Integrate This: Turmeric

Used for food and medicine in Indian and Asian cultures, turmeric is gaining acceptance worldwide.

click to enlarge POWDERED GOLD: Turmeric and its nucleus, curcumin, are lauded for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
POWDERED GOLD: Turmeric and its nucleus, curcumin, are lauded for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.

Spices heal. A fact revered by cultures for centuries.

Got worms? Bronchitis? Leprosy? Festering eye conditions? Since at least the seventh century A.D., practitioners of Chinese and Indian medicine have reached for turmeric to treat hundreds of ailments.

Before clinical medicine was developed, herbs and spices were one of the few effective ways to treat health problems.

Herbalists have applied dried and powdered turmeric salve to bruises, leech bites, mouth inflammations, infected wounds and numerous other afflictions.

With more than 50 healing properties, modern research has found that the effectiveness of turmeric stems from curcumin, a natural compound it contains that is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ability.

Turmeric is promoted in the United States mainly as an anti-inflammatory herbal remedy and is said to produce fewer side effects than commonly used pain relievers. Some practitioners prescribe turmeric to relieve inflammation caused by arthritis, muscle sprains, swelling and pain from injuries or surgical incisions.

Chefs add turmeric to their creations because of its rich flavor and deep yellow-orange color. A kitchen staple in India, turmeric is an important ingredient in curries and can be found in many other dishes there.

The seasoning is also used to add color to foods such as butter, margarine, cheese and mustard; to tint cotton, silk, paper, wood and cosmetics; as a food preservative; and to make pickles.

Thirty years ago, researchers worldwide observed that the incidence of chronic illness among Indian people is significantly lower than in most Western countries, especially the United States.

Turmeric piqued their scientific minds.

Thousands of animal and human studies have been conducted on turmeric and curcumin as both a preventive and curative agent. Current research targets curcumin’s efficacy in treating some of the world’s biggest health threats including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Dr. David Frawley, founder and director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is no spice under more scientific scrutiny than turmeric. He says there is also none offering more promise for better health.

“If I had only one single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs, I would choose turmeric,” Frawley said. “Everyone should get to know it and live with it.”

click to enlarge Native to southeast India, turmeric, a rhizome, is harvested globally. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Native to southeast India, turmeric, a rhizome, is harvested globally.

By grinding curcumin into a fine powder and blending it with turmeric essential oil, researchers believe this natural substance is as potent for treating disease as prescriptions, without the side effects.

A number of curcumin studies have shown promising results. Curcumin can kill cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also slows the growth of the surviving cells. Curcumin has been found to reduce development of several forms of cancer in lab animals and to shrink animal tumors.

Human curcumin studies on cancer prevention and treatment are in the very early stages.

On the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website, 2,840 abstracts are listed about the study and benefits of turmeric and curcumin. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society also cite several.

Val Herzog, proprietor of Tampa’s VSpicery Flavor Shop, witnessed an upswing in turmeric sales this past year.

“People have become more aware of its anti-inflammatory properties and been trying to incorporate it into their diets more,” Herzog said. “Turmeric can be a strong flavor for many, so I advise people to start out slowly with something as simple as 1/4 teaspoon in their oatmeal.”

Much of it sourced from Honduras, fresh turmeric, both root and powder, can be bought in most natural foods stores and Asian markets. Curcumin extract can also be found in health food shops alongside turmeric.

Herzog’s supply is fresh from India. And with most food, spices and herbs, Herzog says “fresher is better.”


Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Calming Creamy Turmeric Tea


1 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp ginger


Heat the almond milk in a microwave, stir in the spices and drizzle the honey on top. Enjoy!

Turmeric tip of the day Users beware! Turmeric stains, badly! During ancient times, the spice was used as a fabric dye to make exquisite clothing for the wealthy. Fingers, counter tops, clothing — nothing is immune to turmeric’s staining capability.


click to enlarge Integrate This: Turmeric - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Integrate This: Turmeric
Good read Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, with Debora Yost. This book is filled with easy-to-understand information and recipes. Considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on the therapeutic use of culinary spices, Aggarwal explains how plant compounds fight oxidation and inflammation, the two most prevalent causes of many chronic diseases. And he does it all without boring us.

Granny’s remedies Bugs be gone! To repel insects mix 2 teaspoons of citronella or eucalyptus oil (or one teaspoon of cedar wood, pennyroyal or rose geranium in a pint of vodka). Dab over exposed areas as needed. Fresh peppermint works well, too, and you don’t waste the vodka. Rub slightly crushed fresh sprigs on skin and adorn hair or cap with a few. Submitted by the Garden Thyme Herb Club in Irvine-Ravenna, Kentucky.

Documentary pick of the week The Healing Effect is about the healing power of food. Filmmaker Drew Scott Pearlman talks to best-selling authors and world-renowned health experts, including Dr. Joel Fuhram (Eat to Live author), Charlotte Gerson (founder of the Gerson Insitute) and David Wolfe (raw food authority). Highlighted is the story of Massachusetts police officer Eric Wayne, who changed his life and inspired his police department and community when he altered his perspective on the power of clean food. The film is available on Pearlman’s website and can be purchased as a DVD or digital download.

I am not a healthcare professional, but I am a passionate advocate of natural health, as well as a voracious reader and lecture attendee. I just want to learn and share. If you have any suggestions, news events or feature ideas please email me at [email protected].

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