Curcuma spp.


The genus Curcuma belonging to the family Zingiberaceae comprises of a number of species which are medicinally very important. Among them, the most important species are described below.

1. C. amada Roxb.

English: Mango ginger San: Amrardrakam, Karpuraharida Hin: Ama -haldi

Mal: Mangainchi

Tam: Mankayinci

Tel: Mamidi Allam

Mango ginger is cultivated in Gujarat and found wild in parts of West Bengal, U. P, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It is a rhizomatous aromatic herb with a leafy tuft and 60-90cm in height. Leaves are long, petiolate, oblong-lanceolate, tapering at both ends, glabrous and green on both sides. Flowers are white or pale yellow, arranged in spikes in the centre of tuft of the leaves. Lip is semi -elliptic, yellow, 3-lobbed with the mid lobe emarginate. The rhizomes are useful in vitiated conditions of pitta, anorexia, dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, bruises, wounds, chronic ulcers, skin diseases, pruritus, fever, constipations, strangury, hiccough, cough, bronchitis, sprains, gout, halitosis, otalgia and inflammations (Warrier et al, 1994). The fresh root possesses the smell of green mango and hence the name mango ginger. The rhizomes are used externally in the form of paste as an application for bruises and skin diseases generally combined with other medicines. Tubers rubbed with the leaf- juice of Caesalpinia bonduc is given for worms (Nadkarni, 1982).

The essential oil contains -pinene, -and -curcumene, camphor, cuminyl alcohol, myristic acid and turmerone. Car-3-ene and cis-ocimene contribute the characteristic mango odour of the rhizome. Rhizome is CNS active, hypothermic and it shows potentiation of amphetamine toxicity. Tuber is trypsin inhibitor and is effective against Vibrio cholerae (Husain et al, 1992). The rhizomes are bitter, sweet sour, aromatic, cooling, appetiser, carminative, digestive, stomachic, demulcent, vulnerary, febrifuge, alexertic, aphrodisiac, laxative, diurectic, expectorant, antiinflammatory and antipyretic (Warrier et al, 1994).

2. C. aromatica Salisb.

Eng: Wild turmeric; San: Aranyaharidra, Vanaharidra;

Hin: Ban-haridra, Jangli-haldi;

Ben: Ban Haland; Mal,

Tam: Kasturimanjal, Kattumanjal;

Tel: Adavi-pasupu;

Kan: Kadarasina

Wild turmeric or Cochin turmeric or Yellow zeodoary is found wild throughout India and cultivated in Bengal and Kerala. It is a perennial tuberous herb with annulate, aromatic yellow rhizome which is internally orange-red in colour. Leaves are elliptic or lanceolate- oblong, caudate-acuminate, 30-60cm long, petioles as long or even longer, bracts ovate, recurved, more or less tinged with red or pink. Flowers are pink, lip yellow, obovate, deflexed, sub-entire or obscurely three lobed. Fruits are dehiscent, globose, 3-valved capsules. Rhizomes are used in combination with astringents and aromatics for bruises, sprains, hiccough, bronchitis, cough, leucoderma and skin eruptions (Warrier et al, 1994). The rhizomes have an agreeable fragrant smell and yield a yellow colouring matter like turmeric, and the fresh root has a camphoraceous odour. The dried rhizome is used as a carminative and aromatic adjunctant to other medicines (Nadkarni, 1998).

Essential oil contains -and – -curcumene, d-camphene and p-methoxy cinnamic acid. The colouring matter is curcumin. Numerous sesquiterpenoids of germacrone and guaiane skeletons have been identified recently. Rhizome has effect on respiration. It is spasmolytic and shows antagonism of amphetamine hyperactivity. Rhizome is an anti-dote for snakebite and carminative (Husain et al, 1992).

3. C. longa Linn. syn. C. domestica Valeton.

Eng: Turmeric; San: Haridra, Varavarnini;

Hin: Haldi, halda;

Ben: Haldi;

Mal: Manjal, Pachamanjal, Varattumanjal;

Tam: Mancal;

Kan: Haldi, Arasina;

