What does curcuma longa smell and taste like? Well, many people would be very impressed with this unique warm but kind of bitter taste as well as the pleasant aromatic odor once they have ever try some. To be specific, this is kind of complex rich woody aroma, combining with citrus and flower flavored sweets and ginger flavor. In addition, it is moderately bitter and spicy and offers a warm musky mouth feel. Also known as turmeric and Jiang Huang, it is commonly used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Culinarily its characteristic gingery flavor and yellow hue help curry powders to almost become the synonym for India food. Medicinally turmeric has long been used as one of important drugs for improving blood circulation in traditional Chinese medicine since the Tang Dynasty. Clinically turmeric has incredible health benefits and it can heal a variety of illness if properly formulated.
What is turmeric or curcuma longa?
Medicinally it refers to the rhizomes or roots of the Curcuma longa. L., a plant in the family Zingiberaceae. Hence, its common names include Rhizoma Curcumae Longae, Tumeric Rhizome, Curcumae longae Rhizoma, Curcumin, Tumeric, Turmeric Root, curcuma longa root, curcuma longa rhizome, etc. In China it grows in the wild or is cultivated in Jiangxi, Fujian, Taiwan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan and other places. This herb is dug in winter when the leaves and stems are already withered. Next get rid of fibrous roots, cook or steam thoroughly, dry in the sun, cut into thick slices, and use raw.
Turmeric is a perennial herb, usually 1 to 1.5 meter in height. Roots are well developed into a bundle; branch root is oval or cylindrical, orange-yellow, and very sweet; taproot is stout and enlarges into a big tuber at the end. Basal leaves are 5 to 7 in number and arranged in two rows; petiole is 20 to 45cm long; blade is oblong or narrow-elliptic, 20 to 50cm long, 5 to 15cm wide, and with tapered apex and cuneate base. Scapes grow from the leaf sheath. The total peduncle length is from 12 to 20cm. Spica is cylindrical, and 12 to 18cm long. Flowering period is in August.
Main chemical constituents are essential oils, curcuminoids, bixin, norbixin, trace elements, etc. Volatile oil contains turmerone, ar-turmerone, curcumene, ar-curcumene, cineole, terpinene, curcumol, curzerenone, germacrone, curdione, limonene, linalool, caryophyllene, borneol, etc. Curcuminoids mainly contain curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and dihydrocurcumin.
Curcuma longa benefits
According to the records, people who live in the Indian subcontinent have eaten turmeric for about 5,000 years. As you know, curry is an important condiment, in which turmeric is the major ingredient and the exact reason why it is yellow. Besides of curry, this herb is also frequently ground into powder and used for yellow food in Southeast Asia, especially in India. Thanks to the active ingredient of curcumin contained, Ayurvedic medicine often uses it for the treatment of stomach ailments and wounds. It is also one of commonly used Chinese herbs because of it impressive medicinal properties, which was detailedly recorded in “Compendium of Materia Medica” by Li Shizhen. Today this herb is widely used for a lot of diseases, including indigestion, jaundice, diarrhea, arthritis, and chest tightness, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, skin problems, etc. And it is utilized in many forms, such as curcuma longa supplement, pills, powder, extract, capsules, tincture, tea, and so on. And its pharmacology can shed some light on the mechanism of action of this amazing medicinal plant.
Modern turmeric pharmacological actions
1. Curcumin can inhibit platelet aggregation, reduce plasma viscosity and whole blood viscosity;
2. Its decoction, turmeric powder, and petroleum ether, ethanol and water extracts are able to interrupt early pregnancy;
3. Curcumin, water extracts and active ingredients have anti-cancer effect;
4. Curcumin, alcohol or ether extract and volatile oil can lower blood pressure;
5. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects;
6. Curcumin can inhibit bacteria, and its volatile oil has a potent inhibitory effect on fungi;
7. Turmeric extract, curcumin, volatile oils, turmerone, curcumene, borneol and sesquiterpene are cholagogue;
8. Curcumin has a short and strong antihypertensive effect, and has inhibition on isolated guinea pig heart;
9. Curcumin can protect the gastric mucosa and liver cells.
Selected curcuma longa formula in homeopathic remedy
As stated in “The Chinese Herbal”, turmeric is bitter and acrid in taste and warm in medicinal properties and it involves meridians of spleen and liver. Leading curcuma longa effects and functions are breaking stasis to promote the circulation of qi and inducing menstruation to relieve menalgia. Core curcuma longa uses and indications include blood stasis caused by the stagnation of qi, hypochondriac pain, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, postpartum abdominal pain due to blood stasis, wind-damp arthralgia, bruises, and carbuncles. And recommended curcuma longa dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, teapills, or powder.
1. Jiang Huang San from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). This herb works with Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Mu Xiang (Costus Root), Wu Yao (Lindera), etc. to treat heart and chest pain due to dejected chest yang.
2. Tui Qi San from Dan Xi Xin Fa (Dan Xi’s Experiential Methods). It combines with Zhi Ke (Fructus Aurantii), Gui Xin (Cinnamomi Cortex), and Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice Root) to cure chest and rib pain caused by stagnated qi and congealing cold.
3. Jiang Huang Tang from Shang Ke Fang Shu (Book on Traumatologic Prescription). It partners with Su Mu (Sappan Wood), Ru Xiang (Frankincense), and Mo Yao (Myrrh) to heal traumatic injury, bruises, and pain.
4. Wu Bi Tang from Fu Ren Da Quan Liang Fang (A Great Compendium of Pine Formulas for Women). It couples with Qiang Huo (Notopterygium), Fang Feng (Saposhnikovia Divaricata), dong quai, etc. to remove limbs arthralgia.
5. Ru Yi Jin Huang San from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (Orthodox Exogenous Illnesses). It joins Da Huang (Rhubarb), Bai Zhi (Angelica Root), Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes Root), etc. to get rid of boils and carbuncles.
Curcuma longa side effects and drug interactions
Curcumin can be regarded as a drug, but in nature it is just kind of natural substance extracted from curcuma longa herb, which is also an edible food. As result, curcumin is usually considered as a food too and available online or offline as a dietary supplement. From the Food and Drug Administration’s perspective, it is food instead of drug. As for its toxicity, there ever was one clinical trial, in which the subjects took 8 grams of curcumin per day for 3 consecutive months. And the result showed no toxic side effects. In another clinical trial, the dose was increased to 12 grams per person per day. And gastrointestinal discomfort reaction occurred in individual subjects but it was ascribed to the cause of overdose. What if subjects take dose more than 12g? Unfortunately so far no information is available since no volunteers are willing to take that dose. Nevertheless, it is undeniably true that this herb contains low or no toxicity, which is also one of the reasons that interest many scientists from various countries. TCM wise, use turmeric with care during pregnancy and in the pattern of blood deficiency but with no qi stagnation and blood stasis.