Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine and is now one of the highly prized spices in the world. Turmeric was traditionally called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange colour and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye. It is widely used in cooking and gives Indian curry its flavour and yellow colour. It is also used in mustard and to colour butter and cheese.
Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. The roots, or rhizomes and bulbs, are used in medicine and food. They are generally boiled and then dried, turning into the familiar yellow powder. Curcumin the active ingredient is a powerful antioxidant which can can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause. Turmeric is also an excellent source of both iron and manganese and a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fibre, and potassium.
Research suggests that turmeric may be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel diseases, lowering cholesterol counts, protecting the heart, relieving indigestion, improving liver function, and even preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Cancer prevention and inhibited cancer cell growth –specifically cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, and lung, and childhood leukaemia are also possible benefits. More reported health benefits of turmeric include relief from joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reduced joint swelling, and greater range of motion when used regularly. Preliminary studies show that turmeric may help reduce the severity of bacterial and viral infections.
Many of the health benefits of turmeric can be experienced by thinking of your food as a medicine, which was the advice of Hippocrates in the 4th century B.C. This bright yellow spice, traditionally used as food and medicine, contains potent antioxidants and benefits that studies have shown can fight diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
To get the most of what turmeric has to offer, use it to enhance fish or meat dishes or add it to mashed dishes like potatoes or cauliflower, sautés with onions, broccoli, carrots, or bell peppers. It can be used as a base for creamy vegetable dips, sauces or as I do in my delicious Turmeric Fun Juice.