Turmeric: An Essential Spice For Your Diet
(Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that spans cultures
- it is a major ingredient in Indian curries, and makes American
mustard yellow. But evidence is accumulating that this brightly
colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive
agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory
of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies
to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James
A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative
& Complementary Therapies, and summarized in theJuly,
2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication
some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform
many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic,
debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse
side effects. Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has
been found to help prevent or alleviate:
disease: Duke found more than 50 studies on
turmeric's effects in addressing Alzheimer's disease. The
reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number
of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid,
the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct
cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease.
Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds,
including sixdifferent COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme
promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively
block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin - the
component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects
- is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of
the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes
in arthritic symptoms.
Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and
cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted
that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action,
curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in
prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer,
prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer
in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that
the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared
favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.
you get more turmeric into your diet? One way is via turmeric. There
are also extracts in tablet and capsule form available in health
food stores; look for supercritical extracts in dosages of 400
to 600 mg, and take three times daily or as directed on the
course, one can simply indulge in more curried dishes, either
in restaurants or at home. However you do it, adding turmeric
to your diet is one of the best moves toward optimal health
you can make.
Of Recent Findings
the active component of turmeric, may help the immune system
eliminate protein that is suspected of accumulating to form
damaging plaques in the brains of people who develop Alzheimer's
2. Only 1 percent of the elderly in India develop Alzheimer's
disease - this is one-quarter the rate of Alzheimer's development
in North America. This difference is thought to be due in part
to regular consumption of curry in India.
3. Daily intake of curcumin may decrease the risk of developing
polyps in the colon, which in turn, decreases the risk of developing
4. Regular consumption of turmeric may help to ease pain and
inflammation that accompanies arthritis.
5. Curcumin may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of
6. Curcumin can help to effectively treat skin cancer cells.
7. Turmeric may help to prevent the spread of breast cancer
properties of tumeric are so significant that the National Institutes
of Health is currently conducting clinical trials to determine
if turmeric (curcumin) should be a part of conventional treatment
recommendations for more than a dozen different diseases.
medicine, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties
and many in India use it as a readily available antiseptic for
cuts, burns and bruises. It is also used as an antibacterial
If you would
like to add turmeric to your diet via curry powders and sauces,
be sure that turmeric appears on the list of ingredients. Many
curry powders, sauces, and recipes use cumin, which is not to
be confused with curcumin or turmeric. The health-promoting
effects listed in this article are attributable to curcumin
found in the spice turmeric.
to being a main ingredient of authentic curry powders and sauces.
When purchasing mustard, choose one that lists turmeric close
to the beginning on its list of ingredients.