Tel: Pasapu

Turmeric is cultivated all over India, particularly in W. Bengal, T. N and Maharashtra. It is a perennial herb, 60-90cm in height, with a short stem and tufts of erect leaves. Rhizome is cylindric, ovoid, orange coloured and branched. Leaves are simple, very large, petiole as long as the blade, oblong-lanceolate, tapering to the base upto 45cm long. Flowers are pale yellow, arranged in spikes concealed by the sheathing petioles and flowering bracts are pale green (Warrier et al, 1994). Turmeric occupies an important position in the life of Indian people as it forms an integral part of the rituals, ceremonies and cuisine. Due to the strong antiseptic properties, turmeric has been used as a remedy for all kinds of poisonous affections, ulcers and wounds. It gives good complexion to the skin and so it is applied to face as a depilatory and facial tonic. The drug cures diseases due to morbid vata, pitta and kapha, diabetes, eye diseases, ulcers, oedema, anaemia, anorexia, leprosy and scrofula. It purifies blood by destroying the pathogenic organisms. A paste of turmeric alone, or combined with a paste of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves, is used to cure ringworm, obstinate itching, eczema and other parasitic skin diseases and in chicken pox and small pox. The drug is also useful in cold, cough, bronchitis, conjunctivitis and liver affections (Nadkarni, 1954; Kurup et al,1979; Kolammal, 1979). The rhizome is the officinal part and is an important ingredient of formulations like Nalpamaradi taila, Jatyadi taila, Narayana gula, etc. (Sivarajan et al, 1994).

Turmeric paste mixed with a little limejuice and saltpetre and applied hot is a popular application to sprains and bruises. In smallpox and chickenpox, a coating of turmeric is applied to facilitate the process of scabbing. The smoke produced by sprinkling powdered turmeric over burnt charcoal will relieve scorpion sting when the part affected is exposed to the smoke for a few minutes. Turmeric and alum powder in the proportion of 1:20 is blown into the ear in chronic otorrhoea (Nadkarni, 1998). “Haridra Khand”, a compound containing powdered turmeric, sugar and many other ingredients is a well-known preparation for cold, cough and flu, and for skin diseases. In Unani system, roasted turmeric is an ingredient of “Hab Narkachur”, used as antidysenteric for children (Thakur et al, 1989).

Essential oil contains ar-turmerone, and ar-curcumene as ma jor constituents. Some of the other compounds are -and -pinene, sabinene, myrcene, -terpinene, limonene, p- cymene, perillyl alcohol, turmerone, eugenol, iso-eugenol, eugenol methyl ether and iso- eugenol methyl ether. Curcumin and related compounds have also been reported as major constituents of the rhizomes. Recently a number of sesquiterpenes have been reported from C. longa, viz., the sesquiterpenoids of germacrane, bisabolane and guainane skeletons (Husain et al, 1992). The study of sesquiterpenes has revealed a new compound curlone (Kisoy et al, 1983). The crystalline colouring matter curcumin (0. 6%) is diferuloyl methane (Mathews et al, 1980). Stigmasterol, cholestrol, -sitosterol and fatty acids, mainly straight chain dienoic acids are reported (Moon et al, 1977). Curcumin, the colouring agent and major constituent of C. longa, is said to possess local as well as systemic antiinflammatory property which has been found to compare favourably with phenylbutazone (Srimal and Dhawan, 1973). An extract of the crude drug ‘akon’ containing the rhizomes exhibited intensive preventive activity against carbon tetrachloride induced liver injury invivo and invitro. The liver protecting effects of some analogs of ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid, probable metabolites of the curcuminoids have been also evaluated (Kiso et al, 1983). Curcumin is antiinflammatory. Rhizome is antiprotozoal, spasmolytic, CNS active, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiarthritic, anthelmintic, carminative, antiperiodic, emo llient, anodyne, laxative, diruretic, expectorant, alterative, alexertive, febrifuge, opthalmic and tonic.

4. C. zedoaria (Berg.) Rosc. syn. C. zerumbet Roxb; Amomum zedoaria

Christm.vEng: Round zedoary; San: Kachura, Shati;

Hin: Kakhur;

Ben: Sati;

Kan: Kachora

Mal: Manjakoova, Adavi-kacholam;

Tam: Kichilikizhangu, Nirvisham;

