Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eat your Turmeric!

Suddenly, there is a spate of articles everywhere, talking about the healing properties of turmeric. Apparently, Oprah's health guru, Dr Oz, is a big fan.

Us old hippies and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners, have always claimed turmeric had miraculous powers. (Time to toot our own horns, alternative-medicine folks. Once again, we were right!)

The following article has made the rounds in most Gannett newspapers during the past week:

Can an ancient spice prevent and treat cancer? That's the question researchers are trying to answer.

In certain cultures, turmeric is known as a golden gift from God, a sacred spice that has been used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic and Asian medicine to treat fevers, stomach aches and cuts.

Indians sprinkle the powder on cuts to help them heal, gargle with it to soothe sore throats and mix it with warm milk for sick kids to sip.

Madhu Sharma, owner of the Green Chili Indian Bistro in St. Petersburg, Florida, uses turmeric in almost all of her dishes.

She says it's also an important ingredient in other aspects of Indian culture.

"We use turmeric when the baby is born. We use turmeric when we get married. We use turmeric when we cook everyday and we use turmeric to worship God and offer to God," said Sharma.

People in India eat turmeric every day in curry dishes. They cook with fresh turmeric root — a bright yellow herb from the ginger family — or they use the dry powder, adding about one teaspoon to every meal.

Daily turmeric consumption is one of the reasons cancer researchers suspect India's rate for breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer is 10 to 50 times lower than in people in the United States.

Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, a professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has been studying the spice for several decades.

"It has enormous potential. It is very safe. It has been around for a long, long, time and for the first time, I think we have evidence that it may be working as well," he said.

Hundreds of laboratory and animal studies have shown that a substance in turmeric, called curcumin, kills a wide variety of cancer cells including colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, brain and melanoma and slows tumor growth.

The preclinical research has taken the spice from the lab to the clinic.

"We have shown that a wide variety of tumor cells can be selectively killed by curcumin and it does not kill the normal cells but will kill only cancer cells. There are no known side effects in people," he said.
Turmeric capsules are available in most alt-med brands. I highly recommend Gaia Herbs, which I am told has recently run out (!) of their signature Turmeric Supreme.

Simply purchasing some of the spicy herb in bulk and mixing a teaspoon in warm water (yes, gross, hold your nose) and drinking it daily (traditional Ayurvedic remedy for inflammation) --would likely contain substantial health benefits. Although I sell them, I don't think pricey supplements are necessarily required, although the much-sought-after active ingredient (curcumin) is highly-concentrated in supplements. As they say on the net, your mileage may vary.

If you like the taste, make a habit of sprinkling it on potatoes, rice or some other food you enjoy. Keep in mind, it stains mightily, and has also historically been used as a bright yellow/orange dye! (Mucking around extensively in some loose turmeric and attempting to make my own capsules some years ago, my hands and fingers turned bright orange, and I ended up looking like I'd eaten several bags of Cheetos.)

Eat your turmeric!


D. said...

I try to fix stuff with curry (powder) every so often.

I think I must have known most of this twenty-five years ago and forgot a lot of it.

Marion said...

Huh. See, nobody believed us way back then, but some of us actually studied this stuff. Super post, Daisy! I love turmeric. Another great one for me is Oil of Oregano...I've used it for years.

Anonymous said...

Ahh the advantages of working in an Indian restuaraunt. :D

JoJo said...

Is turmeric the super stinky stuff in Indian food? I could see maybe taking the capsule form, but do you end up burping up the taste later like w/ Valerian root caps?

Dina said...

There was also some talk of it being used to treat Cystic Fibrosis.... said...

What exactly you're writing is a horrible mistake.