Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turmeric: Natures Medicine

Turmeric is a quintessential ingredient in Indian cuisine, imparting a golden hue (to EVERYTHING it comes in contact with) with an earthy, bitter, peppery flavor. For years I've kept a tiny jar of the stuff in my spice cabinet, adding a pinch or two when whipping up a curry or lentil dahl. Beyond that, turmeric was never something that made an everyday appearance in my diet.

Several different cultures use particular herbs and spices in their cooking that we think of solely as a flavoring agents, but many of these were incorporated into their food for their amazing health benefits as well. The Italians use copious amounts of garlic which happens to have phenomenal immune boosting properties. Mexicans use all sorts of fresh chilis in their food, which stimulates digestion, improves circulation and increases perspiration, which may help to rid the body of toxins. Indian cuisine incorporates several spices that help improve digestion, such as fennel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and coriander. Turmeric, not really an herb or spice, but a rhizome (like ginger or it's close relative galangal) is prescribed as medicine in Ayurveda, the oldest form of medicine native to India.

Turmeric's health benefits are due to the presence of curcumin, the compound responsible for it's bright yellow color. Curcumin has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It's known for inhibiting a number of cancer strains and the curcumin within turmeric can halt the advance of cancer cells or even downright destroy them. It can also improve digestion due to the phytochemicals that help assist the body's production of bile, which helps by breaking down the fatty components of foods. Due to it's anti-inflammatory properties, its also useful for several types of bowel issues such as ulcerative colitis.  Turmeric also helps to detoxify the blood and boost the immune system and is also extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from arthritis since it reduces pain and inflammation around the joints.

After a recent wrist sprain, I decided to consume fresh grated turmeric everyday rather than pump my body full of anti-inflammatory drugs to see what effect it would have. Within a couple of days I've noticed a reduction in pain and it has no unwanted side effects that come with taking NSAID'S.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy turmeric it is by making this ginger-honey-lemon turmeric tea, replacing the ground turmeric with a heaping spoonful of the freshly grated stuff.

Looking for some other ways to incorporate more of this amazing natural medicine into your diet?
Check out these recipes:
Chickpea and Swiss Chard Crepes with Mint and Ginger Raita
Saag Paneer
Paneer and Winter Squash Coconut Curry

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