turmeric the most essential herb for a yoga (asana) practice
This post is related to a series of post about nutrition & yoga.
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“a day without turmeric is a day without a downward facing dog”
Asana’s work from the outside of the body into the inside of the body, pranayama works from the inside, the core, to the outside of the body. Both work on all aspects of the body mind, from the gross to the subtle. Pratyahara works from the senses and the mind. Dharana works with the mind. Meditation is beyond the mind and works with the subtle energies within the body mind. Nutrients work on molecular level, they can do there work from the inside of the cell, and penetrate the cell from the outside. Taking particular nutrients together with a yoga practice, can upgrade the beneficial effects more, what yoga has prepared within the body mind, nutrients can take beyond that. And/or what the nutrients have been doing on a cellular level, yoga can act on.
Most of this information comes from the following sources;
The Ayurvedic Spice of Life ©2003 Prashanti de Jager (www.omorganics.com)
Yoga and Ayurveda. Dr. David Frawley.
Turmeric is truly a great herb, the following text is merely an abbreviation of the wide range of benefits of Turmeric, and meant to inspire you to add turmeric to your daily diet as adding yoga to your daily life, and notice how well those 2 can go together for your general well-being.
from tao te ching;
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
Dr David Frawley rounds it all up; “There is little that it cannot do in the realm of healing and much that no other herb is able to accomplish. Turmeric has a broad spectrum of actions, mild but certain effects, and is beneficial for long term and daily usage. Though it is a common spice, few people, including herbalists know of its great value and are using it to the extent possible. It is an herb that one should get to know and live with. Turmeric gently stimulates the digestive fire and makes the food easier to digest and absorb. It also helps detoxify the food. In addition it improves the quality of food, adding nutritive and blood building properties to the oils with which it combines, particularly ghee (clarified butter), with which it has an important affinity. It is essential to Ayurvedic diets. In addition Turmeric is a great woman’s herb and is helpful for many gynecological problems. It mildly promotes menstruation, relieves menstrual pain and cramping, is great for countering PMS, and helps build the blood. It helps guard against or even remove cysts in the breast or uterus, and is a good guard against breast cancer. In addition it helps beautify the skin and improve the complexion, promoting circulation and nutrition to the surface of the body. It vitalizes the body’s own natural healing energy through its action of strengthening digestion and circulation, and aiding in the regulation of all bodily systems. For all these reasons Turmeric is likened to the Divine Mother, bestowing numerous blessings and helping us in all dangers, difficulties and conditions of weakness and debility.”
For many reasons Turmeric is also one of the best herbs/foods of Yoga: It is one of the most potent purifying herbs in Ayurveda, cleansing all the bodies including physical and subtle, from muscles to marmas; It is one of the safest herbs; It increases flexibility; It reduces pain and inflammation from practice which means it allows more opportunity to perfect asana’s, stay in asana’s longer and stay in asana’s with greater ease, more sukha and sthira; It increases prana, the flow of prana and purifies prana. Yoga scriptures like the Shiva Samhita recommends that a Yogi take some ghee and milk before asana and pranayama practice, and many traditional yogis add Turmeric to that.
One focus of Yoga Asana is the digestive system and digestion (Gastro-Intestinal (GI) system), which is the basis of our mental and physical health. Turmeric is a great carminative and continues with what the asana have started. Carminatives tend to increase absorption and nurture the intestinal flora. Able to calm an upset digestive system by getting rid of gas and distention. Turmeric is one of the best carminatives because though it leans towards being heating-pungent, it is very balanced and does not aggravate any of the doshas if taken in normal amounts, a few grams per day. Turmeric treats the entire GI system. It is traditionally used for weak stomachs, poor digestion,dyspepsia, to normalize metabolism, to help digest protein, and to increase the bio-availability of food and the ability of the stomach to withstand digestive acids. Turmeric detoxifies the body and mind and in this way helps the body cure itself. One sure sign of this is that it increases the level of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST), which is essential to detoxification. Turmeric is one of the dashemani, the 10 best herbs to treat poisoning and to purify.
Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory herb and therefore is very good treatment for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, injuries, trauma, and stiffness from both under activity and over activity. If used before and after any surgery it will decrease the pain and inflammation and accelerate the healing and the return to balance. Though Yogis minimize the use of pungents, they do use Turmeric for many reasons, one being it is so good for the tendons and ligaments. It helps them to attain and hold asanas and to avoid injuries. In the same way it minimizes the pain and inflammation related to any kind of exercise or strenuous activity.
Yoga works on the total body and mind, not only the muscles and joints, similar Turmeric has multiple effects on the total body and mind. It is known that Turmeric, and especially the Curcumins, inhibits skin cancer, likely due to decreasing the expression of proto-oncogenes. External application stops pain and swelling, heals wounds, and treats many skin diseases ranging from acne to leprosy.Since Turmeric is bitter and anti-inflammatory, it is excellent for hot skin diseases, especially wet eczema.
Purification, another important focus of yoga, and one of the Niyama’s; “Saucha”. A great alterative, Ayurveda uses Turmeric to purify and move the blood, for instance in the uterus during the menstrual cycle. Curcumin is actually very similar to one of the active molecules in Chaparral, a great Native American blood purifier. Turmeric also protects your liver from toxins and pathogens. It is known to both destroy major hepatoxins, like aflatoxin, and to rebuild the liver after being attacked by hepatoxins. Turmeric increases the secretion of bile, promotes bilification, and may prevent cholelithiasis.
