Ask any natural health care practitioner about turmeric root, or do a quick Google search for “health benefits of turmeric”, and you’ll quickly discover how much this little rhizome ‘does a body good’. Curcuma longa been used for centuries as a medicine, spice, and colouring ingredient. It is native to India and South-East Asia, and it’s bright orange pigment, called curcumin, is a significant active constituent of the plant.

Numerous clinical trials have been performed and published demonstrating the safe and beneficial effects of turmeric and curcumin in human consumpion. In the extensive monograph published in Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy (2nd Edition, pg. 900 – 921), authors Kerry Bone and Simon Mills review several important clinical trials, concluding that turmeric may be indicated for use in the following conditions:

  • Inflammatory conditions such as asthma, infection, eczema, psoriasis
  • Long term prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease
  • Adjunct use in the treatment of hyperlipidaemia
  • Prevention of cancer and as an adjunct to cancer treatment
  • To improve gastric (stomach) and hepatic (liver) function
  • To use as a clinically targeted antioxidant
  • Topically for inflammation, skin disease, and skin infection

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, references the largest study published to date “by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Councilpublication HerbClip.” Dr. Weil shares:

Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has been found to help prevent or alleviate:

    • Alzheimer’s disease: Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Arthritis: Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin – the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects – is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.
    • Cancer: Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals. Link to article.

 

Clearly, the health benefits of turmeric should inspire us all to consider adding this knobby golden root to our diets on a consistent basis. Nowadays, it is common to find the fresh root at your natural grocery store, usually sitting alongside the ginger root. For those unfamiliar with the taste, turmeric root is pungent, slightly bitter and astringent, warming, and well, not subtle. It carries a substantial dose of flavour along with it’s impressive resume of health benefits.

Five ways to consume more turmeric root

  • turmeric powder

    turmeric powder

    Cook with it on a regular basis

  • Turmeric root powder is commonly used as a culinary spice. It makes a wonderful addition to many meals, including:
  • Soups, stews, and curries – Add 1 tsp for a small/medium sized pot, and 1 – 2 tablespoons for a larger preparation.
  • Eggs. Add .5 – 1 tsp turmeric powder to your scrambled egg mix before cooking.
  • Spaghetti sauce. Add 2 – 3 teaspoons in your sauce mixture. You likely won’t even taste it among all the other strong flavours.
  • Baked beans – 1 tablespoon for a medium/large sized dish.
  • Spread it on toast!
  • Mix 1 tsp turmeric powder with 1 Tablespoon raw honey. Spread on hot buttered toast, and enjoy.
  • Mix 1 tsp turmeric powder with 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (which supplies 20 – 30mg of the antioxidant lycopene, as an added benefit). Spread on hot buttered toast, and enjoy.
  • Mix 1 tsp turmeric powder with 1 Tablespoon coconut oil or organic butter. Spread on hot toast, and enjoy.
  • Discover your own sweet or savoury spreadable combo, and enjoy!
  • Add it to juice and smoothies
  • For those that drink fresh juices and smoothies, adding a piece of the fresh root or a little of the powder is a simple way to spice up and enhance your healthy beverage.
  • Use about 1/2 – 1 inch of the fresh root for fresh juices, and 1/2 – 1 tsp of the powder into blender drinks / smoothies.
  • Experiment to find a delicious combination that suits your palate. Coconut water, oranges, fresh lemon, and turmeric sounds good to me, but you might not agree!
  • Take a herbal preparation or a curcumin supplement
  • If indicated, an extract can be a simple and effective way to enjoy the health benefits of turmeric.
  • Remember, all herbal supplements are not created equal. Only consume high quality and organic remedies from a reputable company.
  • HerbPharm and Gaia Herbs offer high quality retail products, and practitioner level turmeric extracts include those from MediHerb and Rutland Biodynamics.
  • Curcumin is one of the active constituents of the turmeric plant, and can be taken in a concentrated form. I recommend AOR Curcumin 95 or Natural Factors CurcuminRich, but there are many to choose from. Please consult with your natural medicine professional before including turmeric into your natural medicine protocol, to confirm it is indicated for your particular condition.

 

Caution: Turmeric is contraindicated in biliary tract obstruction, and consult professional advice before using turmeric if gallstones are present (according to the Commission E Monograph). High doses greater than 15 g/day should be not be prescribed long-term or concomitantly with anti-platelet or anticoagulant medication (Mills and Bone, 2013).