If you’re preparing an Indian curry or Asian dish tonight, you may consider adding turmeric for a little extra flavor, some warm, yellow hues and a pinch of its cancer-fighting benefits.
Turmeric is a deep yellow spice used for centuries in Asian countries, particularly China and India, mostly in cooking, and often as a fabric dye.
But there is growing research into its medicinal properties, particularly the beneficial powers of curcumin, one of the most active compounds found in the spice.
Historical evidence dating back thousands of years shows people in China and India often used curcumin to treat a number of conditions, from coughs and colds to skin diseases and wounds.
Although it’s been touted for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, tests to confirm further medicinal properties over the last few decades show mixed results.
But the popular spice is back in the limelight thanks to modern clinical trials evaluating the compound’s cancer-fighting properties.
Many studies have shown curcumin can suppress tumor cells and is safe to consume even at high doses.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio and Georg-Speyer-Haus research institute in Frankfurt, Germany, published a study in September 2014 titled, “Curcumin, Special Peptides Boost Cancer-Blocking PIAS3 to Neutralize Cancer-Activating STAT3 in Mesothelioma.”
The study on tissue samples showed how curcumin activates the specific protein that can slow or stop the growth of mesothelioma cells.
Professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and lead researcher of the study, Afshin Dowlati, M.D., told Asbestos.com the study “is very significant.” Although the study wasn’t performed on humans, Dowlati said curcumin “has shown clearly that it can reduce the cancer growth.”
A big challenge for researchers is finding ways to increase curcumin’s absorption into the body. The stomach doesn’t absorb as much of the compound when it’s ingested as a spice.
Studies at the University of Michigan found combining curcumin with piperine, the active compound in black pepper, improves absorption into the body’s cells.
Dowlati is confident curcumin clinical trials involving humans could begin before 2017.
Turmeric can be found in most health food stores, as well as Indian and Asian markets.
It is a root, much like ginger, which is part of the same family. You can purchase it powdered or fresh.
Try both and decide which works best for you. You will find that its fresh form is extremely potent in color, so take care not to stain your counters or clothes.
Turmeric has a mild, tangy flavor and can easily blend into plenty of dishes, unlike ginger, which is much stronger. It’s also available in pill form, but use the least processed kind.
Fresh or powdered turmeric is a more potent source of curcumin. It’s cheaper, too.
Here are a few easy ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily life: