Turmeric is a perennial plant: it belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, just like ginger or cardamom. The Zingiberaceae family includes over a thousand species of plants. The turmeric plant can measure 60 centimeters to one meter in height.
Turmeric is used as a spice: the rhizome is the part of the plant that is generally consumed (1). The rhizomes are the underground stems of turmeric (2). Turmeric is made up of a primary rhizome (called a “mother rhizome”) and several secondary rhizomes. Secondary rhizomes have many roots: these are the rhizomes that are eaten. After their extraction, they are then reduced to powder and are generally marketed in this form.
Turmeric includes several species: turmeric longa, domestica, xanthorrhiza and aromatica. However, the turmeric that is most commonly sold commercially is turmeric longa.
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Where is turmeric grown?
The origin of turmeric is not yet well established. Turmeric is believed to originate from tropical or subtropical Asia (3). As a result, turmeric is mainly cultivated in South Asia and more particularly in India, where the culture of turmeric has existed for about 6000 years (4). 80% of world turmeric production is concentrated in India (5).
Turmeric production is also carried out in Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand and even on the island of Reunion.
Turmeric is a plant that appreciates heat bioperine is also used. The rhizome of the plant can still tolerate the cold well but very poorly supports the humidity which can be harmful to it.
How is turmeric produced?
World production of turmeric takes place mainly in India. The rhizomes are planted during the dry season, and their planting is done alternately with other crops, so that the land can renew itself. Clay soil is best for turmeric to grow properly, although rhizomes can be planted on different types of soil (6). The turmeric is harvested from February until April.
The turmeric harvest
Harvest and cut turmeric
Harvesting of turmeric takes place eight to nine months after planting.
The turmeric is harvested by turning the earth upside down. The roots, soil and leaves are removed. The rhizomes are then gently washed (7).
The rhizomes must undergo treatments before they can be consumed (8):
– the rhizomes are boiled;
– they are then dried in the sun (ovens can also be used to dry them).
– they are polished mechanically, so that the surface of the rhizomes is smooth, and free from impurities. Polishing can be carried out from a rotating drum (9).
The rhizomes are then reduced to powder, even if a small part is marketed without undergoing additional treatments, in particular for the preparation of essential oils of turmeric or for its consumption in the form of juice.
The different ways to use turmeric
The essential oil of turmeric is obtained after distillation of the rhizomes, it has an aromatic odor. It is yellow-orange in color and is used on a small scale in the world of perfumery (10).
Consumption of turmeric
Turmeric different ways to consume it
Turmeric can be consumed in different ways:
– Fresh: the rhizomes can be grated and added to savory or sweet dishes (11);
– In the form of juice: the turmeric juice is yellow-orange in color and is extracted directly from the plant;
– In powder. Turmeric is generally consumed in powder and is used as spices to decorate and flavor dishes. It is one of the essential ingredients of Indian curries.
Turmeric is mainly used to spice up dishes, but it also has very specific benefits and benefits, thanks to its main active component, curcumin.
What are the properties of curcumin?
Curcumin is a collection of pigments found in turmeric: they give the rhizomes the yellow color. These pigments are more commonly known as curcuminoids (12).
Curcumin has been extensively studied for its antioxidant properties.
What is an antioxidant?
An antioxidant, according to the Larousse dictionary, is an agent that reduces the effects due to oxidation, ensuring better aging. It helps reduce oxidative stress within the body: a state of oxidative stress can help promote illness or accelerated aging (13).
According to a 2012 study, curcumin has a positive effect on wound healing (14).
Curcumin is also said to have beneficial effects on muscle regeneration: it would treat muscle damage. Indeed, curcumin acts positively on myogenesis, a biological phenomenon involved in the formation of muscle tissue. This suggests therapeutic applications for treating muscle injuries (15).
Cholesterol gallstones are also believed to be impacted by the action of curcumin. Curcumin is thought to limit the formation of gallstones in the body (16).
Arthritis symptoms are said to be greatly reduced due to the action of curcumin (17). In fact, Dr. Deodhar was the first to report in 1980 the anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic activity of curcumin in patients with arthritis.
What is piperine?
Piperine is a molecule that can be found in the botanical family of piperaceae (pepper family).
Why combine turmeric and piperine?
As seen earlier, turmeric has many benefits. However, when ingested orally it loses its effectiveness. Turmeric is quickly broken down when it passes through the intestines and the liver.
According to Dr. Han Siem, who specializes in the interactions between conventional and complementary medication, “40 to 80% of curcumin passes through the gastrointestinal tract and is evacuated with the faeces, with the result that curcumin disappears quickly from the blood circulation ”. The effectiveness of curcumin is then considerably reduced.
Certain adjuvants intended to increase the absorption of certain components within the human body, such as micelles, hydrophilic supports, phospholipid complexes, nanotechnology, oil micronization or liposomes, do not work for turmeric ( 18) (19).
Only piperine allows a better assimilation of turmeric by the body. The impact of piperine is quite different: the combination of turmeric with black pepper promotes the release of the active ingredient in curcumin, without undergoing degradation. This is why black pepper cannot be dissociated from turmeric.
Consume turmeric: for or against?
According to a 2018 study by the Committee for Herbal Medicines (belonging to the European Medicines Agency), consumption of turmeric should only be for adults (20). Consuming turmeric is not recommended for pregnant women (21).
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (owned by the United States National Health Centers), applying turmeric to the skin or consuming it orally is considered safe and not harmful to health (22).
The consumption of turmeric in large quantities can, for some individuals, cause intestinal disorders: flatulence, irritation of the stomach, or even a feeling of dry mouth. Overdose is therefore to be avoided.
Turmeric is obviously not recommended for people with allergies to this plant.