You’ve probably heard some of the claims being made about the powers of turmeric- this everyday spice that’s used to give curry its yellow colour. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have been using it to treat conditions ranging from depression and digestive problems to liver disease and even chest pains for millennia. Now a growing body of scientific evidence is starting to accept that turmeric, or possibly the curcumin that it contains, needs to be taken seriously.
What are the possible benefits?
There have been all sorts of studies in the last 20 years, and the research is still at an early stage. We’re not yet sure what might be the recommended dose, whether there might be side-effects or whether all the claims can be backed up by solid, controlled evidence. But here are just some of the health-giving benefits that have been attributed to turmeric, and it opens up an awesome collection of possibilities:
- Anti-cancer claims
It would be an exaggeration and totally wrong to state that curcumin cures cancer. If that were true doctors would be prescribing it to everyone who has cancer. But having said that, some medical trials, still at an early stage, suggest that turmeric may help fight the onset or the spread of certain types of cancer. More research is being done and until we have clearer evidence the jury is out.
- Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties
There is no doubt about the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Inflammation is what causes us to age and to become ill. It is responsible for all sorts of conditions from arthritis to various more serious conditions. In Eastern folk medicine turmeric has been used to treat wounds and fight infection as it is believed to have anti-bacterial properties.
- Preventing and healing liver damage
In Eastern folk medicine turmeric has been used in the treatment of liver damage and there are studies, still at an early stage to see whether it can help treat conditions such as cirrhosis. It’s too soon to give clear results from these investigations, but maybe there’s a good reason why curry is the perfect accompaniment next time you fancy a few beers.
- Helping the brain
In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine turmeric has been used to treat depression. One recent study in India pointed to the possibility that it might one day be used to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. The research on this one should be interesting.
- Preventing Type-2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem. These days even young children are being diagnosed with this serious lifestyle-related illness. Type-2 diabetes can be prevented and kept under control by exercising and eating more healthily. At least one study has suggested that turmeric might be a useful addition to an anti-diabetes diet.
Can turmeric ever be harmful?
A sudden change to your diet can have side effects. It’s not yet known what dosage of turmeric is ideal and for this reason the best idea is to add it gradually to your diet. Start by adding it in one of the ways suggested below two or three times a week. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have gallbladder problems there is evidence to suggest that you should probably avoid it. If you’re taking medication for any condition, you should check with your doctor that it’s OK to use it, as turmeric is known to react with some drugs. Many people prefer trying to get their turmeric intake from adding the root, juice or powder to cooking, rather than using supplements.
Ideas for adding turmeric to your diet
- Spicing up a curry
Next time you go for a curry, choose a yellow one. That yellow comes from turmeric. It’s often claimed that the benefits of turmeric are greater when it’s mixed with freshly ground black pepper, so make sure your curry spices include that too.
- Bring on the mustard
Did you know that mustard gets its yellow colour from turmeric? Have a dollop on the side next time you barbecue steaks or grab a hotdog.
- Healing golden chicken soup
After roasting a chicken, don’t throw away the carcass. Make tasty golden chicken soup by boiling the bones and any leftovers with a handful of carrots, parsnips, potatoes and any other veg you have lying around. Add herbs- tarragon is good- and a generous sprinkle of turmeric with your seasoning. This will give the soup a lovely golden colour as well as adding flavour. Cook it for 30-40 minutes, remove any bones and put it through the blender. Delicious!
- An eggy breakfast
Add a pinch of turmeric and some freshly ground black pepper to scrambled eggs. For added flavour throw in some chopped tarragon or parsley too.
- Home-made turmeric tea
Make a cup of turmeric tea by heating 250 ml water, ½ inch freshly grated ginger root, ½ inch of freshly grated turmeric root, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon and 4 black peppercorns in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain and serve with honey and squeezed orange or lemon juice to taste.
- Turmeric Shots
Next time you visit a juice bar, ask for turmeric shot. The ones made with an apple juice base with lemon and black pepper are delicious!
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