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Saturday, February 1, 2020

significance of turmeric (Manjal) - Western research

Natural plant products have been used throughout human history for various purposes.

For a Srivaishnavaite, the best ornament is Thiruman Kappu.  Srivaishnava Urdhva Pundra (Thirumann)  should be worn  with great humility, thanking the achAryA and Sriman NArAyanA for their mercy.  Thiruman (White) is a type of soil gotten in Thirunarayanapuram, where Swami Emperumanar lived for 12 years.   The Srichurnam worn in between is an admix of turmeric and rice.   

Turmeric (manjal) is of highest religious significance.  In every function, in every vratham, it is the manjal that is foremost.  In Wedding and rituals for new born, there are ceremonies where turmeric paste is applied.  Turmeric is considered most auspicious and  it signifies purity, fertility and good health.  Turmeric is extremely good for the skin. Turmeric is considered a cleanser and a purifier both literally and symbolically.  The colour yellow is indeed associated with new beginnings, peace and happiness. In Thirumanjanam for Emperuman in Srivaishnava temples, manjal is extensively used and the turmeric mixed holy water is the ultimate solution for all our goodness.

Turmeric’s  botanical name is Curcuma longa. The plant reaches barely three feet in height and produces both a flower and a rhizome, or stem that is found underground. The rhizome has an appearance similar to ginger; it is this root-like stem that produces the yellow turmeric spice. India has been the largest producer of turmeric since ancient times.  It is grown in Telengana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.    There are so many varieties of turmeric – yet the one from Erode is unique.  It is smaller in size and slender and has  a high curcumin content of around 3.9%. The loamy red and black soil of the area is believed to be the reason behind the distinctive brilliant yellow colour, as well as its characteristic sweet taste and aroma, making it the preferred choice of commercial curry powder manufacturers in India and abroad.

Once harvested, the turmeric fingers are separated from the rhizome and boiled for 15-20 minutes either in water or in specialised steamers until they get the right texture. The boiling influences the colour and aroma of the final product. The fingers are then dried in the sun for at least a fortnight before being polished mechanically to remove impurities and then brought to the market. Farmers say the Erode turmeric is pest resistant for up to 100 days after boiling.    Erode has obtained GI tag too for its turmeric.   At Erode,  the association of 357 turmeric traders and warehouse operators, called ‘Erode Manjal Vanigarkal Matrum Kidangu Urimaiyalarkal Sangam’, is among the busiest in the country. The daily auction of turmeric takes place  at a market hall in Nasiyanur, Erode district.

A compound found in turmeric could unlock new treatments in the battle against cancer, a scientific review has suggested. Researchers say the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers of curcumin mean it could halt the development of tumours.  They analysed almost 5,000 studies and found it blocked the growth of eight types of cancers, under laboratory settings, says a report in MailOnline.    The academics from Temple University in Philadelphia say curcumin stops nutrients from being transported to tumours.  Scientists say the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers of curcumin – the pigment in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow colour - make it prime for halting the development of tumours.  It also prevents the death of healthy cells by blocking cancer cells from releasing harmful proteins.

The academics concluded curcumin - the pigment in turmeric that gives it its colour - could 'represent an effective drug for cancer treatment, alone or combined with other agents'. But although it is widely used in Eastern medicine, and has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic effects, curcumin is not an option currently. This is because it has never been tested in large-scale human trials, a necessary requirement for all medicines.  The Temple University scientists hope their finding will spur on more clinical studies of curcumin's effect on cancer. The therapeutic benefits of the spice have been shown in multiple chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and liver disease.  Some experiments have also shown it can help speed recovery after surgery, as well as treat arthritis.   As part of the latest review, researchers, led by Dr Antonio Giordano, a pathologist at Temple, scoured studies on curcumin published since 1924.

Studies have shown it is an effective painkiller and also reduces the risk of lung disease, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and depression.  They found 12,595 papers on the compound, but whittled them down to 4,738 that specifically looked at its effect on cancer.  Writing in the paper, published in the journal Nutrients, the authors said: 'The search for new effective drugs able to combat cancer diseases still represents a challenge for many scientists.  However, they warn it is not a miracle drug as previous studies have shown it causes number of side effects, including diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches.

Dieneke Ferguson had been diagnosed with the blood cancer myeloma in 2007 and had undergone three rounds of chemotherapy as well as four stem cell transplants.  The cancer, which has an average survival of just over five years, was causing increasing back pain and she had already had a second relapse. But it stabilised after Mrs Ferguson, from north London, came across the remedy on the internet in 2011 and decided to try it as a last resort.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
6th Jan 2020.

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