The turmeric leaf is derived from a plant that grows extensively in India, other parts of Southern Asia and Africa. Turmeric is used as a fabric dye and is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also purported to have some medicinal uses, but the University of Maryland Medical Center urges caution, as there are no conclusive studies regarding its uses. Always consult your doctor before using medicinal herbs or food supplements.
Turmeric, whose biological name Curcuma longa, has been used in India as part of Ayurvedic medicine, and in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, to treat a variety of health conditions. An active ingredient in the turmeric leaf is curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant.
As part of Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric leaves can be crushed into a paste and applied to the skin. This use dates back to ancient times and is still in use today in India. It is believed turmeric may help keep the skin soft and smooth, make the skin glow, produce a fairer complexion and remove blemishes such as spots. It is also used to alleviate skin conditions such as eczema and as an antiseptic to treat cuts and burns.
Turmeric is found in capsule and tablet form in antioxidant preparations, which help scavenge harmful free radicals. Curcumin gives turmeric anti-inflammatory properties, which may help it alleviate osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as suggested by a study by the University of Arizona reported in the March 2006 issue of the "Journal of Natural Production."
Turmeric may help prevent atherosclerosis, some cancers and diabetes. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center says although studies on animals are promising, research is still in its infancy and doubts remain. For example, animal studies show turmeric reduces the blood sugar levels of diabetic animals, but it is unsure if it would have the same effect on human subjects.
Tumeric leaves, also known as haldi leaves, are used extensively as aromatic herbs in Indian, Thai and Malaysian cooking. Fresh turmeric leaves are used whole in select dishes and dried turmeric leaves soaked in water with the extract used in cooking. Turmeric leaves are also used as food coloring and as a basic ingredient in curry powders. Turmeric leaves are purported to improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating.