If you’ve ever enjoyed Thai or Indian food, you have (probably unknowingly) consumed one of the most powerful natural cancer-fighting substances known to science. This miracle ingredient? Turmeric.

Turmeric is a spice made from grinding the roots of the Curcuma longa plant which grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients for many Indian, Persian and Thai dishes. Ancient Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has long recommended its use in food for its medicinal value.

Commonly used as medicine in many Eastern countries, turmeric has been found to suppress cancer growth, reduce brain tumors, support overall immune system health, and even alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. While the benefits of turmeric are just coming to light within the Western mainstream and alternative media, it has been known for quite some time that this inexpensive spice holds powerful health benefits.

Curcumin (not to be confused with cumin, the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family) is a natural phenol and derivative of turmeric, and may be responsible for many of these effects -- particularly the anti-cancer benefits.

In the July edition of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, scientists noted that curcumin dramatically decreased the size of brain tumors by 81 percent in 9 out of 11 studies without apparent side effects.

Additional studies have found that turmeric and curcumin inhibit the spread of cancer by actually blocking a key enzyme responsible for its growth. Given chewable curcumin supplements containing 1,000 milligrams of curcumin each, 21 study participants with head and neck cancer experienced a halt in cancer spread after intake. Conducted by the UCLA, the results were examined by an independent lab in Maryland which confirmed that curcumin supplements ultimately stopped the spread of malignant cancer cells.

Curcumin gives turmeric its unique yellow color, and each 100 grams of turmeric contains 3 to 5 grams of the compound. In medieval Europe, turmeric was known as Indian saffron, since it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.

Some culinary facts and tips about turmeric:

  • It is one of the principle ingredients of curry powder.
  • It can be used as a substitute for saffron.
  • It is used to flavor and color butter, cheese, margarine, pickles, mustard, liquor, fruit drinks, cakes, table jellies, fruit dishes and other foodstuffs.
  • Use it to add Eastern mystery to new favorites as well as in traditional curries, rice and chicken dishes, and condiments.
  • It is a classic addition to chutneys, pickles, and relishes.
  • Blend it with melted butter and drizzle it over cooked vegetables, pasta, or potatoes.
  • It adds a warm, mild aroma and distinctive yellow color to foods.

Some health experts believe that turmeric will soon reach the popularity level of vitamin D, which is only now becoming universally recognized for its wide-ranging health benefits.

Turmeric and curcumin are both extremely inexpensive methods of boosting health, and are readily available worldwide. They can be purchased in the form of spices or as health supplements.

Have you cooked with Turmeric? What is your favorite recipe that uses Turmeric?

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