Turmeric: Indian Spices Secrets You Want To Know
My mission is to raise awareness about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet so you can live life fully and in a sustainable way.
I have been researching for the past 2 years about the impact of herbs and spices on our health. And I am applying this knowledge in my daily life. I am very passionate about sharing it with everyone so that you too can reap these benefits! It’s essential to understand that we are an integral part of our own health and wellness. It starts with YOU!
Last week we talked about Saffron and its clinically proven benefits for depression and dementia (Alzheimer’s).
Today, I am going to focus on Turmeric.
- WHAT it is — history & uses
- WHY it’s good for you — health benefits; clinical studies
- HOW it works and bioavailability
- Food as preventative medicine
- Making golden almond milk
Facts & History
- Latin name is Curcuma Longa. In Hindi it’s called Haldi.
- Known as the “golden spice of India”, turmeric has been used for over 5000 years.
- It’s a tropical plant belonging to the ginger family of roots or “rhizome”.
- Curcumin is the main compound or active ingredient which gives turmeric it’s vibrant colour, as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers.
- Turmeric is very rich in iron and manganese; also a good source of potassium, zinc and other minerals; vitamin B6 and C.
Culinary & Medicinal Uses
- Used in curry powder blends, curry pastes, as a preservative in pickles and condiments; colouring agent in textiles.
- It’s used extensively in Indian cuisine, Thai, Middle Eastern, African.
As a healing agent
It has been used in Ayurveda for many centuries. For those of you that don’t know, Ayurveda is the 5000 year old science of natural healing. In Ayurveda, turmeric is believed to balance the 3 doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Traditionally, it has been used for supporting blood, liver, joints, immune system and digestion. Because of its medicinal and healing properties, turmeric is used in topical creams, lotions & ointments, and even skincare products.
WHY it’s good for you?
The vibrant colour is what makes turmeric so antioxidant rich. Why are antioxidants so important? In my last post I talked about free radical damage. It’s the oxidative stress which occurs at a cellular level and ultimately causes aging. I described it as literally the rusting of our bodies.
Antioxidants, the micronutrients which we get from fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, tea, etc., go to war against free radicle damage. There are hundreds if not thousands of antioxidant compounds like flavenols, polyphenols, lycopene and so on. That’s why we need to eat a wide variety to plant foods to get the many essential compounds that are going to keep us young and healthy. Who wants to age, right?! Remember what I said last week, “Intense colour, intense flavour equals intense benefits”!!
WHY else should you use it in your daily diet?
Thousands of articles have been published in modern literature in recent years about Curcumin, and since the turn of the century, more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin against a variety of diseases, with many more studies on the way.
These studies show that curcumin may play a role in preventing or treating lung disease, brain disease, and a variety of cancers.
It has also been shown to help speed recovery after surgery* and effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis better than the leading drug! It may be effective in treating osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions such as lupus and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
In fact, in a double blind, multi-center study for colitis – researchers found that more than 50% of patients achieved remission within just one month on curcumin compared to NONE of the patients on the placebo! ** It’s really potent stuff but without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs!!
Here’s something really interesting. Researchers found that if you take a sample of blood, and exposed it to an oxidizing chemical, they can measure the damage caused to the DNA in that blood sample.
If you were then given a pinch of turmeric to eat once a day for a week, re-drew the blood and again exposed it to the same free radicals, you would see the number of blood cells with DNA damage cut in half!!
That’s just by ingesting it and measuring the effects in your blood. Not a fancy supplement or extract…just a pinch of plain old turmeric spice. That’s powerful!!
HOW turmeric works on CANCER cells
Since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has tested more than a thousand different compounds for cancer-preventing activity. Apparently, only a few dozen of these have made it to clinical trials. One of the most promising is Curcumin!
Cancer-preventing agents can be classified into different subgroups:
- Carcinogen blockers
Both carcinogen blockers and antioxidants help prevent the initial triggering of cell mutation, while antiproliferatives work by keeping tumors from growing and spreading.
Curcumin appears to belong to all three groups…meaning it may potentially help prevent and/or arrest cancer cell growth!!
The anticancer affects of curcumin go beyond its ability to prevent cell DNA mutations. It appears to help regulate programmed cell death.
