Turmeric the ‘Wonder Spice’, Why You Should Eat It!
Curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric, the beautifully bright yellow on the colour wheel of spices, is a powerful compound with proven health benefits, backed by science.
This spice has long been used in ancient Indian and Chinese medicine, to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, but also works preventatively, to curb chronic illnesses, such as diabetes (Chuengsamarn, et al., 2012).
There are a number of studies which have expanded research on curcumin, the active compound of turmeric, and found it to be an effective as an anti-cancer, anti-microbial, hypolipodemic, anti-coagulant and hepa-toprotective agent (Nasri et al., 2014).
What makes curcumin such a strong anti-inflammatory compound?
Researchers have discovered that curcumin possesses lipooxygenase and COX-2 inhibiting properties; the same properties exhibited by common NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Aspirin, which work by inhibiting an enzyme in the body’s biochemical inflammatory pathway (Nasri et al., 2014).
A study in rats demonstrated that a low dose of 20-80 mg/kg of curcumin decreased paw inflammation and edema. In another animal study, an injection of turmeric (equivalent to 4 mg per kg per day for 4 days) inhibited joint inflammation in both acute (75%) and chronic cases (68%) [Nasri et al., 2014].
The anti-microbial effects of turmeric have been known for many years
Even in the Westernized world. The company Johnson & Johnson used an aqueous extract of turmeric in their trade mark ‘Band-Aid brand (Rao, 2004). The company was specifically targeting the Indian population.
An animal study by Huang et al., (1998) showed that either a topical or dietary application of turmeric strongly inhibited tumor formation in the skin, forestomach, duodenum, colon and oral cavity.
What about human studies? Does this benefit also prove to be effective in human trials? A study by Dimas et al., (2015) examined the effects of turmeric root extract and its effect on colon cancer cells. What this group of researches found is consistent with many animal based studies. Turmeric root extract inhibited the growth of all human colon cancer cell lines tested. Furthermore, they found that turmeric extract showed indications of anti-invasive activity, meaning the ability of these tumour cells to migrate and spread.
So how do I add it to my diet?
By now, you might be wondering how you can incorporate this ‘wonder spice’ into your diet. It won’t be as complicated as you think. But, this spice does come with a disclaimer: its deep yellow colour can and will easily stain!
When cutting fresh turmeric, I would suggest wearing kitchen gloves. Purchasing organic, ground turmeric is always simple and convenient option. However, if it does get onto your counter tops, quickly wash the area with soap and water to prevent a long-lasting stain.
Incorporating turmeric into your diet is the fun part! Here are my top suggestions for consuming more of this vibrant spice:
• Tastes great in a morning smoothie, combined with mango, coconut, pineapple, spinach, avocado, and a pinch of ginger and cinnamon.
• Sprinkled on egg salad to add some bold colour, with some equally bold benefits.
• Added to roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower and potatoes.
• Added to soups, such as butternut squash soup, or mum’s traditional chicken or vegetable soup recipe.
• Salad dressings—-works great in combination with a lime juice, tahini based, cayenne dressing.
• Turmeric lattes—-very trendy at the moment! Work well into a herbal tea infusion, such as chamomile, with almond milk, sprinkle of ginger, all spice, cinnamon, coconut oil, maple syrup, and a dash of turmeric.
• Savoury porridge recipes, with a buckwheat or oat groat base.
• A great addition to a simple immune-boosting elixir of raw honey, ground ginger, almond milk, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
• Sprinkled on top of scrambled or poached eggs, or incorporated into your favourite omelette.
• Homemade bread or muffin recipes.
• Sprinkled on mashed avocado, topped on your favourite crackers.
• Freshly juiced—-a great combination is lemon, pineapple, carrot, celery, ginger, and turmeric.
Huang M, Lou Y, Xie J, Ma W, Lu Y, Yen P, Newmark B, Ho C. Effect of dietary curcumin and dibenzoylmethane on formation of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced mammary tumors and lymphomas/leukemias in Sencar mice. Carcinogenesis. 1998;Vol 19(9), pp. 1697-1700. Available at: http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/9/1697.long.
Nasri H, Sahinfard N, Rafieian M, Rafieian S, Shirzad M, Rafieian-Kopaei M. (2014). Turmeric: A spice with multifunctional medicinal properties. Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology. 2014;3(1):5-8. Available at: http://www.herbmedpharmacol.com/PDF/JHP-3-5.pdf.
Rao V. Turmeric and curcumin. Current Science, 2004;Vol 87 (No. 10). Available at: http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/nov252004/1324.pdf.
Chuengsamarn S, Rattanamongkolgul S, Luechapudiporn R, Phisalaphong C, Jirwatnotai S. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012;Nov;35(11):2121-7. doi: 10.2337/dc12-0116.
Dimas K, Tsimplouli C, Houchen C, Pantazis P, Sakellaridis N, Tsangaris GT, Anastasiadou E, Ramaujam RP. An ethanol extract of Hawaiian turmeric: extensive in vitro anticancer activity against human colon cancer cells. Altern Ther Health. 2015;21 Suppl 2:46-54. Retrieved from http://http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26308760.