Dr. David Frawley, founder of the American Institute for Vedic Studies once said, “If I had only a single herb to depend upon for possible health and dietary needs, I would without much hesitation choose the Indian spice turmeric.”
Turmeric is a popular ingredient in cooking, but this herb, with its distinct color, does so much more outside the kitchen.
Turmeric is a root stalk that belongs to the ginger
family and has been around since 600 B.C. Most of the turmeric grown comes from India and 80 percent stays there where it is a staple in Indian cuisine. The rhizomes (roots) of the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa
) are used to add a slightly bitter and spicy flavor dishes like in curry, along with its signature golden yellow color. Turmeric is also the coloring agent for mustard.
Turmeric gained more attention in the United States in the mid-1990s when a popular anti-inflammatory
was pulled from the market after it was shown to increase the risk for heart attack. Scientists turned to turmeric as a possible substitute for anti-inflammatory drugs and the results of their studies proved their theories true.
The main pharmacologic ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a plant phenol with antioxidant
properties. Curcumin is also responsible for the herb's yellow-orange color. Aside from its culinary uses, curcumin is also used in textile dyes and in Indian ceremonial rites to color the skin.
To enjoy the benefits of turmeric, you don’t necessarily have to eat it. There are turmeric supplements available in tablets or softgels and adults can take between 1,200 mg and 2,000 mg daily in divided doses.
Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric has so many beneficial properties, here are just a few:
The volatile oils and curcumin in turmeric give the root its powerful anti-inflammatory property, as potent as chemical drugs but without the toxic effects. Turmeric is especially helpful for inflammations of tissues and joints caused by arthritis, sprains, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions that provoke inflammation. Turmeric inhibits the production of the enzymes Cox-1 and Cox-2 that support the inflammatory process.
Turmeric helps to wash out the impurities in the blood and skin, giving skin a pure glow and getting rid of acne and blemishes. It may be applied topically to the skin to treat a variety of skin conditions such as eczema, fungal infections and skin irritations. However, its yellow color is hard to wash off. Taking oral forms of turmeric work just as well in treating these symptoms.
The molecular components of turmeric are varied, with about 20 of them having antibiotic activities; 14 molecules having anti-cancer properties; 12 that are anti-tumor and 12 that are anti-inflammatory along with a host of other antioxidants. These form the body’s shield against cell and tissue damage and protect it from diseases and aging.
Turmeric increases the level of glutathione S-transferase (GST) in the body. GST is an enzyme necessary for detoxification. Turmeric cleanses the body of toxins and impurities, keeping it healthy and protected from free radical damage.
The antioxidant components in turmeric help treat illnesses involving the respiratory system, such as the common cold, asthma, bronchitis and other pulmonary infections.
Ongoing studies on turmeric show its potential for aiding in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes and liver diseases. As a nutritional food, turmeric is a great source of iron and manganese, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fiber.
If you are taking any of the following drugs, consult with your doctor before taking turmeric supplements as these may interfere with the drugs’ actions:
Blood thinners: Warfarin, Clopidogrel, aspirin
H2 Blockers (reduces stomach acids): Cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine, esomeprazole, omeprazol, lanzoprazole