hen I think of herbs that God has given us as allies for health, turmeric is at the top of my list! It’s been used as food and medicine for centuries, but with the ongoing assault on our health stemming from our modern lifestyle, we need healing plants like this more than ever! With powerhouse anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it’s an herb worth taking in supplement form and incorporating into your diet.
For this article, I’m happy to be joined by my friend Anisha Anand, Wellness Chef at He”art”ful Earth Cuisine, who is going to give you some wonderful and practical recipes and tips for how you can get turmeric into your daily life. But first…
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a flowering perennial that is closely related to ginger. It grows native in Asia, particularly India, where it is primarily used as a culinary pigment and spice but it also has a long history of medicinal use in both traditional Chinese and Ayuvedic medicine.
In recent years, turmeric has made the journey into western medicine, mainly in alternative circles, but is now showing up in clinical studies paired with or compared to some of the top pharmaceutical drugs in conventional medicine in treating conditions ranging from cancer to depression. The results have been astounding! Let me give you a quick run-down of where turmeric is showing up in medical journals. (Important note: when used therapeutically, the compound curcumin from turmeric is most commonly used rather than the whole herb.)
Of all the benefits of turmeric, perhaps it’s most crucial is as an anti-inflammatory. Systemic inflammation can be found at the root of many of our chronic conditions. In treating this inflammation it’s important to know that there are many inflammatory pathways at work in the body, and most anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation only through a single pathway. This would be equivalent to playing baseball with only a second-baseman; you’re not really covering the field well.
The good news is that the compounds found in turmeric work on multiple inflammatory pathways. It can nearly play every position on the field! A research study was published in 2004 that compared several anti-inflammatories. Drugs like ibuprofen, also known to irritate the gut, were among the least effective, while curcumin from turmeric was among the most effective. Score one for turmeric!
If you type the terms curcumin and cancer into the medical database PubMed, the search will yield nearly 3000 published articles. Curcumin has been shown in numerous studies to fight cancer on all fronts: 1) it stops cancer cell formation, 2) stops cancer cell replication, and 3) stops cancer cell migration to other parts of the body.1,2,3,4
Curcumin has even been found to be beneficial when used in combination with conventional chemo and radiation treatments! It has shown to increase drug effectiveness during treatments and decrease drug resistance from cancer cells.5
With Alzheimer rates rising at an alarming pace, at the present time our medical system doesn’t have anything close to an effective treatment for this condition.
While there is much about Alzheimer’s we don’t understand, we are gaining more and more ground on how to prevent it! Curcumin has shown to be useful in reducing inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain, making it a wonderful ally in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.6 Score another one for turmeric!
Heart disease continues to be hot topic #1 in medicine. One in three deaths in the United States can be attributed to it. The statin medications used to treat heart disease are among the worst drugs in regard to side effects and haven’t proved effective for preventing heart attacks and strokes . While these drugs will lower cholesterol levels, they do nothing to address the underlying causes of heart disease- inflammation and oxidative stress!
In a study where curcumin was compared to a levostatin, curcumin was equally effective for protecting against inflammatory changes that lead to plaque buildup, reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL levels. In another study, those who received curcumin saw a 29% increase in HDL levels!7,8 Turmeric strikes again!
In a number of studies, curcumin has shown great results with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In a study from 2012, a group of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers were given 500mg of curcumin and another group given a pharmaceutical known to be among the best for the condition. By the end of the study, 14% of the group on the RA drug had dropped out because of adverse effects. From those of the group that remained, those given curcumin saw a much greater improvement.9 Turmeric is on a real streak here!
For diabetics, taking curcumin and consuming turmeric is one of the smartest things you can do! First, it’s been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by activating the AMPK enzyme. In a 2009 study, it far outperformed the drug Metformin in this task.10 Several other studies have shown it to be effective in reducing blood glucose levels.
Second, turmeric protects the body against conditions that come along with diabetes: destruction of eye tissue and blood vessels, diabetic neuropathy, heart disease, and decreased brain function. As you can see, diabetics have a real ally in turmeric.
If you have intestinal inflammation due to IBS, IBD, Crohn’s or other uncomfortable digestive issues, turmeric can help save the day for you. In a study published in 2004, chronic IBS sufferers who were given curcumin saw a reduction of abdominal pain and two-thirds of the participants saw overall improvement in their symptoms.11
One of the major issues with treating intestinal conditions is that the drugs used for treatment damage the gut lining and disrupt our intestinal flora. Curcumin, however, can actually strengthen the gut lining.
Anisha Anand here from He”art”ful Earth Cuisine.
I grew up eating a lot turmeric in my food on a daily basis, but I had no idea the immense power this little herb has. As I grew up and learned more about spices, I heard more about its medicinal qualities. In recent years, after reading and learning from many nutrition experts, I realize the tremendous benefits of including it in my daily diet!
