Food For Thought- Turmeric!

Food For Thought- Turmeric!

Ever wondered what gives Indian food & curries its rich, yellow color? It’s the use of the least spiciest ingredient in Indian cuisine-“turmeric”. This amazing spice has a unique flavor when added even in small quantities. It is very low on the spice level and can be added to anything you cook.

Turmeric is a tropical herbaceous plant similar to ginger. The root and rootstock, or rhizome, of the plant contain curcumin, which is considered to be the active ingredient.It has been used in India for thousands of years and is a major part of Ayurvedic medicine**. It was first used as a dye and then later for its possible medicinal properties. In India, turmeric has been used as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores, basically for its supposed antimicrobial property. In the Ayurvedic system(since c. 1900 BCE) turmeric was a medicine for a range of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders.

Curcumin has been under research for quite a while now. In September 2012, the U.S. National Institutes of Health had seventy-one registered clinical trials completed or underway to study curcumin for a variety of clinical disorders.

Turmeric rhizome

According to Dr.Andrew Weil, some very comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies to date was published by James A. Duke. 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 the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease. Elderly villagers in India have one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s; the reason may be the turmeric that they consume in their daily curries.
  • Arthritis: Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds,  which relieve pain, swelling and inflammation. By itself, 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. 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.
  • Supporters also claim that turmeric protects against liver diseases, stimulates the gallbladder and circulatory systems, reduces cholesterol levels, dissolves blood clots, helps stop external and internal bleeding, and relieves painful menstruation and angina (chest pains that often occur with heart disease). It is also used as a remedy for digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and illnesses caused by toxins from parasites and bacteria.

Cooking with turmeric:

Sharp and earthy in flavor, with just a hint of ginger, turmeric complements any dish by giving it a warm color and accenting the natural flavor of the ingredients used. It should, however, be used sparingly. While turmeric tastes pleasantly spicy, a little goes a long way and it gets stronger as it cooks. Adding it to soups and stews improves the flavor, and when melted with butter and drizzled over pasta or cooked vegetables, turmeric provides a bright splash of color as well as irresistible taste.

**Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country’s traditional health care systems. The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge).

Stay tuned for recipes using turmeric..

To Good Health!

-Aparna Ramadurai

9/17/13