The Spice of Life

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”, and it is certainly true that some of the most powerful medicines are often found in the food we eat.  A prime example of this is Turmeric, the spice which is used to flavour Indian dishes and to give curries their characteristic yellow colour.

Turmeric has been used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India for over 2000 years.  It is known to increase the ‘Agni’ or ‘digestive fire’ which is responsible for healthy digestion.  Turmeric therefore relieves symptoms of indigestion such as nausea, bloating and flatulence.  It is also a powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory which is useful for problems such as IBS, gallbladder inflammation and colic, and a wide range of other inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

The active constituent of turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to have a wide range of therapeutic effects. It is a powerful antioxidant which prevents the damage to body cells that can be caused by a wide range of environmental factors.  In particular, it protects the liver against the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption or long-term use of prescription drugs.

The antioxidant effect also protects the blood vessels, and studies have shown that turmeric can help to reduce cholesterol levels and to prevent the blood clots which cause heart attacks and strokes. Recent research  has also shown that curcumin can enter the brain and prevent  changes to the brain tissue that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, the combined antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects of turmeric are beneficial in various forms of cancer, particularly those affecting the skin and gastrointestinal tract.

When used as a medicine, turmeric needs to be taken on a daily basis, and a teaspoon of the powder can be mixed into water and taken once a day.  However, in order to get the maximum benefit it is best to mix the turmeric powder with a little ground black pepper (about one part black pepper to nine parts turmeric) as this greatly increases the rate of absorption.

Turmeric is extremely safe and can be used in large quantities as a food, with no adverse reactions. However, anyone suffering from hyperacidity, stomach ulcers or obstructive jaundice should consult a qualified medical herbalist before taking this or any other medicinal product.

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