By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP
Turmeric in India and Ayurvedic Medicine
Turmeric has been used in India’s diverse cuisine and is one of the main ingredients in curry, giving it that lovely golden yellow colour. Turmeric is also an important herb in India’s native Ayurvedic medicine which has been in existence for thousands of years – as long as Chinese medicine. Its many health benefits are well known in India and have been slowly revealing themselves to the West. Over the past few decades, science has been discovering Turmeric’s many healing properties.
Turmeric in Chinese Medicine
Turmeric has also been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Chinese herb Yu Jin is the turmeric tuber and is an herb that benefits the spleen and stomach. The herb enters the heart, lung, liver and gallbladder meridians and is used to invigorate blood and remove stagnation from the body. It is spicy, bitter and cold. Yu Jin is used to move blood and qi stagnation and is especially good for pain. It is used for menstrual pain (often from qi and blood stagnation), traumatic injuries, enlarged liver and spleen as well as liver cirrhosis. It is used to clear heat and cool the blood and to treat conditions like bleeding disorders, both internal and external. Yu Jin is also able to treat mental disorders that are due, in Chinese medicine, to disturbances of the heart and Shen like mania, seizures, derangement and epilepsy. Also, because of its ability to treat damp heat, Yu Jin is able to treat jaundice as well as gallstones. It is a hard working and versatile herb!
How to Take Turmeric for Maximum Absorption
Curcuminoids are the compounds within turmeric that are beneficial for health – and curcumin has been studied the most extensively and is the one proven to have the most powerful healing effects thus far. The problem with eating turmeric (and many other medicinal foods) is that the liver inhibits much of its absorption, meaning that we only receive a small percentage of its beneficial effects. The liver is, of course, doing its job of filtering out compounds that may be harmful to us such as medications and toxins that are unhealthy, but some good stuff gets filtered out in the process as well. The good news is that there are a couple of ways in which we can increase the ability of the body to absorb curcumin so that we can receive the maximum benefit from its many healing effects.
Eat Turmeric with Beneficial Fats
Eat turmeric with beneficial fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado to maximize its absorption. Because curcumin is fat soluble, it needs fats to be absorbed by the body properly. Without it, curcumin has a hard time being absorbed into the gut and bloodstream and all of that healing goodness is being flushed out of the body instead of being used to keep you healthy and to ward off disease.
Mix Turmeric with Pepper
The active ingredient in black pepper – piperine – is a compound that normally causes the body to get rid of what it considers to be too much curcumin. Apparently, the absorption of curcumin is increased by %2000 or more with just a small amount of piperine. So adding a bit of black pepper to your turmeric recipe will really boost its healing effects!
Some of Turmeric’s Health Benefits
Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is able to treat many diseases from diabetes to cancer. Scientific research is proving that turmeric has an impressive number of medicinal properties that treat a wide range of diseases. In many scientific studies, turmeric has been shown to be as beneficial and sometimes more beneficial in treating diseases than pharmaceutical medications. It also has no side effects, unlike many conventional treatments.Turmeric has also shown strong evidence of being a preventative herb, helping to ward off many diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Turmeric belongs to the ginger family and is the main ingredient in many curries, and the ingredient used in mustard that gives it its yellow colour. It has been used throughout the centuries as a medicinal herb, a textile dye and is one of the most prized spices in the world. India is the world’s largest producer followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Jamaica, and Haiti. Turmeric is high in manganese (it contains %26 of our recommended daily intake) and iron (%16 of recommended daily intake) and is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.
Below is a list of some of the ailments that turmeric is able to treat and how adding this wonderful spice to your diet can benefit your health and help to prevent disease.
Cancer Treatment and Prevention
Science has now discovered that turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin is effective for fighting just about every type of cancer as it targets cancer cells via many different pathways. It is also non-toxic as it does not target healthy cells and affects only cancer cells. Turmeric also has the most evidence-based literature supporting its cancer-fighting properties compared to other herbs.
Turmeric is also a good spice to include in your diet for cancer prevention because of its excellent anti-inflammatory properties.
Perhaps turmeric’s best known and best-researched healing property is its powerful ability to fight inflammation which many believe to be the root of all disease. Chronic inflammation has been proven to lead to many dangerous diseases, so keeping the body’s inflammation response in check is one of the best ways that you can prevent illness and stay healthy for many years to come.
Because of curcumin’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties and pain killing ability, turmeric has long been used to treat the pain and swelling of arthritis. A study concluded that patients that received curcumin supplements fared much better than those who received conventional medications for arthritis and had no side effects. The side effects from the arthritis drug (diclofenac sodium) is that it increased the likelihood that patients would develop leaky gut and heart disease.
Because of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, including turmeric in your diet can prevent type 2 (adult onset) diabetes. In fact, in a 2012 study, curcumin capsules were found to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetic patients. Over a 9 month period, participants were given either curcumin supplements or a placebo. Just over 16% of the people taking the placebo developed diabetes, while not a single person taking the curcumin developed the disease. Amazing!
Curcumin’s ability to treat pain has also been widely accepted by the scientific community. A study this past year showed that curcumin activated the opioid response in diabetic rats. This system is typically manipulated by pharmaceutical drugs, but curcumin has been proven to be able to activate this response that serves as the body’s pain-relieving system.
Because turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin is known to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation, studies show that turmeric helps to boost memory and attention span in elderly patients. Curcumin also has been shown to act as a neuroprotective agent against diseases that affect the brain like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In Chinese medicine, liver health is so important, and unfortunately, imbalances in the liver are extremely common. Anger and frustration hurt the liver so adding foods to the diet that help to cleanse the liver are always a good idea. Turmeric has shown to rejuvenate and detoxify the liver, as well as treat liver diseases like cirrhosis. Turmeric has long been used to treat liver problems and is a great way to prevent any liver problems in the future.
Please see the Chinese Medicine Living Pinterest – we have a board called “Recipes” where we have posted all kinds of delicious TCM recipes, including several turmeric recipes for you to try. Chinese Medicine Living Pinterest Recipe Board. The Turmeric recipes include:
- Cleansing Vegetable Turmeric Soup
- Sweet Potato & Turmeric Hummus
- Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower
- 5 Ingredient Lemon Turmeric Quinoa
- Turmeric Roasted Potatoes with Green Beans
- Turmeric Chickpea Sandwich
- 5 Turmeric Tea Recipes
Be sure to follow us on Pinterest for all things Chinese medicine!