The Amazing Power of Turmeric
Used for thousands of years in Ayurvedicand Chinese medicine, Turmeric has long been known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal, immune supporting properties. In fact in Ayurvedic terminology Turmeric is describes as:
Verdana Thaana promotes a healthy nervous system and helps with occasional discomfort
Sangrahani Supports absorption of vitamins and minerals
Anuloma helps to purge waste and build healthy blood
Rakta Stambhaka promotes wellness of the circulatory system
In modern times Turmeric is being used to treat a vast array of ailments including indigestion, flatulence, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, diabetes, HIV, high cholesterol, heartburn, jaundice, liver disorders, menstrual disorders and is applied topically to wounds, cuts and bruises.
The native people of India and China were using Turmeric thousands of years ago. There are even suggestions of its use that go back as far as 10,000 years in India. In 1280AD in China, Marco Polo even wrote about Turmeric in his diary, saying:
“There is also a vegetable which has all the properties of true Saffron, as well as the smell and the colour, and yet it is not really Saffron”
In this article we are going to find out about every aspect of Turmeric from what it is, to the serious health conditions that it benefits.
What is it?
Latin name: Curcuma longa.
Known by many as a bright yellow powdered spice, Turmeric, with its earthy, peppery aroma is actually a member of the Ginger family, an orange root in its natural form. The perennial plant grows around 6 feet high in the tropical regions ofSouthern Asia and displays trumpet like yellow flowers. The golden powder many of us recognise is the result of the rhizome, an offshoot from the root, being washed, dried and finely ground. Turmeric is native to Asian countries and appears regularly in southeast Asian, Indian and Pakistani cooking.
There are many ways to find Turmeric. Let’s start with our most familiar… (I’m presuming!)
To create this natural gold dust, first you harvest the rhizome (basically the root) of the plant. This is then washed, boiled for around 35-40 minutes, oven dried and ground into powder. Turmeric powder is widely used in cooking to impart flavour and often, just colour. When you add the powder in the early stage of cooking a dish it imparts its unique flavour saturating it with the wonderful colour.
The powder is also found in mustards to add colour and added to some skin creams, which take advantage of the cooling and antibacterial properties present in it.
THE RHIZOME (OFFSHOOT FROM THE ROOT)
You can find Turmeric root in its natural state and also sliced thinly and pickled. The pickle is slow cooked with other spices to keep it soft and impart a subtle and delicate flavour to the finished product.
Turmeric leaves are wonderful used in cooking. You will find them quite often in oriental cuisine. Wrapping food in Turmeric leaves imparts a distinctive flavour.
The most active compound in Turmeric is Curcumin (also known as diferuloylmethane) which comprises 0.3-5.4% of raw Turmeric. It is one of several curcuminoids in Turmeric, including demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Turmeric also contains some volatile oils including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberene, along side general sugars, proteins and resins. The Curcumin molecule is the most widely studied as it is the most beneficial to our health and was first found and isolated by Western scientists in 1815, obtained in its crystalline form in 1870, and its overall structure was finally determined in 1910.
Curcumin is a powerful anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants ‘feed’ on free radicals in the body, which are known to damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA and even cause cell death. Free radicals are also the number one culprit when it comes to signs of ageing! Antioxidants fight these free radicals, reduce, repair and prevent damage caused by them. They also support your memory function, boost your immune system and slow the aging process.
Curcumin is now known to have the following effects:
Protecting your immune system against stress
Promoting your immune system
Maintaining a healthy digestive system
Supporting bones, joints and the skeletal system
Maintaining cholesterol levels (that are already within the normal range)
Promoting healthy blood and liver functions.
The Curcuminoids deliver anti-oxidants that are thought to be
5-8 times stronger than Vitamin E
Stronger than Vitamin C
3 times more powerful than grape seed or pine bark extract
Strong enough to scavenge the Hydroxyl radical (one of those free radical nasties we talked about) – one of the most reactive oxidants.
A quick note: If you are going to use Turmeric in the hope of benefiting from its amazing healthful properties, avoid anything that isn’t certified 100% organic. If you buy processed or artificial herbs and spices you may be robbed of any potential benefit as well as running the risk of negative consequences from artificial ingredients and chemical processes. In the case of Turmeric, the majority is grown in India, so look for that!
