Turmeric: The Super-Spice!

Spices are some of the most widely used condiments throughout the world. They are revered as a culinary enhancing item by chefs and nutritionists. They are widely used in traditional medicine to heal many diseases. Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine are two areas where herbs and spices are widely used for their healing properties. **What is Ayurveda? Learn more here: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00454/Ayurvedic-Medicine.html

One such spice used both for cooking and to make supplements is turmeric. From the curcuma longa plant, the rhizome or roots are ground to make turmeric spice. Turmeric root is part of the ginger family. It has a distinct flavor and color and is used to add zest to curries or soups.   It has a warm, pungent and bitter flavor and is also used to flavor butter, cheese or mustard and to lend color to other dishes. 

Curcumin is the main pharmacological agent found in turmeric. This has been used to make health supplements and numerous studies have been conducted on its various therapeutic benefits. It offers anti-inflammatory benefits similar to strong drugs like phenylbutazone and hydrocortisone. Hence it is effective in treating inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis etc. Since it does not cause serious side effects like ulcer formation, intestinal bleeding or decreased WBC, turmeric supplements are safer to use than conventional medications.

Epidemiological studies have also found that curcumin has antioxidant properties which can protect the body from cancer cell growth by preventing tumor cell formation. Hence, it can be used to treat colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer.  Turmeric supplements also help improve functioning of the liver, lower cholesterol, offer cardiovascular protection and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.