Turmeric Enlivens Food And Helps Ease Inflammation
If your idea of a great evening includes digging into a rich curry at your local Indian restaurant, you’ve got lots of company. Indian food has gone from exotic fare to firm favorite in American cuisine.
An added bonus to the flavorful experience is turmeric, the spice that gives Indian delicacies that distinctive reddish-orange hue.
In its native land, turmeric is also prized by practitioners of Ayurveda (India’s traditional health system) as a whole-body cleanser.
Now scientists are deciphering this plant’s healing powers, especially that of its primary chemical constituent, curcumin.
What they’ve found: You can use a spice that fires the tongue to cool the fire of inflammation.
Inflammation does serve a useful purpose. Cut a finger or catch a cold, and your immune system uses this heat-generating process to help set things right.
But when your body can’t hit the inflammation off-switch, bad stuff happens, like joint pain and swelling.
Curcumin is believed to help tame inflammation in a manner similar to aspirin, so it’s not surprising that research has validated the herb’s traditional use in treating arthritis.
“I recommend turmeric for all inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, tendonitis, and autoimmune conditions,” says alternative medicine authority Andrew Weil, MD.
Lab tests show that turmeric may also help those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, and it may even regulate immune function in people with asthma.
Inflammation that isn’t as obvious as an achy knee or balky shoulder may actually be more dangerous; studies have linked chronic inflammation to a number of serious conditions, including cancer.
Fortunately, researchers have also discovered that curcumin can do battle against this feared disease, at least in experimental settings.
Evidently, turmeric fights cancer at several stages:
- Cancer cells need to grow and divide; curcumin stymies them.
- Tumors need to grow a new blood supply; curcumin hinders those efforts.
- Breast cancer often needs estrogen to thrive; curcumin latches onto cells, shutting out estrogen.
- Turmeric even neutralizes free radicals (unstable, cell-damaging molecules).
Studies continue on how curcumin can help fight cancer in humans.
Early results have been interesing: for example, scientists think that the use of turmeric in cooking might help explain the notably lower rates of childhood leukemia in Asia.
The tasty spice may also shield those undergoing radiation treatment from burns and blisters.
The News Only Gets Better
Rats prone to multiple sclerosis developed few or no symptoms after recieving curcumin. According to the prestigious journal Science (4/23/04), curcumin has countered the genetic damage that causes the lung disorder cystic fibrosis in mice.
Curcumin may also protect the liver against alcohol-related damage. Even turmeric’s traditional use as a tummy tamer has gotten the thumbs-up from the lab.
Elegant to the eye, tasty to the tongue, beneficial to the body: Turmeric is a true culinary and therapeutic superstar.
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