The beautiful bright orange spice turmeric is the powdered root of the turmeric plant, a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family. Turmeric is as important a player in the kitchen for therapeutic and preventative health as its close cousin. Turmeric has been long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for joint problems, digestive problems, menstrual irregularities and liver complaints. Recently extensive research has followed the statistics that Indian levels of heart disease, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and cancers are much lower than in The West. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin has also shown to prevent multiple schlerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, ulcers, skin complaints, carpal tunnel syndrome and most digestive disorders.
Curcumin has shown to slow down phase I liver detoxification, while egging on phase II, this helps to move toxins more quickly through the two phases to be eliminated from the body. This may explain turmeric’s powerful anticancer properties and its ability to help cholesterol and hormone regulation. Asian diets contain enormous amounts of turmeric, part of the traditional diet from early childhood, starting this protection preventatively from young. It would be quite difficult for us to emulate these amounts and although we can continue our love of Asian cooking, turmeric is notably difficult for humans to absorb and it has been said that we only absorb 4% of the active curcumin contained. This absorption is enhanced by the presence of oil, which also helps to release the volatile oils including tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, helping turmeric’s action in preventing damage to fats including cholesterol. Supplementary turmeric is now popular for this reason.
- Used in skin preparations, as an anti-inflammatory and to keep skin glowing and as a natural sunscreen.
- Antiseptic and antibacterial to support healing and youthful immunity.
- Specific cholesterol lowering properties for optimal heart and brain function.
Many people are now turning to turmeric supplements as an addition to their diets, particularly as an anti-inflammatory agent and digestive remedy, often taken with bromelain from pineapples or piperine from pepper for absorption. This can be a more practical way to take as you would need to eat 100 gram (about 3 1/2 ounces) of turmeric in its spice form to get the therapeutic dose equivalent of curcumin (1.2 g per day).
Indian diets contain enormous amounts to get the preventative properties so regular healthy curries are recommended. It is a good preservative so pre-prepared curries often contain less harmful preservatives than others.