Curcuma longa

Botanical name: Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae

Other names: Haldi (H), Manjal (T), Turmeric (E), Jiang huang (C)

Botany: Haridrā is a perennial herb that attains a height of up to 90 cm, with a short stem, long sheathing petiolate leaves, and a large cylindrical root with thick sessile tubers that are intensely orange-yellow when cut or broken.  The leaves are simple, quite large in proportion to the stem, the petiole as long as the leaf, oblong-lanceolate, glabrous, entire and acute, 30-45 cm long to 12.5 cm wide.  The yellow flowers are borne in spikes, concealed by the sheathing petioles.  Thought to be native to eastern India, Haridrā is extensively cultivated throughout the tropics (Kirtikar & Basu 1935, Warrier et al 1994).

Part used: Fresh and dried root.

• Rasa: tikta, kaṭu,
• Vipāka: kaṭu
• Vīrya: uṣṇa, rūkṣa
• Karma: dīpanapācana, grāhī, jvaraghna, kṛmighna, chedana, raktaprasādana, śothahara, cakṣuṣya, varnya, kuṣṭhaghna, saṃdhānīya, kaphapittahara (Srikanthamurthy 2001, Warrier et al 1994)

Constituents: The active constituents of Haridrā are the yellow flavonoid constituents called the curcuminoids or diarylheptanoids, of which curcumin is the best studied, but also includes methoxylated curcumins.  Haridrā also contains a volatile oil comprised of sesquiterpene ketones such as b-tumerone, as well as other volatile compounds including atlantone, zingiberone, a-phellandrene, sabinene, cineole and borneol.  Other constituents include sugars, proteins, and resins (Evans 1989, Kapoor 1990, Mills and Bone 2000, Yoganarasimhan 2000).

