Manjal (pronouned “mun-yal”) means “turmeric” in Malayalam.
And “manja” – pronounced “mun-ya”– means “yellow”. The medicinal, culinary and sacred uses of manjal are so varied and wide-spread that I’d need a bookfull of pages to cover all the facts. So here’s just a taste of info on manjal that will surely whet your appetite for more!
In Kerala, there are five kinds of manjal we frequently use. Four are members of the very populated Curcuma genus of the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. But two of these four are actually the exact same plant! And one isn’t related to turmeric at all…! Still, we count five.
1. Curry manjal – Curcuma longa Linn.
– This is “regular” manjal, used mainly as dried powder in cooking the turmeric well-known across the globe as the ingredient in “curry powder” that gives food that distinctive yellow color, in cooking, we use manjal to “detoxify” food, assisting digestion in the event of poor food combining, overcooked or otherwise less-than-ideal food.
And this is the turmeric medical studies have shown has the potential to protect against colon cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s disease and neutralize other inflammation-driven conditions. In Ayurveda, we use the rhizome internally to enhance digestion, calm pain, purify the blood, support the skin and protect the liver’s functioning. Calming to all three doshas when used correctly, curry manjal possess the rare combination of a predominantly bitter rasa (taste), and a warm virya (energetic). Wonderful served as pacha manjal – raw, with a little lime juice and salt – as a dipana, a digestive “fire starter”.
This is the one and only manjal we boil, dry and powder for inclusion is all kinds of culinary recipes – in the form of sambar and curry masalas, and on its own.
The fresh leaf is crushed and used as an external treatment for some kinds of insect bites.
Curry manjal is also used for many sacred purposes, its golden color considered auspicious and dear to Devi, bestowing wealth, beauty and abundance. Manjal is the first item brought into a new house to bring a positive energy to the new living place. A few inches of sliced manjal closely resembles a handful of gold coins!
For more science and Ayurvedic classification, see the monograph on Curcuma longa compiled by Dr. Jessica Anderson, a 2008 recipient of an AyurvedaTrip.com Scholarship Award, below.
2. Kuda manjal – also Curcuma longa Linn.
– This is the very same as curry manjal, but it refers to the round-shaped knobs – looking a little like toy tops – that form the central hub of the rhizome network for each plant. (If you take a careful look at the first photo, and the photo just above, you can see a central portion in the rhizome structure. That’s the kuda manjal!) With mainly the same botanical attributes as the long, cylindrical rhizome, kuda manjal is not usually used in turmeric powder preparations. It is reserved in its whole state, considered to have more auspicious energy than the straight curry manjal rhizome because of it’s special shape and central location. Kuda manjal is often reserved for use in sacred worship.
Fresh kuda manjal is also traditionally made into a paste for application on the forehead.
3. Kari manjal – Curcuma caesia
– Refers to “black turmeric”. The midvein of each kari manjal leaf presents a distinctive dark stripe.
The kari manjal rhizome is white to blue in color, rather than golden orange. Not used for cooking, the fresh paste of kari manjal is used in internal medicines and medicinal oils.
4. Kasthuri manjal – Curcuma aromatica
– This “cosmetic manjal” is often boiled, dried and powdered to use for external application to the skin. It makes a wonderful skin rejuvenative when used pacha (or “fresh”) in face pack.
Kasthuri manjal grows larger than curry manjal, is lighter in color, more aromatic and has a thinner skin. Unlike Curcuma longa, Kasthuri manjal won’t stain the skin yellow.
5. Mara manjal – Coscinium fenestratum
- This plant is not related to the Curcuma family, but it takes the name manjal because of it’s similar color. Rich in berberine (like goldenseal and oregon grape root), mara manjal is a woody climbing vine. We looked around, trying to find a living specimen of this plant, but sadly we could not. We hope to plant a specimen of mara manjal at Rasa Ayurveda soon. But shhhh… Don’t tell anyone! Coscinium fenestratum is disappearing in Kerala due to over-harvesting because of its high market value.
Mara manjal is used in medicinal oils for treating skin diseases, and in lehyam (medicinal jams) for infections and other high pitta conditions.
CURCUMA LONGA MONOGRAPH
Botanical/Latin: Curcuma longa
Chinese: Jiang Huang
Jessica Anderson, with edits and contributions by Niika Quistgard and Sanjeev “Sanju” Kumar
Tall perennial without stems. Rhizome is fleshy, palmate with an orange-colored interior. Leaves are light green (30-40 cm long and 8-10 cm wide) with long petioles. Leaf blades are lanceolate; multiple yellow flowers.
Native to India, China, Indonesia favoring warm and humid climate.
(Without noting differences between dry and fresh Curcuma longa, or plants grown in differing soil and climatic conditions.)