Traditional Indian and Ayurvedic medicine have utilised Turmeric for thousands of years to help a vast array ofailments . The fresh juice is also used topically for conditions like:
Turmeric has been considered a skin food for thousands of years in Eastern cultures. It helps to cleanse then skin, maintain its elasticity, provide nourishment and balance the effects of skin flora.
Inflammation in the brain is suspected to be a major contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s. The anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric have been found to be beneficial. Turmeric supports overall brain health by helping to break down the amyloid plaques in the brain improving oxygen flow. Indian’s consume Turmeric in almost every meal and as a nation have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s. The World Alzheimer’s report in 2009 states that 3.6% of South Asians over 60 have dementia compared to 6.4% of Australasians and 7.2% of Western Europeans.
The Alzheimer’s disease research center at the University of California is currently planning human trials to assess the benefits of Turmeric on the disease.
The anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties mean that Turmeric is used as an effective natural remedy for Arthritis pain. It is suggested that 500mg – 1000mg Turmeric capsules 3x a day may provide significant relief from the pan of Osteo-arthritis.
Turmeric helps reduce the inflammation associated with Asthma. For an effective home remedy, add 1 teaspoon of Turmeric powder to a glass of warm milk.
Bacterial and viral infections (see colds and flu)
Turmeric has been shown to kill viruses and bacteria in test tubes and animals.
Studies are showing that Turmeric can induce apoptosis, a process that triggers the self-destruction and elimination of damages and cancerous cells. More research is needed but it is showing that combining daily Turmeric consumption with well-balanced nutrition may help to prevent and destroy cancer cells. Types of Cancer that are thought to respond include prostate, breast, skin, pancreatic and colon cancer. It also has a preventative effect against tumour cells like T-cell Leukemia. It has been said that it is one of the protectors against radiation-induced tumours.
A new Jersey study found that when combines with vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, Turmeric may well help to treat and prevent prostate cancer. In 2006 a study found that Curcumin actually inhibited the growth of human colon cancer.
A well-known holistic practitioner, Dr. Andrew Weil says that Turmeric reduces the carcinogenic compounds that form when meat is fried, boiled or grilled by up to 40%.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) says that Cancer rates in India, the largest consumers and producers of Turmeric, are significantly lower than those in more developed countries like the US.
Cardiovascular Disease (See heart disease and Stroke)
A study published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2012 has shown that Curcumin is as effective in improving vascular function in postmenopausal women as a moderate aerobic exercise regime. The study measure the health of the inner lining of the blood vessels (known as the endothelium) of 32 women over a period of 8 weeks. The women receiving Curcumin were given 150g Turmeric extract a day with unchanged diet and exercise habits. The women who exercised did so 3 times a week for between 30 and 60 minutes, with extra at home training (including cycling and walking). They found that flow-mediated dilation increased significantly in both these groups compared to the control group.
“The present study showed that regular ingestion of Curcumin or regular aerobic exercise training significantly improved endothelial function. The magnitude of improvement in endothelial function to the same extent, suggesting that Curcumin may prevent the age-associated decline in endothelial function in postmenopausal women. “
Note: We are not suggesting that any supplement can take the place of exercise! You cannot use this as an excuse!
For more natural substances that prevent, reduce or reverse endothelial dysfunction visit www.greenmedinfo.com/disease/endothelial-dysfunction
Turmeric is believed to stimulate and improve blood circulation.
Turmeric is beneficial in neutralising substances that can cause cellular stress. It also helps to maintain your cells integrity when impacted by environmental stressors and fights free radicals.
Cholesterol (See Heart Disease and Stroke)
Simply using Turmeric as a seasoning has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels.
Colds and Flu
The anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties of Turmeric come into play here. For an effective home remedy, if you have symptoms of a cold or flu, mix a teaspoon of Turmeric into a glass of warm milk once a day and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day also.
Studies are showing that the anti-oxidant agents in Turmeric help to reduce insulin resistance, which may prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. It also improves glucose control and increases the effects of medications used to treat Diabetes. For a preventative remedy, take 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder twice a day with meals. You can find Curcumin extract as liquids or capsules as an alternative, but please read the side effects and warnings section.
