By Tommy Cassorla, Health Correspondent
In Asian cultures, Turmeric has been been utilized in a variety of ways. Native to Southwestern India, the plant is similar in both color and structure to ginger; producing large deep green leaves that encircle a fragrant pink blossom. It should come as no surprise then that the two share lineage.
Within the scientific community the Turmeric plant is know as Curcuma Longa, and is a rhizomatous herbasceous perennial, just like its cousin. For those, like myself, unfamiliar with botany and its lingo, this means Turmeric is a plant with a lifespan longer than two years.
Nearly every country in the region uses the Turmeric plant in one way or another. Popular among chefs in India, the leaves are used in dishes such as Patoleo: an Indian dessert consisting of rice flower and coconut jaggery pureed and mashed onto a fresh leaf.
In eastern Asian countries the rhizomes are pickled and enjoyed whole. Persian and Middle Eastern dishes, especially khoresh (a generic term for stew in Iran) start by caramelizing onions in a Turmeric based oil.
And so it goes: This versatile herb is used in Nepal, South Africa, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and even Europe where, in medieval times, it was called Indian saffron and used as a cheaper alternative to the treasured saffron.
But, in addition to Turmeric’s many culinary uses, its medicinal properties have been experimented with for millennia, particularly in Siddah, or traditional Indian medicine.
Ayurvedic practices implemented Turmeric into ceremonies and used the herb in treating a variety of ailments including indigestion, throat infections, common colds, and even liver-related disorders.
Ancient Indian cultures also used Turmeric oil as a topical antiseptic successful in cleansing wounds. With so many benefits, it is fair to say that throughout the Asian continent, Turmeric achieved a sort of mythical status, and rightly so. Because, before advances in science and chemistry, the effects of this wonderful herb were largely unknown and chalked up to the divine.
Much has changed and been discovered since the time of shamans and mysticism. In recent years, the herb has seen an explosion in popularity throughout the Western World. Like many homeopathic remedies before it, Turmeric has been adopted in holistic practice for its incredible anti-inflammatory capabilities.
In clinical trials the herb has shown an amazing ability to reduce inflammation effectively enough to rival current medications such as hydrocortisone, and even over the counter painkillers like Motrin and Ibuprofen.
Curcumin, a compound found in the rhizomes of the Turmeric plant, who also lend the plant its characteristic orange hue, is believed to be the key factor in its ability to combat inflammation.
Scientists have largely concluded that Curcumin’s effectivity is a result of its ability to block NF-kB, a molecule responsible for the bodies natural inflammatory response.
The benefits of Curcumin is a topic that is evolving everyday as researchers are beginning to understand the vital role inflammation plays in the manifestation of other diseases.
Additionally, Curcumin is a potent antioxidant. And anyone who is fairly health minded knows the importance of antioxidants on health. Regular Turmeric intake can only strengthen your immune system by ridding it of free radicals. So if pomegranate juice just isn’t your thing, an equally beneficial alternative could be a regular dose of Turmeric powder.
Companies such as Pure Encapsulations make a pill form of Tumeric that’s easily ingested.
As I see it, the promise that Turmeric presents is very encouraging. Considering the fact that we live in a world awash with pharmaceuticals that merely mask the existing conditions, and bring with them a host of terrible side effects.
This simple herb has proven wonders for millions of people. If you are having problems with inflammation, here’s a tasty recipe for Golden Milk, A Turmeric based drink that has worked wonders in my family.
- 2 cups of milk or homemade coconut milk
- 2 cups of milk or coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup or to taste
- Pinch of black pepper (increases absorption)
- Tiny piece of fresh, peeled ginger root or ¼ tsp ginger powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth.
- Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
- Drink immediately
Read more about Turmeric benefits here.