If you haven’t tried it before I would suggest you start with a pinch of the dried root powder and increase how much you add each time you cook as you get used to the flavor! Most of the time, I buy dried turmeric powder and store it in a glass jar in my pantry. Every time I see fresh turmeric root, I jump at the opportunity to stock up on it too! The fresh root is quite spicy and a little goes a long way. I must mention that when you handle the fresh root your fingers and cutting board may become temporarily stained yellow. Fret not, it will wash off.
I have so many favorite ways of incorporating turmeric in my diet. Here are my top 10 tips to get you started with turmeric:
10 Tips to Add Tumeric
1. Roasted vegetables of choice – I sprinkle some turmeric on zucchini slices, carrots, potatoes or cauliflower. My favorite spices to pair with turmeric are paprika, cumin and coriander. Toss bite-sized vegetables in a high temperature oil (I use grape seed or avocado) along with turmeric, spices of choice, salt and black pepper. Roast at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until fully cooked.
2. Add a teaspoon to a cup of quinoa or brown rice along with garlic and black pepper while cooking. Top with fresh chopped herbs- my favorite is cilantro.
3. Sautéed celery and onions with turmeric, salt, and pepper is another favorite. I cook down chopped onions and celery along with the spices until they are soft. This makes for a great side dish.
4. I use turmeric on chicken and fish. My favorite recipe is to marinate the chicken overnight in turmeric, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt pepper and grated coconut and then cook it the next day in coconut oil. I call this Island Chicken! Top with a pineapple or mango salsa! When using this recipe for fish you could marinate for a couple of hours. Check out this recipe for Island chicken or fish.
5. If you love scrambled eggs, add a pinch of turmeric to your eggs while cooking; and if you love chilled egg salad, try it as a curried version with some celery and red onions.
6. Along the lines of curried egg salad, I also do a curried potato salad or chicken salad. It’s a great way to use up leftover chicken and include turmeric too.
7. A really quick and simple marinade for fish or chicken is to blend some EVOO, lemon, ginger, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Marinate for a few hours and pan cook or roast.
8. I love to make homemade dressings, and there’s nothing like a pinch of turmeric added to your favorite salad dressing. Looking for a great dressing recipe with turmeric, click here.
9. As kids, when we got the sniffles, we were given a cup or warm milk with turmeric and honey before bed. Though it’s great to fight off sickness, this drink is great for everyday use. You may use a dairy or nondairy milk of your choice.
10. I even add fresh turmeric to my smoothies sometimes. I am sharing my favorite turmeric smoothie recipe here; I call it my Sunrise and Shine Smoothie!
SUN RISE & SHINE SMOOTHIE
- 1 cup coconut water (add extra for your preferred consistency)
- 1 cup cabbage, rough chopped
- 1 large or 2 small carrots, rough cut
- 1 -2 cups peaches (I used frozen ones so I could have a chilled smoothie without adding ice, also add more fruit if you prefer a sweeter smoothie!)
- A small piece of fresh turmeric
- 1 teaspoon maca powder(optional, check with your physician if you take medications or have medical conditions before including maca root in your diet)
- A fistful of fresh wheatgrass (optional)
Blend all ingredients in your Vitamix or blender of choice. Sip and enjoy.
Eric McMullen, C.N.C, M.Ed.
1. Yasunari Takada, et al. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene 2004; 23(57): 9247-58.↩
2. Shehzard A, Wahid F, Lee YS. Curcumin in cancer chemoprevention: molecular targets, pharmacokinetics, bioavailability, and clinical trials. Arch Pharm (Weinheim). 2010; 343(9):489-99.↩
3. Johnson, JJ, Mukhtar H. Curcumin for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Cancer Lett. 2007;255(2):170-81.↩
4. Deepa Das A, Balan A, Sreelatha KT. Comparative study of the efficacy of curcumin and turmeric as chemopreventative agents in oral submucous fibrosis: a clinical and histopathological evaluation. JIAOMR; April-June 2010;22(2):88-92.↩
5. Goel A, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin, the golden spice from Indian saffron, is a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for tumors and chemoprotector and radioprotector for normal organs. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(7):919-30.↩
6. Garcia-Alloza M. Curcumin labels amyloid pathology in vivo, disrupts existing plaques, partially restores distorted neurites in an Alzheimer mouse model. J Neurochem. 2007;102:1095-1104.↩
7. Shin SK, HA TY, McGregor RA, Choi MS. Long-term curcumin administration protects against atherosclerosis via hepatic regulation of lipoprotein cholesterol metabolism. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Nov 7.↩
8. Soni KB, Kuttan R. Effect of oral curcumin administration on serum peroxides and cholesterol levels in human volunteers. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992 Oct; 36(4): 273-5.↩
9. Chandran B, Goel A. A Randomized, Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Patients with Active Rheumatoid Arthritis. Phytother Res. March 9, 2012 doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639.↩
10. Teayoun K, et al. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2009; 388(2): 377-82.↩
11. Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Booth J. Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Dec; 10(6):1015-8.↩