Turmeric – the "Bright Spice" of Life
Turmeric (curcuma longa), a bold bright yellow spice native to Southeast Asia, is a true "super food" shown to have remarkable healing properties. The use of turmeric can be dated back as far as 3,000 BC, and Marco Polo mentioned it in his notes as early as 1280 when speaking of his travels to China. In medieval times, turmeric was actually referred to as "Indian saffron," and ever since that time period, this boldly colored spice has been used to serve as an inexpensive substitute for the more difficult to come by saffron. Turmeric has been found to be effective when used for peptic, gastric and duodenal ulcers as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). More recently it has been found through research to be helpful in the treatment of several different forms of cancer, including colon cancer, duodenal cancer, leukemia, mouth cancer, stomach cancer, and even pancreatic cancer. That's right! A Phase II clinical trial conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center found that turmeric was equal to or better than all currently available FDA approved drugs for pancreatic cancer, except that it does not cause the same negative side effects. When combined with other powerful nutrients like fish oil, olive oil, and/or black pepper, turmeric's anti-cancer effects are even further amplified, as the spice is not very well absorbed by the body on its own. Turmeric can also protect cells against xenoestrogens ("synthetic" estrogens) because it can fit to the same receptor as estrogen or estrogen-mimicking chemicals. In a study on human breast cancer cells, turmeric reversed growth caused by a certain form of estrogen by 98% and growth caused by DDT by 75%. Concerning Alzheimer's disease, turmeric inhibits formation of, and breaks down, Amyloid-beta oligomers (entwined fibres) and aggregates (lumps). In other words, it keeps the brain neuron synapses free of plaque and keeps the brain functioning normally. Also, a number of studies have suggested that curcumin (the biologically active constituent in turmeric) protects against Alzheimer's disease by turning on a gene responsible for the production of antioxidants. A December 2003 study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry discussed curcumin's role in the induction of the heme oxygenase (HO) pathway, a protective system that (when triggered in brain tissue) causes the production of the potent antioxidant "bilirubin," which protects the brain against oxidative (free radical) damage. Turmeric also has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. As I've mentioned before, cholesterol is essential for life, and the role which cholesterol plays in heart disease is misunderstood. According to recent research at Harvard, the primary causes of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries which leads to heart disease) are inflammation, lesions, and plaque in the arteries caused by *SUGAR* which causes insulin to be released. Insulin causes lesions in the endothelium of the arteries that become clogged with cholesterol. So, cholesterol gets the blame, but the real culprit is sugar. Turmeric can help fight inflammation in the body (and arteries), and this subsequently helps prevent heart disease. Turmeric can also help the body detoxify and protect the liver from the effects of toxic drugs (including "legal" prescription drugs), alcohol, pesticides, heavy metals, and countless other chemicals. The liver's main job is to expel these toxins from your bloodstream so you can continue to live. But if your body is overloaded with these harmful substances, your liver is going to need a "boost." According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin stimulates production of bile by the gallbladder. The liver uses bile to eliminate toxins, and bile also rejuvenates liver cells that break down harmful compounds. For this reason, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat digestion and liver disorders. I like sprinkling turmeric on scrambled eggs (free range, of course), omelets, and also in egg salad. Another interesting way to benefit from turmeric is to take it in the form of hot tea. Just boil water, add turmeric powder, grated ginger, and a little raw honey or stevia. Add some almond milk and enjoy!