There is no single plant, food, or ingredient with more medicinal value than Curcuma longa or turmeric. Its dark orange color and pungent flavor are an unmistakable attribute found in much of Indian and African cuisine. These cultures used turmeric for medicinal reasons as much as for flavor. The root of this plant has an array of substances, most notably curcumin, that protect it in the soil and help it regenerate and heal quickly if injured. The turmeric plant is a survivor and as with other plants that have this quality, they offer us some of these benefits when we make them part of a daily recipe.
Curcumin’s greatest body of clinical value lies in its anti-inflammatory properties. At last count, well over 1000 research papers and investigations have illustrated its ability to significantly alter cyclo-oxygenase series II enzyme (COXII) activity that is responsible for translating stress and injury into inflammation. Curcumin, in fact, has been placed head-to-head in investigations with widely prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with some very favorable results.
Second only to the research around inflammation, turmeric has been heavily investigated for its anti-cancer properties. It enhances critical cell self-regulating processes that eliminate mutations and improve cellular function. Apoptosis and autophagy are up-regulated with regular turmeric consumption, and angiogenesis inhibited. These biochemical pathways have pivotal roles in both cancer prevention and in stopping tumor growth. Thus, it is no wonder that turmeric has shown such promise as an adjunct component in treating and improving cancer outcomes.
Most recently, research centered around Alzheimer’s has shown great promise for the role of turmeric in both the treatment and prevention of the disease. In fact, other neurodegenerative diseases have also had favorable research supporting the use of curcumin or turmeric in mitigating symptoms.
Investigators have observed marked improvements in pneumonia outcomes with adjunct turmeric use as part of an antibiotic treatment.
Furthermore, research with turmeric in improving physical performance while under stress has also demonstrated significant benefits.
A trial at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in 2012, demonstrated that whole turmeric, fresh or ground, was more effective in reducing inflammation than curcumin that had been isolated from the root.
The best way to use turmeric daily is in your cooking. It is safe and well tolerated by almost everyone in dosages of two teaspoons per day. One teaspoon of dried turmeric is generally 2000mg and this is the type of dosage that has been used in clinical trials to significantly reduce inflammation, although many trials have demonstrated great results with much less turmeric daily (500mg and even less daily.) In fact, even when representing a mere .025% of a person’s diet, turmeric produces benefits. Ideally turmeric should be heated, sautéing with vegetables and a small amount of coconut oil or butter is a great method, as is adding to a soup or stew towards the beginning of the process and combining it in the recipe with at least a small amount of olive oil. Oil enhances absorption as does a small amount of black pepper.