General inflammation and infections
Add a teaspoon of Turmeric powder to a glass of milk and drink before bed to prevent internal inflammation and infection.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Studies suggest that Turmeric may prevent atherosclerosis, the build up of plaque that can block arteries and result in a heart attack or stroke. In some animal studies, and extract of Turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept the ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels. Because of its blood thinning properties (see the side effects and warnings section), it stops platelets from clumping together preventing blood clots from forming on the artery walls. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that Turmeric reduces post bypass heart attack risk by 56%.
Hypertension (See heart disease and stroke)
A study published in 2012 in the American Journal of Hypertension found that
“ Regular endurance exercise combined with daily Curcumin ingestion may reduce LV (left ventricular) overload to a greater extent than monotherapy with either intervention alone in postmenopausal women.”
Turmeric contains lipopolysaccharide, a substance which helps stimulate the immune system. The anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties also help to strengthen the immune system meaning you have less chance of getting a cold! (see colds and flu)
Indigestion or Dyspepsia
Curcumin (the active component in Turmeric) stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which has been thought by some to improve digestion. A double blind, placebo controlled study found that Turmeric did in fact reduce the symptoms of bloating and gas in people with indigestion. The German council that approves safe herbs for use, The German Commission E, has approved Turmeric for digestive problems. When treating digestive issues it is best to use raw turmeric.
Internal injuries and inflammation
For internal injuries, fractures, sprains, herniated disks etc, dip a piece of unbleached cotton large enough to cover the skin outside the affected area into Turmeric Oil (for recipe see skin complaints). Secure the cotton and leave on overnight.
Another home remedy is mixing one part salt with two parts Turmeric and enough water to make it spreadable. Apply to the affected area and wrap in a cloth (you don’t mind getting stained), and leave for up to an hour each day. Remember, Turmeric stains, so think about that before you use it on a very visible body part.
Turmeric is a natural liver detoxifier as the liver detoxifies the blood by producing enzymes, and turmeric increases their production. As Turmeric is believed to stimulate and improve blood circulation, it also supports the liver like that.
Multiple Sclerosis (See Inflammation)
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are thought to help MS sufferers.
As mentioned under Arthritis, Turmeric is thought to help reduce pain. One study found that an Ayurvedic formula (which also included winter cherry, boswellia and zinc) did indeed have less pain and disability. However, I should mention that the study suggests that there was no evidence supporting or denying the efficacy of the other ingredients, so they could have produced the positive results.
In July 2009, Time magazine cited a study from the University of Arizona where rodents were injected with a compound known to cause pain, they suffered with less pain when injections were paired with Curcumin. The article also displayed anecdotal evidence of Turmeric fighting a variety of pain that would normally be treated with over the counter medication.
As we discussed earlier, the most active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcumin, which is highly anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory, so turmeric powder can help to heal cuts, wounds and skin infections like boils. Here’s another home remedy:
Heat one cup of flax seed oil in a saucepan, add a thinly sliced onion to the oil. Fry the onions until they are dark brown and crunchy, then remove them from the oil. Mix 2 tablespoons of Turmeric powder into the remaining oil then turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool. Use a cotton swab to apply the oil to an injured or infected area of skin. Apply up to 3 times a day as needed. You can store the oil in an airtight container for future use.
Turmeric is an Adaptogen. It helps support the body against stress by providing support to your immune system.
Studies have shown that people taking Turmeric alongside their medication (when in remission) had a much lower relapse rate than those just taking medication or taking a placebo.
Turmeric may help treat this inflammation of the eye’s Iris. In a study of 32 people with chronic anterior Uveitis, Curcumin was found to be just as effective as the traditional medication for the complaint.
Curcumin has been found to increase the production and flow of bile, an important component in breaking down fat. Taking a teaspoon of Turmeric powder in your meals can be an effective weight loss aid helped by your healthy diet and exercise program of course!
You may not know this, but most herbs and spices, as well as being delicious are very low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. As if this wasn’t a good enough reason to eat them immediately, they are also mostly thermogenic: This means that they boost your metabolism naturally and therefore help you to burn more calories than you would without them. You also feel fuller faster when you include them in your meals, helping you to eat less! So if you are after an easy and delicious way to help you manage those calories, turn to the spice cupboard!
Note: Adding black pepper to your food with Turmeric will greatly enhance your body’s absorption of it!
Turmeric in food is considered safe.
