Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
OK, OK.... so turmeric is a root, not necessarily a snack. But, it is definitely life saving, especially for those of us with chronic pain or inflammation. Because of its bright color and powerful health benefits, turmeric has been used for centuries in cooking and herbal medicine. Most of us can recognize its characteristic bright yellow-orange color and taste from curry, which uses a lot of turmeric in addition to other spices. In recent years, there has been a good amount of research dedicated to studying the effects of this powerful plant on the body.
Some of the research behind Turmeric....
The US National Library of Medicine (PubMed) lists over 9,000 studies on turmeric, Curcuma longa (the plant's official name), and curcumin (one of the most active components). With a few exceptions, this research seems to be mostly around this extracted anti-oxidant called curcumin, not the full turmeric root that is used in cooking. At least one doctor reports that turmeric has outperformed pharmaceutical medications such as anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, pain killers, steroids, cholesterol regulators, and anticoagulants! The National Institute for Health disagrees though, stating "few trials have been conducted". A look into the research shows some truth in both of these perspectives.
Seriously, curcumin has been shown to likely be beneficial in prevention of colon cancer. It seems to be particularly helpful in improving heart health with similar results to statins, as well as decreasing some risks of heart attack. One of my favorites is the decrease in pain to those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Plus, it was shown to significantly delay the onset of Diabetes in those that were "pre-diabetic".
Curcumin also seems to be helpful to the brain and mood. It has been shown to ease symptoms of depression with results similar to Prozac. Animal studies have shown improved memory & brain function along with increased dopamine associated with curcumin supplementation.
Again, most of this research is on the extract curcumin, not necessarily the whole turmeric root used in cooking. But this is only a little bit about the health-promoting benefits of this powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory spice.
How do you use Turmeric?
Under doctor's supervision, you could consider adding curcumin into your supplement protocol. My favorite is still Gaia's Turmeric Supreme. (They don't pay me for saying that, but I did work for them for 3 years during naturopathic medical school and spent some time at their farm in North Carolina.) If you are really lucky, there will be a doctor in your area that will administer an IV with curcumin in it. My favorite around here is Dr. Kelly Bender, ND at Pure Vitality in Brentwood and Beverly Hills! (She doesn't pay me either, she just does an especially good job.)
Most of the time though, turmeric is just another part of my diet. Most days, it is a cup of Numi's deliciously organic Three Roots Tea. Turmeric is in the ginger family, so I will add fresh turmeric root to most any recipe that also calls for ginger. This means it goes in beans, greens, roasted veggies, soups, and sauteed veggies. Fresh turmeric is available at most healthy grocery stores in the produce section. And, I promise to post my curried lentil stew recipe sometime this winter.
In the meantime, here are some of the new turmeric recipes that are now on my list:
Cauliflower Steaks with Ginger, Turmeric, and Cumin: since having the most delicious Cauliflower Steak on my birthday at The Herb Box, I have been looking for an excuse to try my own Cauliflower Steak. Pretty sure this is that excuse.
Turmeric Tea Golden Milk: every so often, a place will offer a turmeric latte as a beverage option. When I find these places, I always indulge in this healthful little treat. Now, it is time to make it at home!
Turmeric Lime Coconut Vegan Curry: it is getting to be fall and soups are coming back on the menu! This recipe looks too delicious to not give a try.
Such a great excuse to try some new recipes. Hope it will inspire you to try some new recipes and flavors also!
Let me make this disclaimer.... This article is written about turmeric which seems likely to have significant health benefits. It is meant to inform you, not to replace the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional. Seek medical advice before beginning this or any treatment protocol.
My mentor always told me that "The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient." Taking control and responsibility for your health isn't the same thing as treating yourself as a patient. Take advantage of the years/decades and thousands of dollars dedicated to studying health and natural healing by licensed providers. Be careful: not all those claiming expertise in natural health have the same training. It's your health, the most valuable thing in life. Don't trust it to just anyone.
Do your research before relying on anyone's advice for the health of you and your family. This last roadtrip really showed me how big of an issue access to natural health actually is around the country. If there are licensed naturopathic doctors in your area, take advantage of them! Natural health is our specialty. It is our primary focus. It is what we do. If you aren't fortunate enough to have one within driving distance, then do virtual visits using video. The care you want is available, even if it isn't always easily accessible.
Even though curcumin/turmeric has been shown helpful for others, it may not be what is most helpful for you right now. And, there are some potential concerns. So make sure to consult with a doctor or licensed health care professional about your health. It is the most important thing you have.