Sid Sheehan, Chef, Nutritional Therapist and CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) graduate writes about the medicinal benefits of Turmeric.
Sid offers a range of nutritional advice and gives practical demonstrations on how to implement these changes into your diet at his Cookery School in Listowel Co. Kerry.
More information on him and the courses he runs can be found at http://www.nourishbynature.ie
The Power of Turmeric
Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories, or rather the chemical compound Curcumin, which is its key component.
This yellow flowered plant is a member of the ginger family. It is grown in Indonesia, China, India and other parts of the tropics, where the dried aromatic root like stem is ground to form a powder. This deep orange yellow powder is commonly used as a spice and one of the main ingredients in curry powder. Along with being used as a preservative, colouring and flavouring agent, turmeric has been used for over 4000yrs in Indian and Chinese medicine to relieve conditions ranging from flatulence and digestive disorders to menstrual irregularities. It is now widely recognised in the West as a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
How it fights Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body there is a biological response to protect the affected area.
This immune response to a whole host of injuries, infections, illnesses and general disease of any part of the body is characterised by heat, redness, swelling and pain in the affected area. This complex protective mechanism can however become self-perpetuating whereby more inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. It is at this stage that we need to treat the inflammation by attempting to reduce it with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Curcumin works as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, these harmful molecules damage cell membranes and cause cell death. In addition they inhibit oxidative DNA damage and relieve oxidative stress. Curcumin is able to regulate the foundation of nitric oxide which is carcinogenic and plays a key role in inflammation.
As an anti-inflammatory, Curcumin works in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) by inhibiting the activity and synthesis of specific enzymes. Clinical trials show that at dosages of 400-1200mg/day, curcumin is comparable to ibuprofen.
Curcumin also acts as a choleretic, that is, a substance that increases the volume of bile and amounts of solids secreted from the liver.
Through its various mechanisms, this spice supports colon health, exerts neuro-protective activity and helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by providing significant protection against damage of the inner lining of the blood vessels.
Extensive lab tests have shown that curcumin interferes with melanoma skin cancer cells causing them to self-destruct.
How best to get Turmeric into the diet
If you can manage to get your hands on fresh turmeric root, then that’s fantastic. You can use it grated or finely chopped in soups, stews and curries. Chances are though that you will find it in its powdered form more easily. The bio-availability of turmeric is greatly increased when co-administered with piperine, a powerful component found in black pepper. Always use a good twist of freshly ground black pepper when cooking with turmeric, to enhance its healing benefits. I always add a teaspoon of ground turmeric to a breakfast smoothie in the mornings
Recipe for Anti Inflammatory Breakfast Smoothie
200mls coconut milk
½ ripe mango
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
¼” slice fresh ginger (peeled and chopped small)
Place all ingredients in blender with some ice and blend until smooth, this will make approx. 500ml smoothie.