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Turmeric: An Essential Spice For Your Diet


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that spans cultures - it is a major ingredient in Indian curries, and makes American mustard yellow. But evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.

One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in theJuly, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication HerbClip.

Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has been found to help prevent or alleviate:

  • Alzheimer's disease: Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric's effects in addressing Alzheimer's disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease.
  • Arthritis: Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including sixdifferent COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin - the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects - is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.
  • Cancer: Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.

How can you get more turmeric into your diet? One way is via turmeric. There are also extracts in tablet and capsule form available in health food stores; look for supercritical extracts in dosages of 400 to 600 mg, and take three times daily or as directed on the product.

And, of course, one can simply indulge in more curried dishes, either in restaurants or at home. However you do it, adding turmeric to your diet is one of the best moves toward optimal health you can make.

Summar Of Recent Findings

1. Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, may help the immune system eliminate protein that is suspected of accumulating to form damaging plaques in the brains of people who develop Alzheimer's disease.
2. Only 1 percent of the elderly in India develop Alzheimer's disease - this is one-quarter the rate of Alzheimer's development in North America. This difference is thought to be due in part to regular consumption of curry in India.
3. Daily intake of curcumin may decrease the risk of developing polyps in the colon, which in turn, decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
4. Regular consumption of turmeric may help to ease pain and inflammation that accompanies arthritis.
5. Curcumin may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of cystic fibrosis.
6. Curcumin can help to effectively treat skin cancer cells.
7. Turmeric may help to prevent the spread of breast cancer cells.

The medicinal properties of tumeric are so significant that the National Institutes of Health is currently conducting clinical trials to determine if turmeric (curcumin) should be a part of conventional treatment recommendations for more than a dozen different diseases.

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties and many in India use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. It is also used as an antibacterial agent.

If you would like to add turmeric to your diet via curry powders and sauces, be sure that turmeric appears on the list of ingredients. Many curry powders, sauces, and recipes use cumin, which is not to be confused with curcumin or turmeric. The health-promoting effects listed in this article are attributable to curcumin found in the spice turmeric.

In addition to being a main ingredient of authentic curry powders and sauces. When purchasing mustard, choose one that lists turmeric close to the beginning on its list of ingredients.

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