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turmeric to the rescue

Did you know that turmeric  is a super-spice known for its numerous anti-cancer properties and its impressive ability to positively influence over 586 diseases ?

Over 1,543 scientific journal entries are now centered around turmeric’s beneficial properties and the data only continues to grow.

Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is the deep yellow spice that gives mustard its vibrant color.  It is a powerful spice that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory, and is currently being studied by major institutions around the world for it’s healing properties.

Originating in India, turmeric had reached China by 700 A.D., East Africa by 800 A.D., West Africa by 1200 A.D., and Arab traders had carried turmeric to Europe by the 13th century.  Even Marco Polo wrote about turmeric during his travels to India via the Silk Route.

Curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric it’s yellow-orange pigment, is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent of the spice.

Here are some of the ways in which turmeric can help you:

A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs like hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone, as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Ibuprofen. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant side effects including ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, and intestinal bleeding, curcumin produces no toxicity.

An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.  Numerous studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on inflammatory bowel disease and the results are promising.  In one study, mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand. The mice receiving curcumin not only lost much less weight than the control animals, but when researchers checked their intestinal cell function, all the signs typical of colitis (mucosal ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and the infiltration of inflammatory cells)were all much reduced. While the researchers are not yet sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, the working hypothesis is that its benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B.

Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Metastases

Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer; laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that even when breast cancer is already present, curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.  In this study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), human breast cancer cells were injected into mice, and the resulting tumors removed to simulate a mastectomy. The mice were then divided into four groups. One group received no further treatment and served as a control. A second group was given the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol); the third got curcumin, and the fourth was given both Taxol and curcumin. After five weeks, only half the mice in the curcumin-only group and just 22% of those in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer that had spread to the lungs.  75% of the mice that got Taxol alone and 95% of the control group developed lung tumours.

Early phase I clinical trials at the University of Texas are now also looking into curcumin’s chemopreventive and therapeutic properties against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and other research groups are investigating curcumin’s ability to prevent oral cancer.

Improved Liver Function

In a recent rat study conducted to evaluate the effects of turmeric on the liver’s ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals, levels of two very important liver detoxification enzymes were significantly elevated in rats fed turmeric as compared to controls. The researchers commented, “The results suggest that turmeric may increase detoxification systems in addition to its anti-oxidant properties…Turmeric used widely as a spice would probably mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens.”

Cardiovascular Protection

Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high.

In research published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, when 10 healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days, not only did their blood levels of oxidized cholesterol drop by 33%, but their total cholesterol droped 11.63% , and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 29%.

Protection against Alzheimer’s Disease

Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s are very low. Concurrently, experimental research conducted recently found that curcumin does appear to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice.

Here’s an easy way to get more turmeric in your diet:

Turmeric Tea

Okinawans, the people with the world’s longest average life span, drink copious quantities of turmeric tea.

Here’s the recipe:

  • Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  • Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste.
Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and flavorings until you find a combination that suits your taste:

Enjoy!