Turmeric – the Wonder Spice

Turmeric-Root
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions.

It has often been said that turmeric just may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Studies have shown that turmeric has major benefits for your body as well as your brain.

Used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb, science is finally starting to admit that turmeric really does contain compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.  Having powerful anti-inflammatory effects and being a strong antioxidant, curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric.

Curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory. It is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen). This makes it important to those who are fighting diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd. Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. Duke also found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer, and that turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds.

turmeric-root-and-powder_3It is well-known that as a culinary spice, turmeric can be added to foods to offer a deep flavor variously described as warm, peppery and earthy. A teaspoon can add an entirely new dimension to foods including rice; sautéed fruits and vegetables like apples, cauliflower or greens beans; yogurt dips; lentils and other legumes; and salad dressings. North America adds it to foods such as bread and butter pickles, cheese and butter. Globally, it is a common spice in dishes featuring chicken, coconut, potatoes, beans, lentils, chutneys and relishes, soups and even desserts.

But did you know turmeric can be used topically as well? Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. points out that turmeric can be applied to address a variety of skin conditions and infected wounds, bruising, ringworm and oral inflammation.  One of the more surprising areas of research, however, is confirming curcumin’s value in It has also been proven beneficial in dentistry.

Turmeric can be purchased fresh (make sure it’s 100% certified organic), in powdered form and as a supplement. It can be purchased at specialty stores, organic food stores or online. One of the best online stores with a great turmeric extract is Thrive Market. Farmer’s  markets are another excellent source.

Around 3% by weight, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high. It should be noted that most of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods. To experience the full effects, you need to take an extract or supplement that contains significant amounts of curcumin. It also helps to consume it with black pepper containing piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%

See how turmeric is grown. Watch FoodBabe’s video: Digging Up Fresh Turmeric Root in Zanzibar, Tanzania Africa

What can I make with turmeric?

Turmeric-Mango-Smoothie1Turmeric Mango Smoothie 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (about 1) mango (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1.5 cups (375 ml) almond milk
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp white chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (or 1 tsp of fresh, finely grated)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (optional) 

Preparation:

1. Wash fresh mango.

2. Add all the ingredients into the blender.

3. Blend on high for 45 – 60 seconds, until well smooth.

Substitutions:

  • Mango –Peach, Nectarine, Apricot
  • Banana – Peach, Nectarine, Apricot
  • Almond milk – Coconut milk, Hemp seed milk, Coconut water

1011_HotSauce_NuttySoup_MED-458x326Nutty Sweet Potato Soup with Harissa and Spinach

Ingredients: (Serves 8)

Harissa is a smoky North African chili paste made from smoked chiles, olive oil, spices, and sometimes tomatoes. Heat and flavor vary from brand to brand. This recipe was made with a French-produced harissa with a mild heat and extra sweetness from tomatoes.
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 ½ Tbs. harissa paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick (5 cups)
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 oz. spinach leaves, thinly sliced (2 packed cups)
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, peanut butter, harissa, garlic, turmeric, and cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sweet potatoes, broth, and 1 1/2 cups water, and simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, 20 to 25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.

2. Blend mixture with immersion blender, adding more water if soup is too thick. Bring soup back to a simmer, and stir in spinach leaves. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sources for turmeric use:

Thrive Market – Turmeric

Turmeric Recipes | Why Cook with Turmeric | Vegetarian

Turmeric – Allrecipes.com

Turmeric Recipes – EatingWell

Turmeric Benefits for Skin

28 Remarkable Benefits Of Turmeric For Skin Care, Hair And Health

 

 

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