Originally published October 29 2007
Kitchen Medicine and Potent Anti-Inflammatory: Turmeric
by Dr Emily A Kane
(NaturalNews) Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a semi-tropical rhizhome which has been popular in East Asian curried dishes and other forms of cuisine for many centuries. The plants look like small ginger roots. Most folks will buy Turmeric in powdered form, but if you get the fresh roots, peel away the outer skin and chop finely. Beware! This deeply pigmented kitchen medicine will stain cutting boards and clothing. It is actually the deep yellow-orange pigment, a bioflavonoid, which confers the health-promoting attributes of this marvelous root.
Turmeric first came on the US national scene as a medicinal substance a few years ago when the popular prescription anti-inflammatory Vioxx was pulled from the market because of an ominous trend towards causing increased heart attacks.
In the (Nov 2005) Newsweek article describing the downfall of Vioxx, there was some mention of Turmeric as a substitute anti-inflammatory. In fact, there have been some Italian studies which compared Vioxx and Turmeric head-to-head for anti-inflammatory power, and Turmeric
performed just as well, with no side-effects.
I prescribe Turmeric to my patients for many conditions, including acute inflammation (injuries or sprained ligaments), to help blood sugar control (along with cinnamon and Chromium picolinate), to reduce respiratory distress which accompanies asthma or hayfever, and for cancer patients wishing to minimize recurrences.
Oncologists, in particular, have taken an interest in Turmeric because they discovered, about a decade ago, that primary tumors (which can usually be cured, surgically) are much more likely to spread (metastasize) into compromised, or inflamed, tissues. In other words, when a primary tumor exists, it will secrete microscopic cancer cells into the general circulation.
If these cancer cells "seed" new tissue, then we have secondary growth of the cancer and the disease is now considered systemic. Treatment becomes much more complicated, and the prognosis for survival worsens. Oncologists are very interested in preventing metastatic disease, and therefore have taken to using anti-inflammatories in their patients, to reduce the chance of micro-metastases becoming established.
Healthy tissue is more likely to perform competently. The immune surveillance mechanism (white blood cell identification and destruction of pathogens – be they viruses, bacteria, indigestible food, or cancerous cells) remains viable in healthy tissue, by definition. Some speculate that the reason east India has relatively low cancer rates, despite terrible pollution problems, is that the general population eats a lot of turmeric, regularly.
Turmeric has a strong color, but the taste is fairly mild. I recommend ¼ tsp of the powder daily as a general anti-inflammatory maintenance strategy. Triple that amount for cancer patients. When I cook a 4-quart pot of soup or stew for my family, I put gobs (1/4 cup) of turmeric into the pot. You can also sprinkle it on your food or add it to a smoothie.
More recently, scientists have shown how Turmeric, in relatively small doses, can prevent, or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/31/12849 . This increasingly common and devastating form of dementia, is characterized by the build up of a type of plaque in the brain. AD patients are unable to clear beta-amyloid plaque, which accumulates in their brains. In July of 2007, researchers in the L.A. area affiliated with the Veteran's Hospital, published findings showing how turmeric increases clearance of beta-amyloid plaque in AD patients. The mechanism is stated as being increased genetic upregulation of the specific type of white blood cells (phagocytes) that will break down "foreign" material. Between 9 and 16 million Americans are projected to have AD by 2050 (Wall Street Journal 6/11/07).
For more information on Turmeric or kitchen medicine, search Dr. Kane's website: www.DrEmilyKane.com
About the authorDr Emily Kane is a practising naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist. For more info see www.DrEmilyKane.com
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