Medical research:
• In vitro: anti-oxidant (Boone et al 1992, Mortellini et al 2000, Toda et al 1985), anti-inflammatory (Chan 1995, Brouet & Ohshima 1995), antitumor (Thaloor et al 1998)
• In vivo: anti-ulcerogenic (Ammon & Wahl 1991, Rafatulla et al 1990), hepatoprotective (Deshpande et al 1998, Donatus et al 1990, Kiso et al 1983, Park et al 2000, Soni et al 1992), neuroprotective (Rajakrishnan et al 1999), hypolipidemic (Ramirez-Tortosa et al 1999; Ramprasad & Sirsi 1957), antithrombotic (Srivastava et al 1986), anti-oxidant (Dikshit et al 1995), anti-inflammatory  (Arora et al 1971, Mukhopadhyay et al 1982, Srivastava 1989), antitumor (Kawamori et al 1999, Limtrakul et al 1997), paracidal (Allen et al 1998), antifungal, antidermatophytic (Apisariyakul et al 1995), vulnerary (Sidhu et al 1999, Sidhu et al 1998)
• Human trials: Haridrā promoted the healing and reduction of symptoms in patients diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease (Prucksunand et al 2001); Haridrā inhibited COX-2 protein induction and prostaglandin E2 production in patients with advanced colorectal cancer (Plummer et al 2001); Haridrā produced significant symptomatic relief in patients with external cancerous lesions, reducing size, odour and pruritis (Kuttan et al 1987); Haridrā promoted a reduction in signs and symptoms of chronic anterior uveitis comparable to corticosteroids, without side-effects (Lal et al 1999); a standardized extract of Haridrā was found to promote a significant reduction in the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in a randomized study of 207 otherwise healthy patients (Bundy et al 2004). The efficacy of curcumin was examined in twenty-five H. pylori-positive patients with functional dyspepsia. While the therapy was not effective for H. pylori eradication, there was a significant improvement of dyspeptic symptoms and reduction of serologic signs of gastric inflammation after 2 months (Di Mario et al 2007). Patients with active TB diagnosis were randomized to a drug control group and a trial group on drugs plus an herbal formulation curcumin and an extract of Tinospora cordifolia. Results showed that the herbal formulation significantly prevented drug hepatotoxicity and improved the disease outcome as well as patient compliance without any toxicity or side effects (Adhvaryu et al 2008). A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study examined the efficacy of turmeric supplementation on end-stage renal disease (ESRD) due to type 2 diabetic nephropathy. Short-term turmeric supplementation was shown to attenuate proteinuria, TGF-beta and IL-8 in patients without any adverse effects (Khajehdehi et al 2012). A randomized and placebo-controlled study on turmeric was carried out in 24 patients with relapsing or refractory biopsy-proven lupus nephritis. Compared to placebo, turmeric promoted a significant decrease in proteinuria, systolic blood pressure and hematuria (Khajehdehi et al 2012). In a study of fifty patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) curcumin was found to act as an adjuvant to imatinib to decrease the nitric oxide levels associated with CML (Ghalaut et al 2012). Twenty patients with oral lichen planus underwent a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical to assess the efficacy of high dose curcuminoids (6000 mg/d in 3 divided doses). Results demonstrated that the curcuminoids promoted a statistically significant reduction in erythema and ulceration of oral lichen planus (Chainani-Wu et al 2012). In a prospective randomized open end blinded study, 80 patients with knee osteoarthritis received either 30 mg (3 times daily) of curcuminoid or 25 mg (3 times daily) of diclofenac sodium. Results showed that the curcuminoid supplement promoted a statistically significant reduction in erythema and ulceration, and reduced cycloxygenase-2 enzyme by the synovial fluid’s monocytes (Kertia et al 2012). In a placebo-controlled study of healthy middle aged people (40-60 years old) given a low dose of curcumin (80 mg/day) in a lipidated form, curcumin was shown to lower plasma triglyceride values, enhanced antioxidant status, raise plasma catalase activities, lower plasma beta amyloid protein concentrations, lower plasma sICAM readings, increase plasma myeloperoxidase (without increased c-reactive protein levels), increase plasma nitric oxide, and decrease plasma alanine amino transferase activities (DiSilvestro 2012). In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 60 subjects diagnosed with mild to moderately elevated ALT levels, a fermented preparation of Curcuma longa was shown to significantly reduce both serum AST and ALT, without adverse effects (Kim et al 2013). In a trial of 16 patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), researchers demonstrated curcumin reversed indications of chronic inflammation and diminished antioxidant status (Moreillon et al 2013).

Toxicity: The oral LD50 in rats of the petroleum-ether extract of Haridrā was determined to be 12.2g/kg (Arora et al 1971).  Researchers evaluated the potential oral toxicity of curcumin taken over a three month period in 25 patients suffering from a variety of severe illnesses.  Researchers noted that there was no treatment-related toxicity up to 8 g daily, but that beyond this, the bulky volume of the drug was unacceptable to the patients (Cheng et al 2001).  Haridrā is commonly used as a culinary spice and is generally recognized as safe.

Indications: Poor appetite, dyspepsia, peptic and duodenal ulcers, gas and flatulence, constipation, candidiasis, intestinal parasites, pharyngitis, catarrh, bronchitis, asthma, anemia, cholecystitis, cholecystalgia, jaundice, hepatitis, hepatosplenomegaly, edema, inflammatory joint disease, sports injuries, skin diseases, parasitic skin conditions, wounds, bruises, sprains, fractures, diabetes, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, amenorrhea, gonorrhea, cystitis, cancer prevention and treatment.

Contraindications: vātakopa, in excess.

