Turmeric as Medicine

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Turmeric is one herb available abundantly within Bali’s ecoscape. I try to promote its use whenever possible because locals can have cheap access to this herb. Balinese see turmeric as a panacea, and it is not surprising why. The main extract of turmeric is curcumin, which also give turmeric that resplendent orange color. Much of the research done has been on the turmeric known as Curcuma Longa, known as Kunyit in Bali, and known as Jiang Huang in Chinese medicine.

Source: Medicinalfoods.com

In Chinese Medicine, Turmeric has  a more narrowed-down functional profile: It is seen as a herb that helps to sooth out stagnant Qi and transform blood stasis, mainly in the treatment of pain. It is the ‘warmer’ curcuma when placed alongside another curcuma called Curcuma Wenyujin, a tulip-shaped root. Called Yu Jin in Chinese Medicine, this herb has similar properties to Curcuma Longa, but it is used more to move blood in cases where emotional qi is stagnated, often together with Chai Hu aka Bupleurum. This is Curcuma Wenyujin below.

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Another type of tumeric is also known to the Balinese people as Temulawak. Temulawak is Curcuma Xanthorrhiza or Zedoaria, and is called E Zhu in Chinese medicine. Like tumeric, it is called curcumin in Bali, which adds to the confusion.

In Chinese medicine, both the above-mentioned curcumas are warm in nature and have similar properties.

Turmeric is useful in the treatment of:

  1. Disorders of the Digestive Tract: Turmeric is best known as treatment for Balinese maag or gastritis. We know that it is hepatotropic and stimulates bile production. It likely facilitates secretion of other gastric juices, thus aiding digestion. However, it may not be too helpful for a person with gastric ulcers. We have other herbs combinations in Chinese medicine that may be helpful in such a situation. Note too how its ability to stimulate bile production may cause gall-stone pain for the unprepared individual.
  2. Hepatitis: Patients with hepatitis are advised to continue on a regular regimen of turmeric juice. This is the cheapest and most affordable means of maintaining their liver health. We also put them on a Chinese herbal formula if they can also afford use it on a consistent basis.
  3. Diabetes: Both Cinnamon and Turmeric have been researched as treatment for diabetes. They are able to mildly reduce blood sugar and LDL levels. People already on pharmaceutical medication for diabetes have to be careful of possible hypoglycemia if they begin using turmeric regularly.
  4. Inflammatory diseases: Curcumin is known to reduce many inflammatory markers e.g. cytokines IL-6, IL-1, and TNF and is being researched for the treatment of many diseases for which inflammation is an essential component. These include ulcerative colitis, COPD, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis as well as topically for skin diseases. In Chinese medicine, turmeric is a herb that enters the blood and is a blood mover, which relates not only to its ability to reduce inflammation, but also to reduce clotting and thin the blood. Hence, it should not be used together with warfarin if possible. Also, turmeric should be used with care if at all in pregnant and post-partum ladies.
  5. Cancer: Curcumin is presently being researched for its possible anti-cancer effects, certainly linked to its anti-inflammatory functions.

There are of course other ingredients apart from curcumin in the whole root, some of whose functions are anti-microbial in nature, others whose function we may not know of. For example, research shows that components other than the curcuminoids help in the metabolism of lipids and lipoprotein.

Remember that it doesn’t harm to add a pinch of black pepper together with the turmeric as this increases its bioavailability in the body!

PS: For those interested, pls inquire about the Herb Recognition Tour in the largest Herb Market in China!