The Growing Popularity of Turmeric in the West

Lately the West has been looking eastwards and towards traditional Ayurvedic remedies to incorporate into their lifestyle. Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, has become the de-facto flag bearer of this movement. Turmeric is already well-known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been used as a spice in cuisine and in cosmetics. We have all heard about yellow turmeric, but have you ever heard about white turmeric?

Amba Haldi, or white turmeric, is a seasonal member of the ginger family from the Himalaya

Amba Haldi comes from the Himalaya

White turmeric, also called Amba Haldi in Hindi, naturally grows in the Indian Himalayas and is cultivated for its medicinal properties. Unlike other types of turmeric, White turmeric only grows during one season: the monsoon. White turmeric contains curcumin, vitamin A, proteins, fats and minerals and thus has been used widely in skin care and in treating throat infections.

I first came across white turmeric as an ingredient while in India, packaged as a “face pack”, the local term for face mask. My first thought was that it was simply another interesting Mango + turmeric mix, since “Amba” means mango. Though my knowledge of Hindi was certainly praised by my mother-in-law, I quickly learned that this is not “mango turmeric”, but simply the literal translation of the term for white turmeric.

But why call it Amba Haldi then? It comes from the smell of white turmeric, as it is said to have similar smell to mango fruit. However, for me personally I felt it closer to a rich ginger-y smell.

White Turmeric vs Yellow Turmeric?

Yellow turmeric is more commonly found in the South of India and is the root of a plant called Curcuma Longa. From the outside, the root is brownish-yellow and on the inside is orange due to the high amount of curcumin in the roots. The most common form we find yellow turmeric in is a powder, which has a propensity stain. Often the powdered turmeric we find on shelves in shops also contains extra colorants and additives which makes this turmeric stain even more.

White turmeric, or Amba Haldi, is brighter than yellow turmeric and tastes more bitter as well. One of its main benefits, however, is that it stains much less than yellow turmeric.

Turmeric’s skin care benefits

Turmeric is a safe and effective natural ingredient in cosmetics

Turmeric in cosmetics is safe and effective

Both yellow and white turmeric have similar benefits when it comes to skin care. Amba Haldi, despite only growing in the monsoon, is the preferred variety for usage as an ingredient by Ayurveda cosmetics, however. Despite its rarity and the increased cost associated, manufacturers prefer it over yellow turmeric because it stains less.

Beneficial Properties of Turmeric

  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-aging properties thanks to Vitamin C
  • Brightens scars and evens skin tone
  • Fights acne

The Safety of Turmeric

Turmeric has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years

Turmeric has been safely used for thousands of years, as part of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. The University of Maryland Medical Center identified turmeric as having powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood clot preventing properties. On top of that, research has shown that it may also be beneficial in treating:

  • Indigestion
  • Colitis
  • Ulcers
  • Arthritis
  • Infections
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer

Turmeric can safely be used in food and in topical cosmetics, like face masks. However, if you are taking turmeric in processed or supplement forms, you should first discuss it with your health care provider.

What do you think? Would you try white turmeric in your skin care?

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