– sliced (dried) rhizome
Turmeric has a long history of culinary, medicinal and cosmetic use in India, Persia and South Asia and is now considered an invaluable essential in many households worldwide. Turmeric entered the radar of Western Medicine in the 1990’s when research started to note the tumor-suppressing anti-inflammatory qualities of this cousin of ginger—something that lay-people in Asia had suspected for centuries. Turmeric has more recently gained a “super-food” status —and everyone from Canadian Living Magazine to Dr. Oz have since been touting the benefits of this flavorful seasoning.
The active components of turmeric are curcuminoids – they are responsible for many of the “superfood” benefits. The curcuminoids found in a sprinkling of turmeric include curcumin (which is responsible for the deep yellow color), dimethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin as well as various volatile oils, proteins and resins.
Apart from its taste, turmeric is well known for its cancer-preventing properties: it slows the growth of tumors, encourages normal cell apoptosis (decreasing the chance of cell mutation), impairs angiogenesis and metastasis, and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin has also shown promise in pre-clinical studies as a chemopreventative (a substance administered in healthy people at a higher risk of cancer to prevent the formation of cancerous masses) agent for colon, duodenum, fore-stomach, mammary, oral and sebaceous/skin cancers. Other studies found that it inhibited procarcinogen activating enzymes in cancerous human breast tissue cells. There is also a lot of promise for preventing prostate, colon and melanoma cancers.
Turmeric also taken for a wide variety inflammatory conditions— for example rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, Crohn’s Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatitis—that carry a major chronic disease burden in our society. Recent research shows that curcumin inhibits inflammatory molecules throughout the body (cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin factor-β etc.). Many people use turmeric for hepatitis, fibromyalgia, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. Turmeric has also been used for lowering cholesterol (preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol), the prevention of heart attack and artherosclerosis, to improve wound healing and treat hemorrhaging, inhibit viral replication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), increase bile secretion, suppression of symptoms associated with Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, to prevent cataract formation, and in the treatment of leprosy, jaundice and liver/gallbladder ailments. Since turmeric also acts as a uterine stimulant it is helpful in cases of amenorrhea. Digestive disorders are easily treated with turmeric—a tea is often taken for flatulence, dyspepsia, abdominal pain and bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and as an appetite stimulant.
Topically, a paste can be made an applied to insect bites, inflamed skin, infected wounds, bruises and leech bites. Women in India often use turmeric topically to remove unwanted hair and brighten the skin (applying turmeric to the faces of the bride and groom at Indian weddings is a long-standing tradition in some areas).
Turmeric is typically consumed orally and it has been established that it is safe to take, even in high doses. The bio-availability of the spice may be greatly increased by consuming it with fats—such as in warmed milk, in a dish cooked with oil, dissolved in a high quality fish oil or as a tincture – or by adding peppercorns to the beverage or dish. To make a tea of turmeric, the 1 teaspoon of powder or dried root is added (often along with black peppercorns) to boiling water or milk and is simmered roughly 10 min. Other spices can be added and the beverage can be sweetened with honey if desired.
Turmeric is delicious on roasted vegetables, sprinkled on meats or when used to fry onions as the base of your meal.
SINCE TURMERIC ALTERS PLATELET AGGREGATION, PATIENTS TAKING ANTICOAGULENT/ ANTIPLATELET MEDICATIONS SUCH AS WARFARIN SHOULD EXERCISE CAUTION AND CONSULT WITH A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL PRIOR TO USE. THEORETICALLY THE RISK OF BLEEDING MAY INCREASE IF TURMERIC IS USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH SOME HERBS: ANGELICA, CLOVE, GARLIC, GINGER, GINGKO, PANAX GINSENG, RED CLOVER,WILLOW ETC. TURMERIC ALSO ACTS AS A UTERINE STIMULENT THUS PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING WOMEN SHOULD LIMIT OR AVOID CONSUMPTION. MAY CAUSE ALLERGIC DERMATITIS IN SOME CASES WHEN APPLIED TOPICALLY. TURMERIC MAY CAUSE GALL BLADDER CONTRACTIONS AND SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION FOR THOSE WITH GALLSTONES.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Canadian Food & Drug Administration.
Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.) Distinctly Tea Inc.
“Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research”. Jurenka JS. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):141-53.
“Effect of curcumin on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and cytochrome P450 1A1 in MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells”. Ciolino HP, Daschner PJ,Wang TT, Yeh GC. Biochem Pharmacol. 1998 Jul 15;56 (2):197-206.
“Plant-derived health – the effects of turmeric and curcuminoids”. BengmarkS, Mesa MD, and Gil A. Nutr. Hosp. vol.24 no.3 Madrid May-June 2009.
“Recent advances in the investigation of curcuminoids”. Itokawa H, Shi Q, Akiyama T, Morris-Natschke SL, Lee KH. Chin Med. 2008 Sep 17;3:11.
“Turmeric” Monograph. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com
“Turmeric” Professional Monograph. Natural Standard. http://www.naturalstandard.com/
Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.)