Let me explain this. We all know our cells are programmed to die naturally to make room for new cell growth. Our body is rebuilding itself every few months…essentially through the building materials in our diet. Cancer cells, however, don’t die when they’re supposed to. They somehow disable their self destruct programming and continue to thrive and divide. This accumulation of cancer cells is what forms tumors and can spread throughout the body.
So how does curcumin affect this process? It appears to have the ability to reprogram the self-destruct sequence back into cancer cells without harming the healthy ones! One of the side effects of chemotherapy is that it also kills and weakens healthy cells.
They have found that curcumin can also kill cancer cells from within by chopping up their proteins.
Another thing we have come to know about cancer treatment is that cancer cells can develop resistance over time to most chemotherapy drugs. Curcumin, on the other hand, attacks cancer cells in multiple ways, making it harder for them to avoid destruction.
Curcumin has be found to be effective (in vitro) against a variety of cancers including breast, brain, blood, colon, kidney, liver, lungs and skin.
HOW to properly use turmeric on a daily basis to get its full benefits. (1/4 tsp/day can keep the doctor away!)
One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is by making them water soluble so you can pee them out. The same happens with curcumin.
Scientists found that within an hour of eating turmeric, only small traces of curcumin appears in the blood stream. That’s because the liver is busy trying to get rid of it!
Scientists have also discovered that a compound in black pepper (called piperine) inhibits that process. In doing so, the bioavailability or absorption of curcumin in the blood increases exponentially!!
So using a pinch of black pepper with turmeric will significantly increase it’s benefit. Using a healthy fat enhances it as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that using turmeric spice as a supplement is much more beneficial than curcumin pills. This is because the spice has other very beneficial compounds you would miss out on by taking pills. Not to mention the expense!
Let’s make some turmeric milk.
- 1 cup hot almond milk
- Add a pinch of saffron and let diffuse for 5 minutes
- 1/4 - 1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon flaxseed oil
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
Mix and enjoy!
Think of your body as your dream house or temple if you will.
Now think of your diet as the materials with which you build it. What sort of materials would you use to build your dream house?
Don’t you want to use the best materials that you can so this structure will withstand the test of time?? We only have one body. Treat it like your dream house. It's the only one we will ever have. You can't tear it down and build another one!
So my humble advice is for all of us to eat not just to live but to THRIVE.
My Personal Story
I have been using turmeric on a daily basis for the past two years now. It's my morning coffee, so to speak. My main reason was to cope with knee and leg pains I had been having for a year or so. The pain would wake me up during sleep; I couldn't sit in a movie theatre for very long without fidgeting due to unmanageable discomfort. I thought I was getting arthritis. But according to my doctor and chiropractor, that wasn't the case! I was fine when I was running/exercising or generally in motion. It was when my legs were still that I would feel the pain.
I realized it had to be the result of inflammation. I had been going through a long and painful personal journey for a few years. The overload of emotional stress caused inflammation to build up in my body. We are dynamic and energetic beings with inter-connectivity between our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical existence. All of that extended emotional trauma had manifested into physical ailments, and believe me I had quite a list of them over a period of 4-5 years...frozen shoulder, hair loss, neck & lower back, digestion, knee/leg pain, and tennis elbow!!
After reading/researching about the scientifically proven powerful anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric, I decided to apply it in my daily life in the form of turmeric milk. This was over and above everything else I was doing with eating a healthy diet, juicing, meditation, and exercise. It took a good 3 to 6 months for me to start feeling the difference. After two years of having my daily golden milk, I am happy to report that I no longer suffer with those nasty knee and leg pains! My partner and I sometimes even take turmeric with us when we go on vacation!!
Let food be your preventative medicine. But consistency is the key. You can’t do it some of the time and hope to get the full benefit. It’s like when you’re prescribed medicine for a certain illness…you can’t take it here and there and hope to get better!
In this fast paced world we have to learn to be patient when it comes to natural healing. It's not a quick fix but it can stay with us for a lifetime.
The same goes for our diet. Consistency. Every day.
Eat well…live long and prosper!
*Agarwal KA, Tripathi CD, Agarwal BB, Saluja S. - Efficacy of turmeric (curcumin) in pain and postoperative fatigue after laparoscopic, cholecystectomy: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study. Surg Endosc. 2011;25(12): 3805-10
**Lang A, Salomon N, Wu JC, et al - Curcumin in combination with mesalamine induces remission in patients with mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis in a randomized controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015;13(8):1444-49.el.