It has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, and while it is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, it also gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.
It comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.
It has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine.
It was traditionally called "Indian Saffron" because of its deep yellow-orange color and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.
This is a powerful medicine that has long been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.
A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory
The volatile oil fraction has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models.
Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin.
Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric-spice.
In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.
Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.
An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests.
Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects.
As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes.
This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints.
Turmeric's combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly.
Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers
Curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric-spice that gives the spice its yellow color, can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect that is responsible for cystic fibrosis, suggests an animal study published in the Science (April 2004).
Cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that attacks the lungs with a thick mucus, causing life-threatening infections, afflicts about 30,000 American children and young adults, who rarely survive beyond 30 years of age.
The mucus also damages the pancreas, thus interfering with the body-ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
Curcumin's antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occurring approximately every three days.
Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly.
Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm.
A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function.
Turmeric-spice and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer
Curcumin, a phytonutrient found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercitin, an antioxidant in onions, reduce both the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract, shows research published in the August 2006 issue of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology.
Turmeric-spice Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men with 500,000 new cases appearing each year, is a rare occurrence among men in India, whose low risk is attributed to a diet rich in brassica family vegetables and the curry spice, turmeric.
Reduce the Risk of Childhood Leukemia
Research presented at a recent conference on childhood leukemia, held in London, provides evidence that eating foods spiced with turmeric could reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia.
The incidence of this cancer has risen dramatically during the 20th century, mainly in children under age five, among whom the risk has increased by more than 50% cent since 1950 alone.
Modern environmental and lifestyle factors are thought to play a major role in this increase.
Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body.
Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high.
How Turmeric-spice Lowers Cholesterol
Tumeric's cholesterol-lowering effects are the result of the curry spice's active constituent, curcumin, which research reveals is a messaging molecule that communicates with genes in liver cells, directing them to increase the production of mRNA (messenger proteins) that direct the creation of receptors for LDL (bad) cholesterol.
With more LDL-receptors, liver cells are able to clear more LDL-cholesterol from the body.
Protection Against Alzheimer's Disease
Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neuro-degenerative diseases.
Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's are very low.
How to Choose and Store
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area.
Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets.
Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown turmeric since this will give you more assurance that the herb has not been irradiated.
Since the color of turmeric varies among varieties, it is not a criterion of quality.
For the most curcumin, be sure to use turmeric rather curry powder, a study analyzing curcumin content in 28 spice products described as turmeric or curry powders found that pure turmeric powder had the highest concentration of curcumin, averaging 3.14% by weight.
The curry powder samples, with one exception, contained very small amounts of curcumin.
Be careful when using turmeric-spice since its deep color can easily stain.
To avoid a lasting stain, quickly wash any area with which it has made contact with soap and water.
To prevent staining your hands, you might consider wearing kitchen gloves while handling turmeric.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Add turmeric to egg salad to give it an even bolder yellow color.
Mix brown rice with raisins and cashews and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
Although turmeric-spice is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder, some people like to add a little extra of this spice when preparing curries.
And turmeric doesn't have to only be used in curries.
This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions.
Or, for a creamy, flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try mixing some turmeric and dried onion with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.
For an especially delicious way to add more turmeric to your healthy way of eating, cut cauliflower florets in half and healthy sauté with a generous spoonful of turmeric for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Be sure to choose turmeric-spice rather than prepared curry blends.
Recent research indicates the amount of turmeric (and therefore curcumin) in curry blends is often minimal.
2 Tbs. fresh grated turmeric root
1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger root
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 c. boiling water
1) Place grated turmeric and ginger root in a tea strainer (metal or cloth will work).
2) Place the strainer into a mug and pour boiling water over it; let seep for 5 minutes.
3) Remove strainer, add honey and lemon juice and stir.
4) Sip slowly and enjoy!
Turmeric is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.
Turmeric-spice is an excellent source of both iron and manganese.
It's also a good source of vitamin-B6, dietary fiber and potassium.
Tips on Using: Pair it with black pepper, as many Indian-inspired recipes already do, and you’ll enhance curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times.
This effect is due to a substance called piperine that’s found in black pepper.
Since turmeric-spice has a tangy flavor, using too much can make food taste bitter.
A good rule of thumb is to use about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of turmeric to season beans, rice, or couscous.
Now, here is a recipe that is absolutely sensational!
You'll enjoy the extra deep flavor and nutrition from this easy to prepare, great tasting dish.
Tandoori Chicken is super easy to make, healthy (especially if you use skinless, boneless, organic chicken thighs) and always a hit when we have people over.
If you have the time, try and visit a local Indian spice shop to stock up on all the essential spices for this dish.
Remember you can always add a little more spice here and there to change it up.
Makes 1 Kg. (about 2.2 lbs) of chicken.
2 Tbs. Masala (We prefer to use Tandoori Masala)
Approx. 1 Tbs. cumin
Approx. 1 Tbs. coriander
Approx. 1/2 tsp. chili powder (in a pinch, cayenne or dried chillies will do). Careful, you don’t want the chicken too hot.)
1 tsp. turmeric-spice
1 Tbs. crushed garlic
1 Tbs. crushed ginger
2 Tbs. veg. oil
1 - 2 tsp. garam masala (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1.5 c. plain yogurt
In a large seal-able plastic bag, mix all the spices, ginger, garlic, oil and lemon juice to a paste.
If the mixture looks dry, add more yogurt for desired consistency.
Finally, add the chicken and mix well.
Marinade overnight, or at least 18 hours.
Remove chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade)
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or grill.
Get ready for a flavor extravaganza!Tweet
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