Turmeric

Botanical Name: Curcuma longa | Family: Zingiberaceae

Common name(s): Turmeric, Jiang huang, Haldi

GROWING

  • Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 10 – 11 (if grown inside, minimum temperature is 64 degrees) | 40 inches tall | Long, oblong green leaves (the undersides are lighter green) | Yellow-white flowers on long spikes | Seeds are sterile
  • Rhizomes are orange and grow between 1 – 3 inches in length and less than an inch in diameter. They are ringed, which are the remnants of old leaves. Propagation is only via root and the plant is domesticated and not found in the wild. It is believed to be a cross between ginger and wild turmeric (Curcuma aromatica).
  • Shade to dappled sunlight | Moist soil; loamy or sandy  | Container growing: Shallow container (2′ x 8″) filled with loose potting soil

HARVESTING

Turmeric takes 7 – 10 months to mature. The rhizomes are harvested after the leaves have drooped and withered.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Tincture (1:5, 50% alcohol): 10-30 drops
Powder: 1 tsp powder mixed into water or added to food

MEDICAL

Constituents: Curcumin, essential oils (containing zingiberene and turmerone), bitters, resins, miscellaneous proteins, sugars, fixed oil, nutrients: vitamins B1, B2, B3, C, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, zinc

Actions: Alterative, analgesic, anti-coagulant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, astringent, antiseptic, aromatic stimulant, carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue, hepatic

Uses: Arthritis, bronchitis, cancer, digestive issues (including indigestion), gallbladder and liver issues (including gallstones, jaundice, and skin disorders), enhancing immunity, lowering cholesterol, preventing blood clots, promoting menstruation and inducing labor, pain relief

Cautions: avoid during pregnancy, use with caution when dealing with gallstones (even though it can also help pass them), at therapeutic (high) doses turmeric could cause gastric issues in certain individuals and could interfere with (by increasing the action of) blood thinners.

Note: turmeric as a food, used in lower doses such as in teas or cooking, is generally recognized as safe.* (It is a staple of Indian cuisine and has been for thousands of years)  It is when you get to the higher doses that you may run into the cautions mentioned above. The bioavailability of curcumin (tumeric’s most studied constituent) can be boosted by combining turmeric with cracked black peppercorns (piperine) and a little bit of healthy fat – which are often ingredients used when cooking with turmeric spice.

*Everybody is different and you should always pay attention to the effects a new food or herb is having on your body.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Spicy, bitter, warm

SOURCES 

Numerous reference have conflicting information about growing turmeric, which I’ve tried doing in the past. My takeaway, for the next time I try, is that the plants take 7-10 months to mature, require that the temperature never go below 64 degrees Farenheit, that the soil should be loose with nice organic matter and kept moist, that dappled sunshine probably produces larger plants than full shade, that the roots should be planted sideways in a shallow but large enough container, that plants take a few weeks to emerge, and that harvesting should be done after the aerial parts wither. For me, in Massachusetts, that would mean starting them under grow lights in January or February, and putting them outside in the warm summer and back inside until the roots can be harvested. And while inside, the temperature can’t go below 64 degrees.

Fun fact: Curcumin longa has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for over 4,000 years. 

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