Turmeric may partially reduce the irritating effects on the digestive mucosa of pepper or other curry components.
CURCUMIN, apart from its still limited use in medicine, is an atoxic FOOD COLORING particularly resitant to heat and the variable acidity (pH) of culinary preparations.
The turmeric powder can be used alone to COLOR AND FLAVOR THE DISHES that contain a little fat (meats, omelets, Creole rice, Cantonese rice, tomato sauces with vegetable oil, fricassee vegetables, quiches, pizza, salads etc.).
The turmeric powder and curcumin color clothes fabrics in a little orange yellow (like the traditional clothes of buddhist monk) but this NATURAL DYE does not resist to light for a long time and gradually fades.
Uses in Herbal Medicine of Turmeric Powder
Capsules of turmeric powder are easy to make and to dose and allow a regular absorption of this phytomedicine.
To obtain an effective dose of curcumin in the blood (strengthening immunity, osteoarthritis, cancer prevention)one must take at least 3 to 5 g of turmeric powder per day or several capsules (it depends on their size).
For a purely digestive effect (irritable bowel for example) the dose is less: 1 to 2g per day.
You need to get turmeric powder from a manufacturer or dealer of "serious" spices, because the turmeric powder is sometimes adulterated with starch stained with synthetic yellow.
Some people mix turmeric powder with other spices favoring its absorption or its persistence in the body.
It is well known that piperidine (black pepper) delays the neutralization of curcumin by liver cells and we can add a little ground pepper to turmeric, however, beware because piperidine is an irritant of the digestive mucosa .
Black pepper is therefore totally contra-indicated when one suffers from inflammatory digestive disorders (gastritis, duodenitis, colitis, irritable bowel, hemorrhoids).
SPECIAL PREPARATION OF CURCUMIN
Since the detection of the pharmacological properties of curcumin, pharmaceutical companies are interested in this cheap molecule (which can not be patented).
It is a question of finding a conditioning which will allow an easier digestive absorption or a persistence into the body to obtain a therapeutic effect.
Several ways are explored and the one that seems most promising is the use of particular microstructure (nanoparticles).
But the nanoparticles are considered by some as potentially dangerous and anyway we leave here simple phytotherapy.
The use of liposome preparations is also possible (liposomes = microscopic artificial vesicles which can carry in the body a substance insoluble in water for example)
TURMERIC ESSENTIAL OIL
TURMERIC ESSENTIAL OIL contains a significant percentage of turmerone, this oxygenated compound (ketone) can in case of overdose increase the activity of the central nervous system until the onset of seizures or epileptic seizures.
It is therefore contraindicated to use this essential oil in children under 10, in pregnant women and in people suffering seizures.
The main indications turmeric essential oil:
- Spasmodic digestive disorders, digestive cramps, irritable bowel:
2 drops twice a day by mouth or 2 to 3 drops in an oily liquid or a massage cream in applications with light massage on the abdomen twice a day.
- Skin care:
a few drops on infected dermatoses, fungal infections of the skin and scalp. A few drops mixed with a dab of cold cream to prevent skin aging, at bedtime.
- A few drops diluted in cologne in applications on the uncovered parts to ward off biting insects, to be renewed every 2 hours or so.
Turmerone is the subject of pharmacological studies to treat disorders of the central nervous system and many parasitic diseases.
It seems particularly interesting for the treatment of leishmaniasis in South America, a widespread disease especially in wooded areas and difficult to treat but there is already to my knowledge no drugs (based on turmeric extracts) marketed for this indication.
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a warm-season plant with a rather shallow root system. It can not withstand prolonged droughts or water-soaked soils.
It is a perennial plant by its rhizome that survives in the soil after desiccation of the aerial parts.
The plant will grow back when conditions are favorable (temperature and humidity) from the buds present on the "fingers" of the rhizome.
The propagation of this plant is made from fragments of the rhizome that have a bud; wait a few days for the scar to dry before planting.
The turmeric rhizomes are harvested at the end of the vegetative cycle when the aerial parts fade and the rhizome is full of reserve substances.
There are varieties of Curcuma longa that support the cold, so you can try their culture in the ground even in temperate countries in containers protected during winter.
SOME OTHER SPECIES OF CURCUMA
The botanical genus Curcuma, native to tropical Asia, comprises some forty species, some of which are decorative or useful or medicinal.
Some turmeric species from Southeast Asia are of interest to herbal therapists, temoe-lawaq and zedoar.
Let's also mention Curcuma purpurascens and Curcuma phaeocaulis.
CURCUMA XANTHORRHIZA (Temoe-lawaq) , closely related to turmeric , is cultivated in Indonesia and is used in traditional medicine as choleretic and cholagogue.
It contains curcumin as Curcuma longa and a compound that is peculiar XANTHORRHIZOL possessing many pharmacological properties: anti-cancer, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-hyperglycemic, hypotensive, liver protection. kidney protection, female hormone regulator, as well as the ability to reduce inflammation of brain cells (neurons).
CURCUMA ZEDOARIA (zedoary) , this plant close to turmeric and ginger also has stimulating and carminative properties on the digestive tract; it is a good remedy for colopathies with flatulence.
In addition, its essential oil is antimicrobial and antifungal.
In combination with peppermint and cinnamon, in decoction, it is a remedy for "colds" and mild viral infections.
TUMERIC, A SPICE AND A MEDICINAL PLANT
Turmeric rhizome, a widespread tropical plant, contains essential oil and dyes.
The essential oil and yellow dye, curcumin are: protectors of the lining of the digestive system, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants, protection against cancerous degeneration.
They are used in case of gastritis, colitis, difficulties to digest; they can be combined with plants that promote the activity of the liver (choleretic and cholagogue) as well as to prevent the inflammatory pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen the natural defenses.
The turmeric yellow dye is stable and nontoxic.
TURMERIC POWDER is very used in ASIAN cooking and is the main constituent of curry.
Copyright 2019: Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel