In cooking, herbs and spices are of tremendous benefit. They can provide not only amazing tastes, but also deliver health benefits that in some cases rival our strongest medications. Among spices, there is one that I personally consider the “Queen of Spices.” Turmeric is a spice derived from the dry ground root of Curcuma longa, typically found in India and Indonesia. It has a deep yellow-orange tinge, from which it derives one of its nicknames, “Indian saffron”. Health benefits of turmeric include antiinflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, and antioxidant properties. In India and China it has been used medicinally for centuries. In the Western world, however, turmeric is best known for its culinary prowess. Turmeric gives American yellow mustard its bright yellow color. Also, it is one of the main ingredients in curry dishes. It has a bitter, peppery flavor and smells like a mixture of orange peel and ginger. Turmeric´s health benefits are well-known and documented, so let´s find out more on this amazing spice.
The history and the discovery of the benefits of turmeric are fascinating. Both India and China claim to have been the first to use it medicinally. Ancient Polynesians carried turmeric with them on their voyage across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. In 1280 AD, Marco Polo recorded information on the benefits of turmeric in his diary. “There is also a vegetable which has all the properties of true saffron, as well the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron.” Even in modern times, in Hawaii turmeric is still used, known to Hawaiians as “Olena”.
Undoubtedly, the most powerful ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin gives turmeric its characteristic yellow color. It is a substance that is non-toxic and is found in turmeric along with other nutrients. These nutrients are included in the list below. The nutrients and quantities in 2 teaspoons (4.52 grams) of turmeric powder is as follows:
Dietary Fiber – 960 mg
Manganese – 0.36 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.08 mg
Iron – 1.88 mg
Potassium – 114.48 mg
Turmeric has been used for centuries not only in cuisine, but also as a part of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Recent research is beginning to back up many of these time-tested uses with scientific data. The most well-known benefit of turmeric is its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to produce anti-inflammatory effects that rival those of ibuprofen and hydrocortisone. As an added benefit, curcumin does not have the potential toxicity that pharmaceutical drugs exhibit.
According to scientific studies, conditions for which turmeric may be beneficial are numerous. These include, but are not limited to the following conditions:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Rheumatoid Arthritis & Osteoarthritis
Cancer (all types)
Liver toxicity & disease
When we have something that is natural, relatively inexpensive, delicious, readily available, and has medicinal properties that rival and in many cases even exceed many of our modern medicines, we must use it, enjoy its benefits, and share it with our friends and loved ones so that they too can achieve better health and wellness!
Even today, the health benefits of turmeric are still being researched. New ones are being discovered. With chronic disease on the rise, including this miraculous gift from Mother Nature in our cooking is a surefire way to stack the deck in our favor when attempting to protect ourselves and our loved ones from these afflictions. Good eats and good health to all!
I realize that I don´t have a lot of recipes that call for turmeric yet, but when I get back from vacation my goal will be to start using it a lot more. Here is one recipe to start Brazilian Chicken Stew