Turmeric — “Indian Saffron”

Turmeric-fresh ground
Turmeric – fresh ground

I have recently added a daily dose of turmeric to my eating plan. It was a recent visit with my brother that finally got me started. He has been eating turmeric regularly for a while because, as he said, “It supposedly prevents Alzheimer’s disease. People in India don’t seem to get Alzheimer’s, and, as they eat lots of turmeric, they think that it may be holding the illness at bay.”

It’s interesting how things come into my awareness, through an initial hearing the actual word, through the maze of however months it takes for me to pay attention, learn, and finally embrace as reality that I should acknowledge. It’s also interesting that, as I experience life, certain foods exist in relative obscurity for years, and then by forces unbeknownst to me, become “rock stars,” such as kale did in recent years.

So here I was with turmeric, that I first heard about approximately 3 years ago. A woman in our local health food store was singing its praises, because she had rubbed it on some mysterious skin lesions and they disappeared. Then I learned that my doctor, whom I much admire, was recommending it for his patients with inflammation, such as myself. And then, boom! My brother has it right there on his counter, in powered form, for me to try. I did.

Turmeric -- 5000 year old remedy
Turmeric — 5000 year old remedy

“Obscurity” is a relative term, for sure. Even though I knew little to nothing of its existence until recently, turmeric has been used for more than 5000 years as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine, cooking, and textile dying. It was traditionally called “Indian saffron,” because of its deep yellow-orange color, which makes ball-park mustard that outstanding yellow color. Arab traders introduced turmeric into Europe in the 13th century, but it has only recently become popular in Western cultures. Much of its current popularity is owed to the recent research that has highlighted its therapeutic properties.

And an abundance of therapeutic properties, turmeric has! Among them, however, curcumin is its main active ingredient, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. What is so important about this fact is that, while inflammation helps the body fight foreign invaders and has a role in repairing damage, it can become a major problem when it is chronic (long term) and acting against the body’s own tissues. It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic Western disease. That means that heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and various other degenerative conditions. Therefore, curcumin, so strongly anti-inflammatory, is useful in both the prevention and the treating of these diseases and more. It has also been shown to be helpful in treating depression.

Curcumin also happens to be a potent anti-oxidant that can neutralize free radicals, which are part of the cause of what we often assume are “normal” symptoms of aging. It also stimulates the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

There is lots to learn about curumin and I’ll leave you to do further research on its many benefits. I wanted here to highlight some of the very good news about this herb.

Turmeric with a little black pepper for better absorptiion
Turmeric with a little black pepper for better absorption

Regarding how to use more turmeric in everyday life, buy it fresh and  organic , which will be somewhere near the ginger and garlic in the produce department. I buy the powdered, also organic, variety in the bulk section at our health foods store. I put about 1 teaspoon and some fresh grated pepper into my morning green smoothies now. (No, my smoothie doesn’t taste like curry – I barely perceive the turmeric, and pepper helps it to absorb better, by 2000%! Curcumin is also fat soluble, so having it along with some fat, such as coconut oil or avocado, will also increase the absorption rate.)

If you want to try one herb…..try turmeric. It may be one of the most useful herbs on the planet, even if it has been slow to be fully appreciated in our Western cultures. Try adding it to raw tomato sauces, soups, and pate`s, and salad dressings. If you eat cooked food, try it with stews, soups, leafy greens, and stir fries. It’s like introducing any new food – just start doing it, and you’ll think of lots of ways to enjoy the many gifts of turmeric. Let me know how you do it, by commenting on this blog, or by answering this question on my Facebook page here. What is your favorite way to use the herb turmeric? Let’s have some conversation!

Turmeric+black pepper+honey
A winning combination

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