Tel: Kacheramu

The round zedoary or Zerumbet is mostly found in India and S. E. Asia. The plant has 4-6 leaves with 20-60cm long lamina. The leaf lami na is oblong-lanceolate, finely acuminate and glabrous on both the surfaces. Flower stalk is 20-25cm long, emerging before the leaves. Flowers are yellow, while the flowering bract is green tinged with red. Calyx is 8mm long, corolla tube is twice as long as the calyx. Capsule is ovoid, trigonous, thin smooth and bursting irregularly. Tubers are palmately branched and camphoraceous (Thakur et al, 1989). The identity of the plant sources of the drug Karcura is a matter of debate. There is difference of opinion among men of Ayurveda, as to whether Sati and Karcura are the same drug or different. Many authors consider them different and equate Sati with Hedychium spicatum Smith. and Karcura with C. zedoaria, both belonging to Zingiberaceae (Kurup et al,1979; Chunekar 1982; Sharma, 1983). Some others treat them to be the same and equate it with C. zedoaria (Kirtikar and Basu, 1918; Vaidya, 1936; Nadkarni, 1954; Kapoor and Mitra, 1979). However, the source of Karcura in Kerala in the recent times has been Kaempferia galanga of the same family. The rhizome of C. zedoaria is used as appetiser and tonic, particularly prescribed to ladies after childbirth. In case of cold, a decoction of long pepper (Piper longum), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), zedoary and honey is given. In Ayurveda it is an ingredient of “Braticityadi kwatha”, used in high fever (Thakur et al, 1989). Root is useful in flatulence and dyspepsia, and as a corrector of purgatives. Fresh root checks leucorrhoeal and gonorrhoeal discharges. Root powder is a good substitute for many foreign foods for infants. For worms, the juice from the tubers is given to children. Juice of the leaves is given in dropsy (Nadkarni, 1982). It is an odoriferous ingredient of the cosmetics used for the cure of chronic skin diseases caused by impure or deranged blood (Nadkarni, 1998).

Essential oil from rhizomes contains -pinene, d-camphene, cineole, d-camphor, sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols (Husain et al, 1992). The novel sesquiterpenoids which have been isolated and characterised are cuzerenone, epi-cuzerenone, iso- furanogermerene, curcumadiol, curcumol, curcumenol, iso-curcumenol, procurcumenol, dehydrocurdione (Hikino et al, 1968, 1971, 1972), germacrone-4, 5-epoxide, germacrone, germacrone furanodienone, curcumenol, iso-curcumenol, curcumanolides A and B and curcumenone (Shiobara et al, 1985). The starch left after the extraction is purified and sold as a commodity of cottage industry in West-Bengal under the name ‘Shoti’ (Rao et al, 1928). Ethyl-p methoxy-cinnamate has been isolated from the alcoholic extract of the plant (Gupta et al, 1976). Rhizome is stomachic, diuretic, and carminative and gastrointestinal stimulant.

Other important species of Curcuma genus are

C. angustifolia Roxb. (Vellakoova)

C. caesia Roxb. (Black ginger)

C. leucorhiza Roxb.

C. pseudomontana Grah.

C. rubescens Roxb.

Agrotechnology: Curcuma species are tropical herbs and can be grown on different types of soils both under irrigated and rainfed conditions. Rich loamy soils having good drainage are ideal for the crop. The plant is propagated by whole or split mother rhizomes. Well developed, healthy and disease free rhizomes are to be selected. Rhizomes are to be treated with copper oxychloride fungicides and stored in cool, dry place or earthen pits plastered with mud and cowdung. The best season of planting is during April with the receipt of pre-monsoon showers. The land is to be prepared to a fine tilth during February-March. On receipt of pre- monsoon showers in April, beds of size 3×1.2m with a spacing of 40cm between beds are to be prepared. Small pits are to be taken in the beds in rows with a spacing of 25-40cm.

Finger rhizomes are to be planted flat with buds facing upwards and covered with soil or dry powdered cattle ma nure. The crop is to be mulched immediately after planting and 50 days after first mulching. Cattle manure or compost is to be applied as basal dose at 20-40t/ha at the time of land preparation or by spreading over the beds after planting. Application of NPK fertilizers is beneficial and found to increase the yield considerably. Weeding is to be done twice at 60 and 120 days after planting, depending upon weed intensity. Earthing up is to be done after 60 days. No major incidence of pest or disease is noticed in this crop. Leaf blotch and leaf spot can be controlled by spraying Bordeaux mixture or 0.2% Mancozeb. Shoot borers can be controlled by spraying 0.05% Dimethoate or 0.025% Quinalphos. Time of harvest usually extends from January-March. Harvesting is generally done at about 7-10 months after planting depending upon the species and variety. Harvested rhizomes are to be cleaned of mud and other materials adhering to them. Good fingers separated are to be used for curing (KAU, 1996).

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