Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a tropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. It is native to India and cultivated throughout the tropics. When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30-45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Tamil cuisine and even curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell. Curcumin has been a centre of attraction for potential treatment of an array of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and other chronic illnesses. For medicinal purposes it can be used in teas, tinctures, poultices or in capsules.

In Tamilnadu, turmeric has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores. In the Siddha system (since c. 1900 BCE) turmeric was a medicine for a range of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. A fresh juice is commonly used in many skin conditions, including eczema, chicken pox, shingles, allergy, and scabies.

Turmeric has been long used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an antiseptic and as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic, as well as various infections.

The active compound curcumin is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities, which indicate potential in clinical medicine. Turmeric has been studied for a wide variety of functions. When mixed in a traditional Ayurvedic treatment, it has been shown to relieve joint pain. Curcumin, one of the active constituents of turmeric, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin in turmeric is 5 to 8 times stronger than vitamin E and stronger than vitamin C and as an antioxidant it may help boost your immunity, maintain normal cholesterol levels, and put the brakes on aging.

Turmeric can also help prevent Type 2 diabetes, hinders the development of atherosclerosis, protects against certain liver diseases, helps promote weight loss and reduces the incidence of obesity-related diseases. It also improves rheumatoid arthritis, is good for chronic cough, cold and throat irritations and may play a role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In fact, turmeric is one of the highest antioxidant spices that also exhibits brain-protecting effects. In India, where curry containing turmeric and other spices is eaten daily, rates of Alzheimers disease is among the lowest in the world, proving some of the brain-protecting effects of turmeric.

Health Benefits

Here are some health benefits of turmeric:
  1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
  2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
  3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.
  4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
  5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
  6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.
  7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
  8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
  9. Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.
  10. Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.
  11. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
  12. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
  13. Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.
  14. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
  15. Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.
  16. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
  17. Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.
  18. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects. Curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.
  19. May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
  20. Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests. Turmeric may help people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission.
  21. Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to scavenge and neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints.
  22. It is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric's combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was compared to phenylbutazone and produced comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.
  23. Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
  24. In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high. Homocysteine, an intermediate product of an important cellular process called methylation, is directly damaging to blood vessel walls. High levels of homocysteine are considered a significant risk factor for blood vessel damage, atherosclerotic plaque build-up, and heart disease; while a high intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
  25. It also stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots and so is a blood thinner.
  26. Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which some people think may help improve digestion. The German Commission E, which determines which herbs can be safely prescribed in Germany, has approved turmeric for digestive problems. And one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric reduced symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion.

Uses of Turmeric Powder

  1. Turmeric powder is a preservative.
  2. It is also a great pesticide. Sprinkle turmeric (powder) water near all the entry points of your house to ward of insects, ants, and termites.
  3. Drinking turmeric tea daily may well increase your life span, suggests Dr Andrew Weil. Adding one teaspoon of turmeric powder to 4 cups of boiling water, simmering it for 10 minutes and adding honey to taste can do the trick.
  4. Adding turmeric to meat can reduce the levels of cancer causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by up to 40 percent, according to researchers from Kansas State University.
Turmeric can be taken in powder or pill form. It is available in pill form in most health food stores, usually in 250-500mg capsules. Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  1. Add turmeric to egg salad to add a nice flavor and give it an even bolder yellow color.
  2. Mix brown rice with raisins and cashews and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  3. Although turmeric is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder, some people like to add a little extra of this spice when preparing curries.
  4. And turmeric doesn't have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sauteed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions.
  5. Or, for a creamy, flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try mixing some turmeric and dried onion with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
  6. Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
  7. Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.
  8. For an especially delicious way to add more turmeric to your healthy way of eating, cut cauliflower florets in half and healthy saute with a generous spoonful of turmeric for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Side Effects

Herbs can trigger side effects and may interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turmeric
  2. https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/turmeric-extract/profile
  3. http://www.medindia.net/alternativemedicine/turmeric-powder.asp#
  4. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
  5. http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/20-health-benefits-of-turmeric.html
  6. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric