The Power of Turmeric
Turmeric has a long history of traditional use stemming from ancient Ayurvedic medicine. At The Alternative Healthcare centre the main concept is the East meets West approach to health and wellbeing, which includes Ayurveda.
Turmeric is now widely used and its benefits have been well documented and studied. Another name for turmeric is curcumin so you may find supplements branded with both these names. Curcumin, is the yellow pigment found in turmeric, which is the main active ingredient in turmeric It is often referred to as “Indian saffron”, as its deep yellow-orange colour is reminiscent of saffron’s.
Turmeric’s flavour is peppery, warm, and bitter, while its fragrance is mild, yet slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.
Recently, science has started to back up what the Indians have known for a long time. That it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin as mentioned above.
Main Health Benefits
Inflammation is incredibly important as it helps the body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Although acute (short-term) inflammation is beneficial, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long-term) and inappropriately deployed against the body’s own tissues.
It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions.
Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
It turns out that curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory, it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
There have been many studies to support these claims for example, Patients with osteoarthritis which has an underlying inflammatory cause showed improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin.
Other conditions where curcumin can help are: rheumatoid arthritis, toothache, chest pain, colic, bruises, flatulence and menstrual difficulties.
Anti-oxidant – Cancer Protection
Curcumin exerts very powerful antioxidant effects, Curcumin’s antioxidant actions enable it to protect healthy cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA and lead to cancer.
This action is significantly beneficial to areas of the body such as the lining of the colon, where cell turnover is quite rapid – approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly.
Furthermore, curcumin helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. It has also been shown to inhibit tumor growth
Heart Disease Prevention
Curcumin helps to lower cholesterol and prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Since oxidised cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the profression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
Curcumin reduces the build-up of the protein amyloid-b in the brain. Amyloid-b cause oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain and is one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants in turmeric help to fight this free-radical damage.
How to Select and Store
Turmeric is available as a ground powder but also as the fresh rhizome. Fresh turmeric should be free from dark spots and be crisp. It may be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for one month.
How to use it
In Ayurvedic medicine, it is often given with milk as the lipid soluble compounds are more bio-available when dissolved in lipid compounds. Stir 1 tbsp turmeric powder into warm milk to treat painful joints or eczema.
A spicy rice dish – enliven brown rice with cashews and raisins and season with turmeric, cumin and toasted coriander seeds.
Puy Lentil Soup with Fresh Turmeric – Serves 4
Benefits – Helps ease joint pain, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar levels and aids healthy digestion
250g (9oz) puy lentils
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
3cm (1 ¼ inch) piece each fresh ginger root and turmeric, peeled and sliced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 garlic gloves, crushed
750ml (1 ¼ pints) vegetable stock
4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- Although puy lentils can be cooked without soaking, it’s worth doing so for at least 2 hours to make them more easily digestible. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
- Heat the sesame oil with 3 tablespoons of water in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook until they have softened. Add the fresh ginger root and fresh turmeric, followed by the chilli, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground turmeric, and garlic.
- Add the lentils and stir until coated in the mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes to absorb the flavours of the spices and shallots, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.
For more information on the benefits of nutritional therapy, please contact The Alternative Healthcare centre to book a consultation with myself and see how food can be your healer and help you feel healthy.
There is also a fabulous Ayurvedic café at the centre so you can sample the delights of delicious healthy food.
Blog written by: Nutritional Therapist Birgitta Pain