Medicinal uses:  Haridrā is one of the more familiar Indian herbs in West, most people identifying it with the flavor of curries, although in actuality Haridrā is only a minor component in most spice mixtures, used in small proportions as a coloring agent rather than for its flavor, which is rather bitter and unpleasant.  The same potency of Haridrā to color curries and other foods is also utilized in the dyeing of textiles, for which it was imported from India to the West before the advent of aniline dyes.  Haridrā is still used in India as a dyeing agent, not only for textiles but also as a cosmetic, popular among Indian women as a paste to improve the texture and luster of the skin.  Haridrā also has important symbolic uses in Hindu ceremonies, especially at weddings in which it is used to draw designs on the hands and feet.  The activity of Haridrā as a dyeing agent is due to the curcuminoids, which are also in large part responsible for its medicinal activities.  The volatile constituents and resins,, however, are also medicinal and therefore aqueous extracts are avoided in favor of the cūrṇa or a tincture.  Given the quality of Haridrā as a culinary spice,, however, the tincture made from the fresh rhizomes is preferred, allowing for a lower dosage, which can enhance patient compliance considerably.  Haridrā is among the more common household remedies in Āyurveda.  For mild colds and flus one teaspoon of the cūrṇa is mixed with one half teaspoon of Śūṇṭhī, with a little honey and water, taken two to three times daily.  In pharyngitis Haridrā cūrṇa can be mixed with Yaṣṭimadhu  cūrṇa, saindhava  and water and gargled, thrice daily.  For dry coughs and bronchitis, one large teaspoon of Haridrā cūrṇa can be decocted in a 150 mL of milk, taken with honey.  Mixed with a pinch of Śūṇṭhī and Pippalī powders, Haridrā is mixed with a small amount of ghṛta, burned and inhaled in dhūma to treat respiratory catarrh.  For skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, acne and parasitic infections (e.g. scabies) Haridrā is taken internally as well as applied externally as a paste with water or honey, or prepared as a medicated ghṛta, although people with very white skin may find the transient staining somewhat unappealing.  For sprains, bruises and other sports-related injuries Haridrā can be made into a paste with honey, and applied generously over the affected part and covered with plastic wrap, changing the dressing every few hours.  Taken internally, Haridrā is an effective treatment to strengthen the joints and tendons, and is an exceptionally important remedy in arthritis and other joint diseases, often used with Guggulu and Śūṇṭhī.  In the treatment of ophthalmic disorders equal parts Haridrā and Triphalā can be prepared as a medicated ghṛta and applied to the eye.  The Cakradatta recommends a collyrium called Saugata añjana in ophthalmic disorders, prepared from equal parts Haridrā, Dāruharidrā, Harītakī, Jaṭāmāṃsī, Kuṣṭha and Pippalī (Sharma 2002).  Prepared with equal parts Yaṣṭimadhu and Śatāvarī, Haridrā can be used as as a douche or medicated ghṛta in cervical dysplasia.  In the treatment of hemorrhoids the cūrṇa can be mixed with mustard oil and applied topically, to accompany internal treatments.  Taken as a paste prepared with Guḍūcī and Āmalakī, Haridrā may be of benefit in diabetes.  Combined with Guggulu, Haridrā can be an effective treatment in dyslipidemia.  In the treatment of jaundice the Cakradatta recommends a milk decoction of Haridrā, Pippalī, Nimba, Balā and Yaṣṭimadhu (Sharma 2002).  In the treatment of memory loss, poor concentration, and speech disorders the Cakradatta recommends a formula called Kalyāṇakaleha, consisting of Haridrā mixed with equal parts Vacā, Kuṣṭha, Śūṇṭhī, Jīraka, Yaṣṭimadhu and saindhava , taken with ghṛta (Sharma 2002).  In the treatment of gout with kaphaja symptoms the Cakradatta recommends a formulation of Haridrā, Āmalakī and Mustaka (Sharma 2002).  Haridrā is used in Chinese medicine for patterns of blood stasis and stagnant qi, with cold and deficiency, in the treatment of menstrual pain, abdominal pain and pain in the shoulders (Bensky & Gamble 1993).

• Cūrṇa: recently dried and powdered rhizome, 3-5 g b.i.d.-t.i.d.; up to 10 g t.i.d. of the herb derived from culinary sources
• Svarasa: 15-25 mL, b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Kvātha: 1:4, 30-90 mL, b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Tincture: fresh rhizome, 1:2, 95%, 2-5 ml b.i.d.-t.i.d.