Turmeric supports the heart in many ways. For instance, there are platelets that flow in the blood whose job it is to form blood clots when we are wounded. The stress of being wounded causes the platelets to accumulate and stick together. In these days we experience a lot of the same stress without being wounded and our platelets start sticking together increasing the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Turmeric is known to inhibit this. Turmeric also removes cholesterol from the liver and inhibits its assimilation, which means that it gives your heart double protection from cholesterol.
Both Yoga and Turmeric have beneficial effects on the respiratory system and is one of the main traditional uses of yoga and turmeric. Yoga (asana and pranayama) are widely used to treat asthma, and cleansing the lungs. Turmeric as an anti-oxidant it protects the lungs from pollution and toxins. It also helps the oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood. Turmeric with ghee is traditionally used to get rid of cough and to treat asthma.
Yoga has always been used for its therapeutic qualities, and it is here where yoga and ayurveda come really together. To treat a condition with both yoga and ayurveda, in this case, Turmeric, whom both work on the total body and mind, the beneficial effects can be multiple and synergistic.
Taken internally or used externally Turmeric is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and anthelmintic (anti-worm). The essential oil, the water extract, and the extracted curcumins all show this activity. It interferes with the ability of microbes and viruses to replicate themselves and it increases your Immune system’s ability to fight the infection. It kills many bacteria in vivo and in vitro including staph and salmonella so it is great against staph infections and food poisoning. The fresh juice Turmeric is often used for many antibiotic applications such as wounds or whenever an antiseptic is needed. As an antibiotic Turmeric has been compared with penicillin on gram positive organisms and with streptomycin on gram negative organisms. In both cases Turmeric came in second but gave a strong showing.
Oxidation by free radicals is linked with accelerated aging and virtually every major chronic disease including atherosclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and rheumatoid arthritis. One way to stop this is with anti-oxidants like Vitamin C and E and Turmeric. A second way is with certain enzymes which engage the free radicals and destroy their ability to react. Working double time, the curcuminoids as anti-oxidants are 8 times stronger than vitamin E and also increase the number and activity of free radical destroying enzymes, like superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase.. This means Turmeric is good at keeping you feeling and looking young; protecting you from mutating cells, tumors and cancer; preventing and removing oxidized cholesterol thereby preventing heart attacks; and reducing pain and acute (injuries) and chronic inflammations (arthritis).
Turmeric is considered to be anti-cancer because it has a triple action: It neutralizes those substances and conditions which can cause cancer; It directly helps a cell retain its integrity if threatened by carcinogens; If a tumor does grow the Curcumins can often destroy it.
When a virus replicates the ‘long terminal repeat’ (LTR) sequence is activated. Without this activation there can be no replication of a virus like the HIV. Harvard research proves the Curcumins to be powerful inhibitors of HIV LTR. Turmeric and the Curcumins have also been shown to help the Immune system’s T-cells survive and thrive, another strong anti-AIDS mechanism.
Turmeric protects from parasites that can cause so many mental and physical problems, including poor digestion.
For at least 1000 years Chinese Medicine has used Turmeric especially for the Spleen, Stomach, and Liver Meridians. They use it to stimulate and purify, and as an anti-biotic, anti-viral, and an analgesic. As such it is used to stimulate and strengthen the blood and decrease blood pressure, to clear abdominal pain and stagnation in men, women and children, and to remove stagnant Chi, the pain due to stagnant Chi, and excessive wind element. They consider it one of the better herbs for women because it stimulates the uterus and clears menstrual stagnation, dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea due to congested blood arising from a lack of heat or simply a deficiency. With the way that Turmeric can move the Chi, Turmeric intake in combination with Yin asanas can be seen as an herbal equivalent of an acupuncture session.
Healing Properties Overview
Besides flavoring food, to purify the blood and remedy skin conditions is probably the most common use of Turmeric in Ayurveda. The principle organs that it treats are the skin, heart, liver and lungs. Sushruta recommended it for epilepsy and bleeding disorders. Charaka recommends it for skin diseases, to purify the body mind, and to help the lungs expel kapha. Activities of Turmeric include: alternative, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-allergic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, appetizer, astringent, cardiovascular, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, stimulant, and vulnerary. Therapeutic uses include: AIDS/HIV, anemia, cancer, diabetes, digestion, food poisoning, gallstones, indigestion, IBS, parasites, poor circulation, staph infections, and wounds. Turmeric helps regulate the female reproductive system and purifies the uterus and breast-milk, and in men it purifies and builds semen, which is counter intuitive for a pungent bitter. It reduces fevers, diarrhea, urinary disorders, insanity, poisoning, cough, and lactation problems in general. It is used to treat external ulcers that respond to nothing else. Turmeric decreases kapha and so is used to remove mucus in the throat, watery discharges like leucorrhea, and any pus in the eyes, ears, or in wounds, etc.
Adding Turmeric to your daily life;
Turmeric can be easily consumed on a daily base by making a herbal tea out of it;
Add finely chopped fresh turmeric or turmeric powder to boiling hot water, together with a slice of lime or lemon, and let it steep for while.*
Like most Indian and South-East Asian dishes will contain Turmeric, maybe just try to add some Turmeric to any dish you prepare and see how it will work out.
Please do not consider this text as a medical advice, and always consult your doctor to treat any medical condition.
*Turmeric is also used for dying fabric, especially Monk robes. With that said, it has the quality to stain your plastic-ware permanently yellow.