Turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, and while it is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, it also gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.
The wide range of turmeric health benefits come mainly from its main ingredient,curcumin. This widely researched component of turmeric is highly therapeutic and is used in various drugs and pharmaceutics mainly because of its immunity boosting and anti-oxidant properties.
Boosting Immunity –Curcumin has a huge therapeutic value and boosting immunityis one of the most important properties of curcumin and also helps protect against certain liver diseasesas is evident from various studies.
Curcumin Helps Promote Weight Loss and reduce the incidence of obesity-related diseases. The inflammation associated with obesity is due in part to the presence of immune cells called macrophages in fat tissues throughout the body . These cells produce cytokines that can cause inflammation in organs such as the heart, and islets of the pancreas, while also reducing the regulation of glucose in muscle and liver. Scientists believe that turmeric suppresses the number and activity of these cells, and help reduce some of the adverse consequences of obesity.
Turmeric Improves Rheumatoid Arthritis, according to a study by Chandran and Goel at Nirmala Medical Center, Kerala. The researchers also found that curcumin treatment was safe and did not relate with any adverse events.
A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory
The volatile oil fraction of turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs cortisol and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.
An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests.
Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralise free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints. Turmeric's combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was compared to phenylbutazone and produced comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.
Curcumin's antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occuring approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly. Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function. Additionally, other suggested mechanisms by which it may protect against cancer development include inhibiting the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.
Improved Liver Function
In a recent rat study conducted to evaluate the effects of turmeric on the liver's ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals, levels of two very important liver detoxification enzymes (UDP glucuronyl transferase and glutathione-S-transferase) were significantly elevated in rats fed turmeric as compared to controls. The researchers commented, "The results suggest that turmeric may increase detoxification systems in addition to its anti-oxidant properties...Turmeric used widely as a spice would probably mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens."
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Be careful when using turmeric since its deep color can easily stain. To avoid a lasting stain, quickly wash any area with which it has made contact with soap and water. To prevent staining your hands, you might consider wearing kitchen gloves while handling turmeric.
If you are able to find turmeric rhizomes in the grocery store, you can make your own fresh turmeric powder by boiling, drying and then grinding it into a fine consistency.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
• Add turmeric to egg salad to give it an even bolder yellow color.
• Mix brown rice with raisins and cashews and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
• Although turmeric is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder, some people like to add a little extra of this spice when preparing curries. And turmeric doesn't have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. Or, for a creamy, flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try mixing some turmeric and dried onion with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
• Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
• Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.
• For an especially delicious way to add more turmeric to your healthy way of eating, cut cauliflower florets in half and healthy sauté with a generous spoonful of turmeric for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
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