Turmeric is a powerful herb that has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine practices for a very long time as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a variety of conditions including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bruises, chest pain and colic. Coming from the root of the Curcuma plant, turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavour and is best known as one of the ingredients to make curry and gives mustard its yellow colour. This yellow or orange pigment of turmeric is called curcumin.
Numerous studies have shown the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin to be comparable to potent drugs such as hydrocortisone as well as over-the-counter agents such as Motrin. Unlike drugs, curcumin produces no toxicity.
As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals which is important in many diseases such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for joint inflammation and damage. The antioxidant properties of curcumin also help the body destroy mutated cancer cells, primarily by enhancing liver function. A study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology revealed that curcumin exhibited efficient anti-cancer and anti-fungal activities which may make it a good candidate for the prevention and treatment of cancers that have a fungal component. Furthermore, The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas concluded that curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric, can change our genetic expression thus preventing cell mutation.
In India, prostate cancer is a rare occurrence in men, compared to the 500,000 new cases appearing annually in American men. The low risk is associated with their diet, which is rich in cruciferous vegetables and turmeric. This study concluded curcumin could be a potentially therapeutic anti-cancer agent, as it significantly inhibits prostate cancer growth, and has the potential to prevent the progression of this cancer to its hormone refractory state.
The benefits of turmeric don’t stop there! Curcumin also has cholesterol-lowering effects, improves liver function, offers cardiovascular protection and may help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, and potassium. Two teaspoons of ground turmeric comes in at just 16 calories.
The general recommendation for curcumin supplementation is 1000mg a day, but I take more than this to combat my inflammation– I take curcumin in supplement form, I use turmeric powder in cooking (stews, some soups, omlettes, etc.) and and I make a turmeric paste called Golden mylk (you can Google that, and I promise it won’t bring up anything kinky), which involves cooking turmeric with oil and black pepper. I usually add this to my smoothies. Why do I make Golden mylk? Studies show that curcumin is not absorbed efficiently from the gut, so it is therefore beneficial to include black pepper (for its piperine) and fats (such as coconut oil) to increase absorption. According to research, these two additional steps can shoot up the bio availability of curcumin by approx. 2000%. In India, curries and other traditional dishes typically combine turmeric with ghee and black pepper.
Once the turmeric paste is made, I keep in the fridge for a couple weeks and use this as the basis for making turmeric lattes (I add about 1-2 teaspoons of this paste along with almond or coconut milk, ginger, cinnamon and/or nutmeg).