Used as both medicine and food for centuries, accumulating evidence suggests that this relative of ginger is a promising preventive agent for a wide range of diseases, due largely to its chief active component, Curcumin.
Turmeric has long been used as a powerful and potent anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions. In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents. Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. This is important in many diseases such as arthritis, and explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study Curcumin was compared to Phenylbutazone and astonishingly produced comparable improvements in morning stiffness, and reduced joint swelling.
The BIG Buzz with Turmeric though is with its incredible anti-cancer properties. Tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy cancer cells and experts said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments. Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that Curcumin started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours. Rodent studies at the University of Texas indicate that Curcumin inhibits the growth of a skin cancer, melanoma and also slows the spread of breast cancer into the lungs. Researchers from the University of South Dakota have found that pretreatment with curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy.
The therapeutic advantages of turmeric and Curcumin are almost too numerous to list. An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, "Curcumin has been scientifically shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic illnesses. There are many ways to add turmeric to your diet. Add a teaspoon or two to a pot of soup or stew, add it to rice or other grains when boiling, add it to scrambled eggs. Adding black pepper to turmeric enhances absorption significantly so be sure to add that in too! Most Indians religiously mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric with water and drink it every morning. This is definitely an acquired taste and you may prefer to try this recipe for turmeric tea instead:
Bring four cups of water to a boil, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, strain through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste. Some people like to add a teaspoon of ginger or cinnamon along with the turmeric, experiment until you find your favorite. I will leave you with an Interesting fact: Okinawa is the island nation with the world's longest average life span of 81.2 years, and this has been linked to the regular quantities of turmeric tea that they consume. Enjoy!