I see a growing widespread orange presence. Huge claims are made regarding potency and strength as it overpowers other contenders. I am speaking about turmeric — the spice du jour. Is this hyperbole or well-deserved acknowledgement of a powerful orange addition to the spice rack?
Turmeric’s power comes from the polyphenol curcumin found in the stem of the turmeric. It has been used medicinally for more than 3,000 years for ailments as diverse as congestion, bruising and blemishes. I trust the ancient alchemists but realized a more current turmeric literature search was necessary to test its reputation.
I set my search for the last two years and found an amazing diversity of research topics. A review of turmeric and cancer in 2014 concluded that this bright orange spice reduced both the invasiveness and spread of cancer. A human study from this year demonstrated that curcumin supplementation reduced the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage.
Curcumin is acknowledged as a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. I even came across a research article that described this effect on children with moderate to severe asthma. In the study, 47 children with asthma were given a supplement with curcumin, resveratrol, zinc and selenium and had reduced airway inflammation.
And a study just last month in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that in rats with Alzheimer’s, curcumin was neuroprotective and inhibited amyloid beta plaque accumulation. Not surprising that India has the highest turmeric consumption and the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world. Anyone on a blood thinner or diabetic medication should speak to their doctor before taking a turmeric supplement since it can enhance the action of these and possibly other medications.
Turmeric pairs well with coriander, cinnamon and cumin in recipes. My favorite soup with turmeric is here. http://www.rebeccakatz.com/recipe-box/moroccan-chickpea-and-vegetable-soup. Turmeric can be added to a smoothie, will enhance the water cooking rice or quinoa and even made into a tea. Adding black pepper to a turmeric recipe enhances potency. Many of my clients enjoy drinking golden milk with turmeric. The recipe is at http://www.freshbitesdaily.com/turmeric-milk/. Turmeric is a tasty area for future research and delicious dishes.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.