Guna: Light, Dry, Sharp, Rough
Rasa: Bitter, Astringent, Pungent
Doshic Effect: VPK = (increases P in excess)
Medicinal Actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-hepatotoxic, anti-lipidemic, antagonist of Platelet Aggregating Factor (PAF), anti-neoplastic, carminative, stimulant, alterative, anti-bacterial, vulnerary
Dhatus/Tissues: Sapta Dhatus/all
GI, Respiratory, Reproductive
Blood Purification: reduces inflammation in dysmenorrhea, RA, and OA
Skin: (CAUTION- stains skin and surrounding objects)- topical for bruises, infections, sprains, and pain and diseases such as dermatitis, eczema, urticaria, psoriasis
Cardiovascular: atherosclerosis and associated complaints
Gastrointestinal: dyspepsia, colitis, dysbiosis; special affinity for liver, pancreas, and spleen
Liver: dissolve/prevent gall-stones, clears systemic toxemia
Gynecological: fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, leucorrhea
Cancer (adjuvant treatment): Preventative for GI cancer when used in diet with chilia
Curcuminoids including Curcumin, the most active constituent.
Volitile oils: sesquiterpenes; also starch, protein, caffeic acid
Mechanisms of Action:
Anti-oxidant: Curcumin protects DNA against single strand breaks induced by free radicals. Curcumin has significant anti-oxidant activity comparable to vitamin C (E<Curcumin<C).
Anti-inflammatory: Curcumin responsible for anti-inflammatory action of Turmeric. When taken orally, Curcumin inhibits neutrophil function, inhibits platelet aggregation, inhibits lymphocyte activity, promotes fibrinolysis, and stabilizes lysosomal membranes. Topically, Curcumin exhibits counter-irritant activity depleting nerve endings of substance P (neurotransmitter of pain).
Lipid Modulation: Orally, Haridra extracts decease total cholesterol and LDL and raises HDL. Decreases cholesterol by converting cholesterol into bile acids through bile acid secretion.
Anti-platelet: Platelet aggregation is inhibited by inhibiting formation of thromboxanes (promote aggregation) and by increasing prostacyclin (inhibits aggregation).
Currently Recognized Potential:
376 Publications in 2008!
Prevent/treat Alzheimer’s (Neurology Sept 2001)
Prevent/treat heart failure from MI (Journal of Clinical Investigation March 2008)
Improves obesity related DM inflammation (Endocrinology April 2008)
Fresh, dry, leaf, powder (capsules), oil, tea, tincture
5-10 g for infusion; 1-4 g for powder (consider using 1 tsp lecithin to improve absorption- which may be not so well absorbed orally @ 40-85% with equal parts bromelain); 1:1 45% EtOH liquid extract as 5-15 mL qd in 4-5 equal doses.
According to empirical evidence, this herb should be avoided in bile duct obstruction, stomach ulcers and hyperchlorhydria. Precaution in cases of acute jaundice, hepatitis, high Pitta and pregnancy. No reports of toxicity at standard dosage levels. No LD50 has been established, though high-dose curcumin is ulcerogenic in rats.
10-15% of patients experience GI distress.
Chemotherapy agents such as Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide); interestingly, turmeric made cancer cells more sensitive to vincristine in MM study and increased effect of doxorubicin, 5-FU, and Paclitaxel in prostate cancer providing a synergistic benefit (to date, these are all in-vitro studies). Theoretically, turmeric may increase bleeding while taking Warfarin (coumadin)
Caution in pregnancy (documented abortive effect)
More Traditional Uses and Beliefs:
Toe fungus – oil;
Urticaria – boil turmeric powder in milk and then add tulsi to steam 5-6 minutes
(Powder- offering to Naga, part of Udwarthana with green gram and triphala, and to keep ants away)
Pregnancy: green gram + turmeric for 28 days x 20-25 min 5-6 days post-natal; slow massage with oil then paste; use amalaki water for head after treatment; then Vata pacifying herbs such as bala or ficus
Babies: coconut oil and turmeric as wash each day
Topically: wounds, bruises, sprains, leech bites, inflamed joints, or itch with honey application
DM – clears ama, kapha, and excess fat tissue
Bastyr University Botanical Medicine Monographs, Yoga of Herbs by David Frawley, www.drugs.com, www.herbalayurveda.com, www.pubmed.org
Jessica L. Anderson, ND is a naturopathic doctor at Botanica Wellness in Denver, Colorado. She can be reached at 720-279-8726 and on the web at www.drjessicaanderson.com
—-Many thanks to Jessica, Sanju, Bindu and Jalaja for helping with information and photos.—-
We look forward to welcoming you to Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women~
Niika Quistgard, Director
Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women