Pain relief and cancer prevention may be as close as your kitchen cabinet. Turmeric is a spice and preservative derived from the root of Curcuma longa, a ginger-like plant native to India. A staple of Indian and Asian cuisine, it adds a splash of bright orange color and an earthy flavor and aroma to food.
Since ancient times, people in the East have prized the wonder spice for its medicinal properties. They gargle with turmeric to ease sore throat pain and laryngitis. They also treat digestive problems and a host of other conditions with it. They even swab the centuries-old spice onto wounds—it speeds healing and acts as an antiseptic, reducing infection.
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The West Discovers The Health Benefits of Turmeric
The National Institutes of Health, along with scientists at UCLA, Emory University, and others say turmeric shows considerable potential to treat and prevent a wide range of health problems including fungal and bacterial infections, heart and blood vessel disease, high cholesterol, psoriasis, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin: A Potent Antioxidant, Fights Pain and Inflammation
Curcumin, a chemical present in turmeric, delivers antioxidant power to boost immunity and blast free radicals—unstable chemicals that damage DNA, speed up aging, and increase susceptibility to cancer. The spice also packs anti-inflammatory power to control joint pain and swelling caused by osteoarthritis and to reduce flare-ups of Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders.
In addition, turmeric’s natural anti-inflammatory action promotes heart and circulatory health (best first aid students should know this). The spice blocks a protein that produces inflammation inside the lining of blood vessels where plaque accumulates. Clear arteries, free of plaque deposits, are healthier arteries. Clogged arteries raise the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Unhealthy food and lifestyle habits, free radical damage, stress and other irritants set the stage for rampant inflammation throughout the entire body. According to a recent post by the team at EHI Primary Care, new research is being done to measure the power of turmeric to target chronic widespread inflammation. Such chronic irritation, which can be measured in a C-reactive protein blood test (CRP), taxes all body systems and raises the risk for colon and other cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
Preventing Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease With Turmeric
Turmeric shows promise in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. In animal studies, it prevents the amyloidal deposits in the brain that occur with Alzheimer’s. In addition, cancer researchers say it shuts down cancer development and helps chemotherapy medications block the spread of cancer. In the lab, turmeric stops the proliferation of cancer cells and increases the effectiveness of cancer drugs like Taxol and its generic counterpart, paclitaxel.
Physician David Servan-Schreiber includes turmeric in his personal arsenal of power foods. Years ago, the shocking news that he had brain cancer jolted him into healthier eating. In his book, Anti Cancer: A New Way of Life, he recommends turmeric for its antioxidant properties and for its ability, as shown in studies at the University of Texas M.D. Cancer Center, to suppress tumor necrosis factor, one of the proteins implicated in inflammation and tumor growth.
To get the accurate diagnostic scientist are now using the Syngeneic Mouse Model to study how cancer therapies work in a functional immune system. This helps in determining many aspects of the working of therapy on critically diagnosed diseases.
Buying and Using Turmeric Spice
If you are like most people in the West who don’t make curries or other Indian dishes, you may be unsure how to use turmeric. But incorporating the spice into a healthy nutrition plan is easy. It works well with everyday foods and all cooking styles. Just clear out a bit of room in your spice cabinet and follow these simple tips to begin enjoying the health and taste benefits of this exotic spice.
Soothe Arthritis Pain and Inflammation: Mustard Supplies Curcumin
• If you like mustard, you already consume turmeric.
• The active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin, is what gives mustard its yellow color.
• A dollop of mustard on your food may help relieve pain in arthritic joints.
Curb Free Radical Damage: Seasoning Food With Powdered Turmeric
• You will find powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of the grocery store.
• Buy the healthier, pesticide-free organic version. Keep turmeric and other spices out of sunlight and away from the heat of stoves and microwaves; glass containers are preferable to plastic.
• Add the powdered form of turmeric to food after, not during, cooking.
• Sprinkle powdered turmeric on salads; cooked vegetables and potatoes; rice and other grains; beef and chicken; and scrambled eggs or cottage cheese.
• Try whisking a spoonful of turmeric into warmed olive oil and drizzling the mixture over steamed yellow squash. Then, if you like, toss in some whole-wheat pasta curls.
• To help your body make the best use of turmeric, Dr. Servan-Schreiber advises sprinkling on some black pepper or ginger along with the turmeric.
Fresh Turmeric Root Supports Healthy Digestion
• Turmeric root looks like its cousin, ginger root.
• Grate it, and add it to your food during cooking.
• Use it in stir-fries, omelets, and marinades. Rub it on roasts, chicken, and other meats before cooking.
• Steep it in purified water to aid digestion.
• Use care when handling this form of turmeric; it can stain countertops, kitchen towels, and clothing.
Supplements: Capsules Versus the Spice Jar
• Turmeric is also available in capsule and other supplemental forms. Supplements are not regulated in most countries, so before you buy, research the distributor and buy only from reputable sources.
• Supplemental forms of turmeric (capsules, bottled liquid preparations, etc.) provide much higher concentrations of the herb than the amount contained in the dietary form used on food. That may pose a risk for some.
• As with any supplement or herb taken for medicinal purposes, you should check with your health care provider about the advisability of taking turmeric supplements and ask how much to take.
Turmeric Supplements are More Potent than Turmeric Spice – Check with Your Doctor First
• If you take any medication, especially blood thinners or medications used to reduce stomach acid.
• If you have diabetes, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or gall bladder problems.
• If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The earthy flavor and vibrant orange color of turmeric add zest and eye appeal and to almost any meal. Its life-enhancing benefits are a bonus that science continues to probe.
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