Turmeric: For Body and Mind

Turmeric has a warm bitter taste and enhances the flavor in mustards, butters and cheeses. It’s known for its deep yellow color and is also used in dyes. It comes from the root of the Curcumalonga plant and the main spice in curry. Turmeric is used in many cuisines world wide, most commonly known in Indian food.

Turmeric has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Also called “Indian saffron,” Turmeric is high in Manganese, Iron, vitamin B6, fiber, copper and potassium. Medicinally it is used for arthritis, colds, headaches, heartburn, stomach pain, intestinal gas, diarrhea, menstrual problems, jaundice, liver problems and gall bladder disorders. Even more impressive is that turmeric is also used for lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It contains curcumin, believed to be more potent in its concentration. The volatile oil fraction, curcumin, is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric that has proved in many clinical experiments to be as potent as the drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as the over-the-counter anti-inflammatory Motrin, without the side effects! Unlike drugs linked with major toxic effects (intestinal bleeding, ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, etc.), curcumin produces no toxicity.

The curcumin in turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties that are able to neutralize free radicals (chemicals that cause a great amount of damage to healthy cells and membranes as they travel through the body). These free radicals are responsible for joint pain and inflammations that eventually cause damage to the joints. Pure turmeric (containing the highest rate of curcumin) is used to treat bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis. And may also block the progression of multiple sclerosis. Combatant against free radicals, it is linked to those with higher frequent use of turmeric having lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.

Growing evidence shows that turmeric provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that in elderly Indian populations where turmeric is consumed commonly and frequently, neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s is very low. A major factor thought to be responsible for neurodegenerative disorders including dementias like Alzheimer’s is free radical injury. It is believed that curcumin plays a role in triggering the protective system that produces bilirubin, which protects the brain from such injuries. With significant studies done, long time use at hand and no side effects it’s all win as far as I can see.

Food for thought (pun intended)… eat your turmeric!

Some suggestions for incorporating tumeric into your diet: Add to egg salad, lentils and salad dressings; Mix brown rice, raisins, cashews, turmeric, cumin and coriander; Grams’ Curry Dip; Curry BLT

And if those aren’t your thing they sell turmeric capsules at health food stores, on-line and at Whole Foods; ranging in price from $14.99 – $49.99. Just make sure you look for pure turmeric, it has the most curcumin.

Sources for this essay include WebMd, whfoods.org, and Whole Foods.