Medicinal forms of Turmeric are:
Capsules containing powder
Moderate daily use of Turmeric is safe at the following doses for adults:
Cut root: 1.5 – 3g per day
Dried, powdered root: 1 – 3g per day
Standardised powder (Curcumin): 400 – 600mg, 3 times per day
Fluid Extract (1:1): 30-90 drops a day
Tincture (1:2): 15-30 drops, 4 times per day
Bromelain increases the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of Curcumin, so is often combined with medicinal Turmeric products. In the same way, if you are adding Turmeric to your food, also adding black pepper will aid the absorption and function of the turmeric in your body.
This is by no means an endorsement or statement of efficacy but you can find what seems to be a viable Turmeric supplement here http://organicindia.mercola.com/herbal-supplmets/turmeric.aspx
If you do choose to purchase this product, you do so of your own volition. Please see our disclaimer at the bottom of this article.
Warnings and Side Effects
Prolonged high daily consumption of Turmeric, like prolonged high daily consumption of anything, can cause you distress: Stomach or liver distress, dehydration and constipation. If you are unsure and have gallstones or bile obstruction problems, you should avoid self-medication with Turmeric.
Turmeric is also an anti-platelet (prevents blood clots); so if you are taking blood thinners, even Aspirin, talk to a qualified medical professional before you start any medicinal Turmeric regime.
If you are due to have surgery you must stop taking any Turmeric supplements 2 weeks in advance (due to the blood thinning properties).
If you are Diabetic, be sure your regular doctor knows about your intention to use Turmeric as it will likely lower your blood sugar, and alongside medication may result in your blood sugar dropping too low.
If you are pregnant you must not take Turmeric or Curcumin supplements however it is safe to eat Turmeric in food.
Possible drug interaction
If you are taking any of the following types of medication DO NOT start a MEDICINAL Turmeric or Curcumin regime without talking to a qualified medical professional.
Blood thinners including:
Drugs that reduce stomach acid
Diabetes medications – For the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Just plain yum
If you were wondering just how you can get Turmeric into your diet, here are a few recipes to get you started!
Mix a teaspoon of Turmeric with a quarter teaspoon of chili, one teaspoon of honey and some good olive oil. Spread on something crunchy, or toast (wheat free of course) and enjoy!
Mix some Turmeric, cayenne chilli power (and other powder to taste) into mayonnaise for an easy way to get Turmeric into cold foods.
Juice Turmeric in its root form then add some lemon, lime and honey for a delicious healing drink
Turmeric Tea as drunk by the people in Okinawa who have the world’s longest average lifespan. Boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground Turmeric and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the tea then add honey, lemon or ginger to taste.
Lebanese Cake – find a beautiful recipe for this slightly sweet and fragrant cake here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/semolina-turmeric-cake-sfoof/ and a vegan version here http://mayihavethatrecipe.com/2012/06/28/sfuff-vegan-middle-eastern-turmeric-cake/
Oven roasted Cauliflower – www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/oven-roasted-cauliflower-with-turmeric-and-ginger-recipe/index.html
Find a wonderful array of recipes using Turmeric at www.bbc.co.uk/food/turmeric
Weird and wonderful uses for Turmeric
Whiten your teeth
It does seem counter-intuitive that Turmeric could help whiten your teeth as it is used for its staining properties, but former Miss USA, Susie Castillo swears by it! You can sprinkle some on your regular toothpaste, or make your own with her recipe at http://www.susiecastillo.com/blog/2012/6/20/my-homemade-toothpaste.html
Customise your foundation
Apparently, actress Thandie Newton uses Turmeric to get just the right tint in her tinted moisturiser. Use it sparingly….you can always add more to achieve your perfect glow.
Supercharge your soap
Adding several teaspoons of Turmeric to homemade soap will not only give it a great colour, but will boost the skin friendly properties.
Salve your Scalp
Olive oil and Turmeric is said to deter dandruff and improve the condition of the scalp. You can mix the Turmeric with any oil of your choice, then rub it in to your scalp, and leave for 15 minutes then wash and style as usual.
You can use Turmeric to create Mehndi, the tattoos made with Henna or add a second colour and go crazy!
Find these surprising uses for Turmeric and more at www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/
Recommended further reading
For additional research and studies on Turmeric and Curcumin visit www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/curcumin
You can find out more about Body Psychology TM here on this blog and on my website http://www.BeyondPhysical.co.uk
Dale Rutherford : The U.K’s ONLY Morter certified B.E.S.T. practitioner
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