A Healing Spice

While turmeric may be the latest super-food to add into your coffee, it has been used as a healing food in the practice of Ayurveda for centuries.

Known as the golden spice because of its dark yellow bark, turmeric is a rhizome native to South Asia. The scientific name for the plant is Curcuma longa. It is a well-known perennial belonging to the ginger family.

Commonly found in curries and Indian cooking, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes in India for centuries. It has been used by Ayurvedic healers to improve digestion, dissolve gallstones, and relieve arthritis — among numerous other benefits.


It is also valued in Ayurveda for its ability to fight inflammation. Inflammation is an underlying issue with many diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease that stems from inflammation of the gums — when plaque and tartar are not removed from the teeth, they irritate the gums and cause inflammation.

A 2012 study reported in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology observed 60 people for 21 days. Half of them rinsed their mouths with a turmeric mouthwash and the other half used chlorohexidine, a standard mouthwash used in dentists’ offices. The study revealed that the turmeric mouthwash was able to reduce the occurrence of plaque, attesting to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. Better still, it was able to do it without any of the side effects of cholorohexidine.


Turmeric is also believed to have anti-microbial effects. It has been used for centuries to heal open wounds and infections. A study performed at Siksha O Anusandhan University in Orissa, India, tested the efficacy of turmeric oil on eye infections. It showed that turmeric oil was effective against bacterial infections, without the side effects often seen in the use of antibiotics.

Recognition beyond Asia

The benefits of turmeric — particularly its active ingredient, curcumin — are increasingly been recognised and studied in the West. In fact, turmeric is these days being touted as a super-food, with turmeric supplements popping up in pharmacies and natural food stores — all the more reason to sprinkle turmeric powder liberally in your food and drinks, from curries to lattes.






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