The golden gift

Turmeric is being used to combat — and prevent — a growing list of health problems

Turmeric has been described as a wonder spice. In the words of Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, "it's the Indian solid gold."

The accolades keep coming as research on turmeric's stunning health-promoting properties gains momentum.

Botanically related to ginger and cardamom, turmeric's distinctive flavor and bright orange color are central to curries in India and other parts of Asia. Here, we find it mostly in mustard, to lend color.

Turmeric is increasingly becoming part of the program for treating people with autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular, liver and gall bladder disease, cancer, various joint and digestive problems and a sizable list of other maladies. Ideally, Americans would consume turmeric regularly — if not daily in food — as people do in South Asia.

Curcuminoids and turmerones, some of the plant chemicals found within turmeric, are the targets of research at institutions around the world.

Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory action and inhibits angiogenesis, a process through which tumors hijack our circulatory systems to nourish themselves by forming new blood vessels. In fact, turmeric has potentially wide-ranging anti-cancer properties, which merits further live human studies. Anyone interested in supplementing turmeric should inform their doctor, especially if on statins or blood-thinning medication, and discuss supplementation further with a qualified herbalist or nutritionist. Supplement form, concentration and quality varies, thus the safest way to initially incorporate turmeric is through diet.

Researching and Googling Aggarwal's work, I discovered that he is featured on the McCormick spice company's research Web site: mccormickscienceinstitute.com. For McCormick, the herb is big business. For you, it can be relatively small change to spice up your life. Fresh, Hawaiian-grown turmeric is seasonally available, and certified organic turmeric powder is easy to find in bulk.

Give it a stir in curry-flavored soups, with cauliflower, chickpeas, other veggies, and Indian spices — even a green (and orange) smoothie drink, if you're so inclined.

Before you sell that once-used crockpot at a yard sale, think turmeric, and give it a golden glow.

Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness in Medford and the Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland. E-mail him at michael@ventanawellness.com


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