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Is Turmeric the Natural Remedy of the Century?
There's a lot of exciting buzz around turmeric these days, and there's plenty of good reason for it.
Hidden deep in the plant's bright yellow roots is an extraordinarily powerful compound called curcumin that has the unique ability to block an enzyme that causes inflammation, while combating free-radical damage to highly sensitive vital organs like your brain and heart.
In fact, curcumin's antioxidant benefits and ability to promote a healthy inflammatory response can revolutionize your health from head to toe. Curcumin is so powerful that some are calling it the "natural remedy of the century.
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is commonly used in Asian food. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses.
But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine.
It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.
Turmeric is used for arthritis, heartburn (dyspepsia), joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, hemorrhage, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection,
stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallbladder disorders, high cholesterol, a skin condition called lichen planus, skin inflammation from radiation treatment, and fatigue.
It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, hay fever, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, itchy skin, and recovery after surgery, and cancers.
Other uses include depression, Alzheimer's disease, swelling in the middle layer of the eye (anterior uveitis), diabetes, water retention, worms, and an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), tuberculosis, urinary bladder inflammation, and kidney problems.
Some people apply turmeric to the skin for pain, ringworm, sprains and swellings, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, acne, inflammatory skin conditions and skin sores, soreness inside of the mouth, infected wounds, and gum disease.
Turmeric is also used as an enema for people with inflammatory bowel disease.
In food and manufacturing, the essential oil of turmeric is used in perfumes, and its resin is used as a flavor and color component in foods.
How to Grow Your Own Turmeric Indoors
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Preparing to Plant
In most parts of the U.S. turmeric will produce best if you plant it indoors in the late winter.
Depending on your indoor and outdoor space you can either keep it inside as a houseplant all summer or move it outside once all chance of frost is past and the weather is warm enough to put out your pepper and eggplant seedlings. And if you live in Zones 8-11, you can grow it completely outdoors.
1. Calculate when to plant.
Turmeric takes seven to 10 months from planting to harvest. To figure out when you should plant, count back 10 months from when you usually get your first frost in the fall.
My first frost is around mid-October, so I'd start my turmeric between mid-December and mid-March.
If your growing season is longer, or you have a large and sunny indoor space to grow it, your timing is less critical, but you're still likely to get the best results from planting in late winter through spring.
2. Source your rhizomes.
Turmeric is grown from rhizomes, fleshy root-like structures. My local supermarket and health food store both have fresh rhizomes for sale in the winter. Asian or Indian groceries are also likely to stock it, or may be able to order some for you.
If you can't find any locally, Jung Seed sells small potted plants, or you can buy fresh turmeric rhizomes from a number of sellers on Amazon or eBay. (Choose a seller in the U.S. to avoid possible customs issues). Select plump rhizomes with as many bumps (buds) along the sides as possible.
You will need a 14- to 18-inch pot or planter for each 6 to 8 inches of rhizome, and enough potting soil to fill it. But to start, it's more practical to sprout your rhizomes in smaller containers and then transplant them into the larger containers once they have a few leaves and are growing well.
1. Cut your rhizomes into sections, with two or three buds on each section.
2. Fill 3-inch pots halfway with a good potting soil.
3. Lay the rhizome sections flat on the soil, and cover with more potting soil.
4. Water well and slip the pots into clear plastic bags.
5. Place the pots or clamshells in the warmest place you can find (86 to 95 degrees is ideal). Sprouting at lower temperatures will be very slow and your rhizomes may even rot rather than sprout.
No toasty location? You can make a great germination chamber with a heating pad or a small desk lamp, a picnic cooler, and a thermometer. Or you can buy a small germination chamber for home use. Light or no light is fine at this stage.