For years, I guess like most of us, I thought of Turmeric as a spice to be used in curries. Indeed that was how my parents used it and I did too, in increasing years once mastering the art of Indian Cooking thanks in part to a fabulous little book called “The Curry Secret”, which I purchased in a little discount bookshop back in around 1997. In 2013, I discovered fresh turmeric root, (thanks to a dear friend of mine bringing it to my attention), which then led, as these things do, to it suddenly being available in 2014 in my local wholefoods shop in Hastings: Trinity Wholefoods. This, for me, was transformational in terms of how I started to use it! The subtle and slightly sweet/bitter taste of the fresh root encouraged me to experiment with using it dishes other than Indian-based. I also adapted and created the present recipe for my Tardka Dal (featuring in a future volume), using a combination of fresh root and dried powder to create the unique flavour of my version of this popular dish. My aromatic quorn mince dish came about one day when I was experimenting, again, with flavours, being “guided” to combine traditional mixed herb flavours, with dry white wine; ginger and turmeric, together with the essential addition of garlic, of course! The resulting dish was so appreciated by one of my friends, that I decided to write it down, and it is featured in a future volume. At my birthday party in 2016, it was the basis of the “mince” element of the large Cottage Pie I made, and I was gratified by the appreciative comments from all who tried it that evening!
I also found that it enhanced the flavour of my Ginger Cordials, as well as increasing the digestive and detoxifying benefits of my “quick” morning brews, using fresh ginger; turmeric; lemon and honey. Not only did it look even more appealing, with its amazing burnt orange colour, it also increased the enjoyment of the drink through the unique combination of both ginger and turmeric, with the lemon enhancing the flavoursome nature of these two delicious spices.
At the beginning of 2016, I was working with a dear friend who had advanced cancer, and, knowing of its cancer-healing benefits, I was drawn to create my own version of Turmeric Honey, which has since become the Golden Turmeric Cordial found in Chapter 5. What has happened since, by accident, is that many of my friends now regularly order it from me because they find it gives them great energy; has enabled them to get over nasty cold/flu bugs during the year and generally picked them up! I have found that my digestion is miles better having just one mug or glass of it every morning and I love the flavours therein!
So…… what more can I tell you about Turmeric and its great health properties?
Rather a lot!
The Linus Pauling Institute, which is based in Oregon, has studied many chemical components found in plants, known as phytochemicals, and has greatly studied the health benefits of the use of Turmeric. (You can find out more about their work on their website http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/about-linus-pauling-institute)
It has been known for many years that the active agents in Turmeric that make it so useful for not only herbal medicines, but also the benefit you can get from cooking with it, is something called Curcumin
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the chemical properties of curcumin allow it to remove free-radicals from the body and prevent DNA damage to cells. It is also believed to inhibit certain inflammatory enzymes and it may also enable our body's cells to produce natural antioxidants. Those at the Institute have also indicated that curcumin inhibits inflammation in our body's cells; that it may also help the body eliminate potential carcinogens (cancer-encouraging substances found in foods; chemicals; environmental pollution etc) and prevent cancer cells from invading healthy tissue. They also deduced that the spice also seems to induce cancer cells cultured in the laboratory to stop growing and to die
Turmeric is generally considered safe and has never been associated with any serious side effects. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that it is safe to take a single oral dose of curcumin as high as 12 grams without causing any adverse effects
Because of the nature of prescription drugs and how they are made, it is best to be on the safe side if you are taking large doses, as it is believed curcumin may interact with some pharmaceutical drugs, including blood thinners. So, before taking it as a supplement, it would be wise to consult a doctor first if this is the case for you
In the ancient sciences of Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Five Elements Traditions, Turmeric comes under both “Bitter and Pungent” Tastes. This means, therefore in the Five Elements, it comes under both Fire for the Bitter taste (related organs being the Heart; the Heart Governor; Small Intestine and Triple Burner) as well as Metal for the Pungent aspect (related organs being the lungs and large intestine). It has been used for centuries in their traditional herbal medicines for uses such as:-
aiding the healing of digestive problems
supporting healthy liver function
relieving inflammation from arthritis
helping to suppress pain from many sources
applying it topically to treat eczema, wounds and other skin problems
using it as a preventive for certain types of cancer or to slow the growth of cancerous tumours
When researching its health benefits further, I discovered the following health-related properties associated with Turmeric:-
It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, and is thus useful in disinfecting cuts and burns
There have been studies carried out that show that if it is combined with cauliflower, it has been shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer
There have been tests carried out on mice showing that it prevented breast cancer spreading to their lungs
It may also prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide
It has been suggested it may also reduce the risk of childhood leukaemia
It has been known for centuries in India and China to be a natural liver detoxifier
It has been shown to potentially prevent and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque build-up in the brain
It may also prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer
It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs and without any side effects
In further tests it has shown signs of slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice
It is a natural painkiller
Due to its pungent qualities, it has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic Medicine and foods to aid fat metabolism and help in weight management
It has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
It has been shown to boost the effects of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects
I understand that there are promising studies underway on the positive effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer
There are ongoing studies in the positive effects of Turmeric on multiple myeloma
Other studies have shown that it stops the growth of new blood vessels in tumours
It is known to speed up wound healing and assist in re-modelling damaged skin
It may also help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions
According to preliminary experimental research at the Medical University Graz in Austria, it is believed that curcumin seems to delay liver damage that can eventually lead to cirrhosis
Kansas State University research also found that adding certain spices to foods, including Turmeric, can reduce the levels of something call heterocyclic amines by up to 40%. (These are carcinogenic compounds, which are formed when meats are barbecued; boiled or fried)
Studies on rats at the University of Texas indicated that curcumin inhibits the growth of the skin cancer melanoma and also slows the spread of breast cancer into the lungs
Research carried out at the University of South Dakota have also discovered that pre-treatment with curcumin makes cancer cells more likely to respond favourably to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.