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Turmeric

Truly Golden!

Turmeric has amazing health benefits
Turmeric has amazing health benefits

Turmeric is hot in the news today! News Reports highlighted the recent decision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has said his government will not go back on its decision on import restriction when it comes to Turmeric. Green Thumbs speaks to Director of the Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Swarna Hapuarachchi on the recent events concerning this highly valuable plant that has a wide array of Health Benefits. It is a plant that needs the spotlight where local production is concerned.

Hapuarachchi quoted an article by Darshana Perera published in 2010 who has stated that the turmeric industry in Ampara is considered an important area due to its popularity among the farmers as an income-generating crop in the paddy lands. It is also noted since 1986 the cultivation is continued up to-date with unsolved problems related to productivity, processing and marketing. However, on a national point of view it is an important product where the imports can be substituted to save the outflow of foreign reserves and improving the livelihood of rural people.

“If we start to cultivate turmeric in other areas having well-drained sandy or clay loam rich in humus content, we will get a good harvest. Further, it can be grown on different soils - light black, ashy loam and red soils to clay loams,” said Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi said according to that article the Sri Lanka Export Development Board has made arrangements to initiate the Project on Cultivation of Turmeric under Agro Zone Development Programme which was a Budget Proposal 2009 for small farm clusters in Ampara District in Uhana, Galapitagala, Senagama and Gonagolla area with the assistance of the Agriculture Department in Ampara and Agriculture Productivity Village Cooperative Society (APVCS) in Ampara.

Successful outcome

“If this project continues in other areas, through technology, increase in productivity, improvement in quality, value addition and competitive marketing, there will be a successful outcome when it comes to providing sufficient production for local consumers,” said Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi added that the quality of imported raw material is not in good status containing fungal infected rhizomes (with molds). But due to unavailability of local turmeric in the market, consumers are facing problems to identify the adulterants (mixing with starch powder/ chickpea powder).

“Since local Turmeric has high Curcumin content (oleoresin), there is a great need to impose a quality/technical barrier to restrict import of Turmeric that contains less than four percent active ingredients. I suggest that the government and responsible authorities initiate appropriate steps to develop direct linkages between growers and private sector enterprises. It is most important to have technology that is required for the Turmeric value chain that increases productivity. This will benefit the production of local Turmeric and save foreign exchange through reduced imports of low-quality produce,” added Hapuarachchi.

Promoting research and development

She also added that what she has stated so far is by now mostly common knowledge when it comes to Turmeric production in Sri Lanka. She highlighted the fact that in her opinion, attention needs to be paid to this crop in order to promote research and development which will enhance its quality, characteristics and productivity leading to competitive marketing. Additionally, attention needs to be paid for Turmeric value -added products such as beauty care, beverages, medicinal and therapy.

Sri Lanka was in the past self-sufficient in turmeric cultivation but along the years, its production fell. The reason for this was that the local supply was not sufficient for local consumers. It is common knowledge and has been for a long time that this spice is used in everyday cooking in Sri Lanka, in a range of regional dishes from the hodi or sodhi (stew), a staple side dish with strong hoppers, hoppers and pittu, to dal, eaten with rice and curry. Further, following the pandemic, some have begun adding a pinch of turmeric to their daily cup of tea, citing ‘medicinal’ properties it is believed to have.

Medicinal value

“Turmeric is a popular spice crop in Sri Lanka containing curcumin, which has several medicinal values. The healing ability of turmeric has long been recognized by traditional medicine practitioners. Western scientists have examined evidence that claims that turmeric acts as an anti-cancer agent. Turmeric is traditionally used to prepare curry mixes in many Asian countries. In addition, turmeric is widely used in cosmetic industries, too. Therefore, the demand for turmeric is continuously increasing in Sri Lanka and turmeric cultivation is a profitable agribusiness,” explained Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi stated that it is a well -known truth that recently an inspection was carried out to determine the quality of Turmeric in the local market. There are now deep concerns about the quality of Turmeric in the local market! There are poor quality products that have been imported. There are also concerns that there are traders who are mixing flour with various coloring and selling as turmeric in line with the shortage of turmeric in the local market. Hapuarachchi stated that one step the government can take is applying quality control measures. According to the Consumer Affairs Authority, raids are also underway in search of traders who are selling Turmeric at higher prices than the stipulated amount.

According to news reports, the Sri Lankan Navy has seized a total of 7552 kilograms of Turmeric smuggled into the island during special raids conducted since July 28, Navy officials have said.

“Sri Lankan farmers should be encouraged to grow turmeric. As a home gardening initiative, now people are being encouraged to grow turmeric for their daily uses. This can be done easily by growing turmeric in pots or polyethene bags in small scale at their homes. I think this is one reason that the Agriculture Ministry has decided to halt importing turmeric from India and Myanmar immediately. A shortage of turmeric is evident now but this problem will be rectified soon ministry sources have said. Farmers will be encouraged to grow turmeric to meet the local requirement. About 5,000 farmers cultivate turmeric, and they will be provided with expertise, facilities and loans,” pointed out Hapuarachchi.

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF TURMERIC

The bright yellow spice used throughout Asia for centuries, has in recent decades been embraced by the West, not just for its ability to satisfy our appetite for curry, but for its impressive list of health benefits. Turmeric has an ancient history of uses in cooking, fabric dyeing, cosmetics and traditional medicine in China and India. Its potent ingredient, curcumin, not only gives turmeric its golden color, but also has an array of properties that are beneficial to health.

* Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is a necessary process in the body, as it fights off harmful invaders and repairs damage caused by bacteria, viruses and injuries. However, long-term inflammation has been implicated in most chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, so must be controlled. The curcumin in turmeric has proven, strong anti-inflammatory properties that block the action of inflammatory molecules in the body.

* Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant

Curcumin has been shown to be a robust fighter of oxygen free radicals, which are chemically active molecules that cause damage to the body’s cells. Free radical damage, along with inflammation, is a key driver of cardiovascular disease, so curcumin can play a part in preventing and managing heart disease.

* Turmeric has anti-cancer effects

Studies have explored turmeric’s influence on cancer, and many have found that it can affect cancer formation, growth and development at a molecular level. Research has shown that it can reduce the spread of cancer and can contribute to the death of cancerous cells. However, this needs to be taken with a pinch of salt because research is still ongoing!

* Turmeric may help with skin conditions

According to a study, turmeric has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

* Turmeric MIGHT be brain food

There is growing evidence that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and may help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It works to reduce inflammation as well as the build-up of protein plaques in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers. Another study of 60 patients showed that curcumin was as effective as an anti-depressant in treating depression, by boosting levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (reduced levels of this chemical are associated with depression). While most of the current research is being carried out in a lab or on animals, the results are encouraging.

* It is good for health skin

Turmeric contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. These characteristics may provide glow and luster to the skin. Turmeric may also revive your skin by bringing out its natural glow. ALSO, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric may help your psoriasis by controlling flares and other symptoms. It may help with acne scarring.

* It can heal wounds

The curcumin found in turmeric can help wound healing by decreasing inflammation and oxidation. It also lowers the response of your body to cutaneous wounds. This results in your wounds healing more quickly.


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