Turmeric is experiencing a kind of renaissance these days, making its way into popular dishes and salads of all kinds. A traditional spice that gives curry its unique color, turmeric is often used in Indian cooking.
Curry consists of turmeric with dry, powdered cumin and coriander. It is also often combined with red chili pepper and/or ginger. The turmeric gives curry its trademark pungency and warmth.
Turmeric originated in South Asia, then traveled to Southeast and East Asia, where it became a staple in Asian cuisine. In China, ginger (which is a botanical cousin of turmeric) became popular too. Like ginger, turmeric is a member of the botanical family of Zingiber, and has a fleshy root used in both cooking and traditional healing.
Turmeric is also used as a textile dye. (Botanical ingredients that can dye plant cells can also typically penetrate animal cells. They also typically have effects in the body.)
Of course, curcumin is the principle, active ingredient in turmeric. It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. And curcumin, like other natural remedies, does not act like a drug, which can only do one thing at a time. By comparison, curcumin and other herbal remedies can “walk and chew gum” at the same time, so to speak.
For example, curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient. It helps relieve acute and chronic osteoarthritis pain and musculoskeletal pain. And research shows curcumin helps relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms as well. In fact, studies show curcumin works just as well as the popular NSAID ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) for pain — without the dangerous side effects. And it certainly tastes a lot better and is a lot more pleasant to consume!
In addition, curcumin acts as an anti-microbial by preventing or countering infections with bacteria, fungi and parasites. Used topically on the skin, it’s also a safe and effective antiseptic for burns, cuts and scrapes. Of course, it may stain your skin or clothes yellow temporarily.
This anti-microbial activity is also important, relative to drugs. Many potent anti-inflammatory and pain drugs act by suppressing the immune system. So they don’t have an anti-microbial effect. And, in fact, taking them can increase your risk of infections.
Researchers study curcumin for Alzheimer’s prevention
In India, where curry is on the daily menu, they have a relatively low rate of dementia. This connection led researchers to look at curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease.
Indeed, lab experiments show that curcumin inhibits the formation of — and helps clear clusters of — beta-amyloid in the brain. This finding got a lot of attention, especially among those who subscribe to the old beta-amyloid theory as the cause of the dementia. However, in my view, the old beta-amyloid theory as the cause of Alzheimer’s is only half-right at best.
But don’t worry. You can find all the proven, natural approaches to preventing and reversing dementia symptoms in my Complete Alzheimer’s Fighting Protocol.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other reasons to keep curry on the menu at your house…
Curcumin prevents cancer
New research shows curcumin is also a potent anti-cancer agent. It appears to prevent the occurrence of cancerous tumors. It also inhibits their growth once they take root. Specifically, research shows it is effective against colon cancer cells.
Curcumin also helps GI conditions. In addition, it may support the liver, relieve indigestion, prevent peptic ulcers, and relieve existing ulcers. (So much for that old medical advice to avoid spices for an ulcer!) Curcumin also shows promise for inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
These findings make sense, of course. When you eat a dish made with curry, you directly expose cells in the GI tract to curcumin. So — your GI tract receives the benefits immediately, even before it is absorbed into the bloodstream and reaches other tissues.
This feature is significant because absorbing turmeric into the bloodstream from the GI tract can be a challenge. You should only use top-quality dietary supplements with bioavailable ingredients that can be readily absorbed. (If you are pregnant or suffer from bile duct obstruction or gallstones you may want to avoid concentrated supplements. Check with a health practitioner who is knowledgeable about nutrition and dietary supplementation.)
Cooking with curcumin as turmeric in curry is always safe. Use it in your favorite dishes. Try it on cauliflower and other vegetables with olive oil. I like to cook and mash cauliflower as a potato substitute.
If you are taking a supplement for your joint health, make sure it contains at least 200 mg of curcumin for the anti-inflammatory benefits. (And if your joint supplement does not contain curcumin — like those popular glucosamine-chondroitin supplements that have been trying to “cure” osteoarthritis for decades now — you are wasting time and money.)
To learn all the natural steps you can take for natural, non-drug pain relief, see my online Arthritis Relief and Repair learning protocol.
“Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study,” Clin Interv Aging 2014 Mar 20; 9:451-8
“Chemotherapeutic potential of curcumin for colorectal cancer,” Curr Pharm Des. 2002;8(19):1695-706
“Curcumin blocks small cell lung cancer cells migration, invasion, angiogenesis, cell cycle and neoplasia through Janus Kinase-STAT3 signaling pathway,” PLoS ONE 7:e37960