Featuring Tumeric: The Yellow Curry Spice

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Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Modern science has confirmed many of its ancient claims, and curcumin alone — one of the most well studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric — has been shown to have over 160 potentially therapeutic activities.

While we will focus on tumeric’s positive impact on cancer, studies have suggested that its powerful anti-inflammatory effects can also aid the body in dealing with depression, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and cognitive degeneration (such as Alzheimer’s.) Because turmeric crosses the blood brain barrier, it has neuroprotective properties.

In addition to its neuroprotective effects, research also suggests curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, may offer potent protection against cancer, and has been shown to enhance conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. These effects have been demonstrated with both animal and petri dish studies with head and neck tumors, and with human breast, esophageal and colon cancers.

Curcumin has a role in cancer prevention and cancer recovery as well as being chemoprotective (helps protect the healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemo- and radiation).

Cancer thrives in an environment of chronic inflammation. The potent anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin/turmeric help avoid (or at least reduce) this. Curcumin literally blocks various inflammatory responses in the body. This aids cancer prevention and recovery.

Curcumin also:

  • Boosts immune function supporting the alleviation of cancer cells
  • Activates apoptosis or cell death. Cancer cells have found a way to bypass this natural ending so the curcumin activates it again
  • Triggers various mechanisms that adversely affect the growth and replication of cancer cells – in ways more diverse than what our targeted immunotherapy can do yet.
  • Reduces side effects of various chemo drugs and these are not just the side effects of how the patient feels. It also seems to protect against different types of organ and cell damage that are often the collateral damage of chemotherapy.
  • Inhibits the growth of new blood vessels to cancer cells which they need in order to grow
  • Appears to potentiate the effects of various types of chemotherapy – meaning the cancer responds more to treatment.
  • Seems to protect breast cancer patients receiving radiation from as much skin damage from the radiation

Optimizing the absorption and effects of Tumeric

Since curcumin makes up only 3 percent of turmeric’s weight, simply cooking with turmeric will not be enough to produce clinical benefits. Cooking liberally with it is great but you might want a supplement since its bioavailability (how well the body can absorb and use it) is not great. Research seems to indicate the need for 1200-3000gm is needed for an anticancer effect -which means a supplement. Here are a couple of ways to improve absorption of a supplement or using turmeric in cooking.

Take it orally with piperine (found in black pepper).  If you are using a supplement, make sure it also contains black pepper.  If using turmeric, combine it with black pepper for better absorption.

Curcumin is fat-soluble so per Dr. Mercola, you can compline 1 ttablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil. Then you use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder and then add to a drink or food or smoothie.

Boiling curcumin in water will increase its absorption. The recommendation is 1 tablespoon in a quart of boiling water for 10 minutes. After it has cooled, add it to drink or drink it as is. Just drink it within 4 hours of making it for the best effects.

Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has very little toxicity associated with it.  It is a wonderful self-care measure for cancer prevention and recovery as well as decreasing the inflammation associated with so many chronic diseases like arthritis, obesity, heart disease and dementia (and other cognitive decline.)  And it adds great taste to many dishes. So use it with a liberal hand.

Susi Roos:  [email protected]