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Turmeric the Medicinal Spice from India
Up until recently, I hadn't given Indian food much thought. Some of it I liked, some was pretty hot for my taste. Recently however, I have discovered something really exciting. Turmeric.
Not only does turmeric taste wonderful, it has wonderful health benefits. Western civilization is just now getting to know about them, but in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, it has been around for thousands of years.
If you were told that taking as little as one teaspoon per day of a simple spice could possibly treat the pain of arthritis, ward off ulcers, fight heart disease, prevent some cancers, treat dysentery, and protect your liver.....would you be interested in trying it?
Well, this is turmeric. Turmeric has been the subject of a great deal of research and all of it has been very promising.
Turmeric exhibits very strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This would be exciting enough, but turmeric offers so much more. It would probably be easier to say what it couldn't do...but that wouldn't be half as enlightening.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and like ginger it is the rhizome that is used. It is cured in a special process...boil, clean, sun dry, and polish. Not surprisingly, India is the world's major producer of turmeric today, responsible for around 94 percent of the worlds supply.
Curcuminoids are what give turmeric its characteristic (and beautiful) yellow coloring. Curcumin is one of the curcuminoids, and has been the focus of much research. Curcumin is similar to the compound capsaicin (found in cayenne), curcumin lowers something called "substance P" so pain signals are not transmitted through nerve fibers.
Turmeric has shown strong liver protective properties. In this age of giving a "pill for every ill", this kind of liver support can be potentially crucial. Our livers have to process every drug that we take in. This can take its toll. Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) can be especially hard on one's liver especially if we are taking it regularly or in large amounts. So can alcohol. Using turmeric may be a great insurance policy towards protecting that liver.
Arthritis can be a misery, but many of the medications to treat the pain and inflammation of the arthritis can be a misery in themselves. Taking turmeric (curcumin 1,200 mg to be exact) every day significantly improved the swelling and stiffness of the joints and improved the ability to walk in a study of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. The best news here is that curcumin does not have the toxicity potential of other anti-inflammatory drug therapies.
Turmeric, like many culinary herbs, helps to slow food spoilage. This is due to the fact that it has an antibiotic action. Laboratory tests have shown that turmeric also fights protozoa. These are a group of nasties that, among other things, can be responsible for dysentery. Traditionally, turmeric has been used to treat this type of dysentery, and anecdotal reports show that it has been quite successful.
Turmeric may also prevent heart disease and stroke by preventing the blood clots that are the causes of many. Also, it has been shown to lower cholesterol. Be mindful, that these studies are preliminary, but very promising. Also, in the realm of heart disease, turmeric is strongly anti-inflammatory and inflammation is the enemy of our arteries.
A human trial was done involving only smokers. Participants were given 1.5 grams of turmeric (approximately 1 teaspoon) per day for one month. Findings were promising. Smoker's urine normally contains substances called mutagens. These mutagens are agents capable of causing mutations in genes. The mutagens are potentially carcinogenic. At the end of the study, the smoker's urine had a significant reduction of these mutagens excreted in their urine.
Good for your arteries, potential cancer and heart disease prevention, and so much more. It is usually very well tolerated also. In unusually large amounts, it can cause some stomach upset. If this should occur, either discontinue use or cut back on the dosage.
Pregnant women should not use turmeric in its supplement form. In addition those with gallstones or other bile duct blockages should not take it, as it is a bile production stimulant. Also, those people taking blood thinners (example: Coumadin) should check with their physician before using turmeric as a supplement. This is always a good idea with any herbal supplement, especially if you are taking medications or if you have preexisting conditions.