What if an addition to the regular recipes served in your home could make a dramatic change in the state of your health? What if the addition of turmeric to your monthly menu planning might gradually lead you to better health? Would you be willing to adjust your pallet to include some dishes that could improve, even restore your health? What if…because thus far it has been impossible to create a bio-synthetic form of curcumin.
Curcumin is the primary bioactive active ingredient of tumeric. Commonly used as a seasoning, in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, as a tea in Japan, as an inexpensive saffron substitute, as a colorant for some mustards, turmeric is the important ingredient in most curry powders. That’s where the yellow comes from, the polyphenolic compounds. Research over the last 50 years has demonstrated that it is the curcumin which provided the range of medicinal properties.
I have read that fewer than 1% of Parkinson’s patients use turmeric, the spice used in Indian cooking, as a treatment for the symptoms of the disease. It’s a strong antioxidant that may slow or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. Many patients taking it do not notice any change in their symptoms or progression when first taking it, which could be the reason the usage rate is so low. Patients with arthritis may notice more rapid effects.
In the US and UK 280 out of 100,000 patients get Parkinson’ disease, In India the rate is only 14 per 100,000. The US and UK are at the high end of the scale while India appears to be at the low end of the prevalence scale.
Besides its antioxidant powers, it is an anti-inflammatory. Curcumin chelates heavy metals and removes them from the body. It is thought to strengthen the blood/brain barrier although more research is necessary and in progress.
A recently published study on 12-14-08, by the prestigous John Hopkins Medical Institutions may result in increase patient usage. News Max reported that “Nerve-like cells in the brain make a mutant form of a protein that causes brain cells to die. The researchers found that when curcumin was applied to brain cells only 19% died as compared to 50% of the cells that were untreated.”
Curcumin is safe having undergone six human trials with doses up to 8 grams per day. It has been approved by the FDA as a safe food. Although curcumin has poor oral bioavailability because its metabolites may not have the same bio-activity, that is balanced by at least ten different neuroprotective actions. There has been mention of some interaction with NSADS – non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs, which indicates that a discussion with your physician may be necessary before using tumeric on a regular basis
Curcumin is also an anticarcinogenic, it is proving to be effective against a variety of cancers. Colorectal cancer trials appear to indicate that oral supplementation may be effective. Its anti-tumeral effects against melanoma cells have already been seen. Cell culture and animal data show that dietary Curcumin can be used to treat age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and stroke. There are currently ongoing clinical trials.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is often used as an antibacterial. It is thought to have fluoride and is considered an essential for dental health. There are supplements available if cooking with tumeric is not an option.
A beneficial side effect of Curcumin is its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller in the treatment of arthritis. It acts like a cox I or cox II painkiller similar to aspirin or Vioxx but is safer. It is also discussed as possibly being of significant benefit for diabetes and AIDS.
The earliest uses of turmeric were probably as a coloring agent. Turmeric has been used in India for at least 4000 years in the Vedic culture. Marco Polo mentioned it in 1280 in his travel notes of China. Although most commonly grown in Southeast Asia, Peru is the third largest producer of turmeric. You will find it as a common ingredient in Caribbean cooking and is imported from Haiti and Jamaica.
Do not confuse turmeric the rhizome with tumeric root, another name for Golden Seal. Golden Seal is also known for its medicinal properties but cannot be used for sustained periods of time.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and is often used with ginger root in teas and curries. Although most turmeric is used in the powered form for cooking, it can be sliced or chopped in the same way that ginger is often used. Its flavor has been described as earthy, a combination of ginger and pepper, musky, slightly bitter and pungent
Turmeric is known by a several names and is also known by its misspelling tumeric. Its botanical name is curcuma longa actually a derivation of the arabic word for saffron. In Sanscrit it was shati, in India it is haldi while in Thai it is kumin. In other Southeast Asian areas it is known as kunyit. Recipes can be searched by any of these names. It is also known as saffron des Indes, Gelbwurz, kharkoum, fa nwin, wong geung fun, kaha, munjal, kamin and Yellow Ginger.
A final note about turmeric: when using it in cooking, remember its origin as a dye. Whether you use the bright yellow powder from India or the brownish version from China, this yellow-orange rhizome can stain most everything with which it comes into contact. Select your cooking vessels carefully. Good Health.