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Wonder why turmeric forms such an essential part of every bridal beauty ritual in India and several other ancient Asian cultures? That’s because this yellow-coloured spice is known to have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antioxidant and blood purifying properties. This is what made it possible for Indian women to banish spots for centuries, keep their skin supple and to mop up those free radicals.

Turmeric has been known to have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antioxidant and blood purifying properties since centuries. Today, its benefits are also backed by science

Turmeric (or haldi, as it is known in the region) has been a staple of traditional therapeutic systems like Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha – and today, the benefits are backed by science. Regular use is said to make the skin soft and smooth, impart a glow and produce a fairer complexion. Turmeric paste is also prescribed in Indian medicine for various skin ailments like pigmentation, blotches and eczema. Besides this, it is used in traditional medicine for cuts and burns as it is believed to have an antiseptic effect and the ability to promote healing. In fact, turmeric is currently even being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer’s, cancer and arthritis.

Regular use makes the skin soft and smooth, imparts a glow and produces a fairer complexion. Turmeric paste is also prescribed for various skin ailments like pigmentation, blotches and eczema

Now, many of us would avoid putting turmeric on our faces for fear we end up looking like a character out of The Simpsons, but this potent ingredient is increasingly showing up in leading international products like  Ole Henriksen Visual Truth Eye Creme and DDF Anti-Ageing Restorative Advanced Firming Cream. So, it’s definitely worth a try in the natural form!

However, which variety to pick? Aam Haldi or Ambia Haldi is cooling, making it perfect for skin eruptions. For an easy formulation, take a spoon of aam haldi powder, add two strands of saffron and a teaspoon of unboiled milk, then mix into a paste. Apply on eruptions and leave for about 20 minutes. Doing this daily will get rid of the spots sans a single mark.

Kathakali Dancer

Cochin haldi (also known as jungle haldi) is another favourite. This is a kind of wild turmeric used by the famous kathakali dancers. These performers have to use a great deal of makeup and Cochin haldi is the only thing that has been proven to protect their faces from the harmful effects of this makeup over a long period of time. Want to try it? Substitute this variety for aam haldi in the above face pack and apply for a deep cleanse.

However, even if you can’t find these two varieties, plain turmeric from the grocers can be substituted for its more exotic cousins. Just remember: Whole turmeric (which you grind into a paste with a little water) trumps powder; and organic powder trumps the non-organic version in potency.

Whole Turmeric

Here are some more recipes that can be easily conjured up at home:

To treat acne or pigmentation marks, mix one tablespoon of turmeric with a few drops of milk. Apply on skin for 15-20 minutes and then wash off with plain water.

For oily skin, mix two tablespoons of sandalwood powder, milk, a few drops of lemon and a pinch of turmeric powder to make a mask. Apply on face and let it dry, then wash off with warm water.

Body (including facial) hair can be removed by making a paste of turmeric and sugar and applying it all over the skin. Leave on for a couple of hours and then scrub gently. A regular application of this paste discourages hair growth altogether.

To remove dark under eye circles, add a pinch of turmeric to two tablespoons of buttermilk and apply this around your eyes. Wash with cold water after 15 minutes.

To gain strength, protect the body against infections and strengthen bones (thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis), boil a half-inch piece of turmeric with half a glass of milk. Once the milk has turned yellow, remove from heat, let it cool slightly drink three times a week, at night. You can add one tablespoon of turmeric powder in place of the turmeric piece.

However, make sure that you are wearing old clothes that you don’t mind staining when you try any of these recipes!

In culinary terms, turmeric’s antioxidant properties means that the long shelf life of Indian pickles is due to the generous amounts of turmeric that they contain. When turmeric is added to vegetables, its anti-microbial properties kill harmful bacteria and render powerless the eggs and larvae of intestinal worms that may not have been washed off before cooking.