Many people might think about some of the better-known herbs when answering the question posed above.
For example, Ginseng might be at the top of the list. Others might say Golden Seal or even Echinacea.
But I’m guessing most people won’t consider the herb I’m about to mention. Not because they’ve never heard of it, although that’s possible. More likely it’s because they’ve never heard of the tremendous benefits it offers for supporting health.
The herb I’m speaking of is called “yu jin” in Chinese Medicine. Its Latin pharmaceutical name is Tuber Curcumae. But you’re more likely to know it as the Indian spice, turmeric.
Most people familiar with it think of turmeric as the slightly spicy, orange-yellow ingredient in curry powder. In that role it’s been used for thousands of years as a condiment. It is that, but we’re finding out that it is also so much more.
Benefits of Turmeric
In Chinese Medicine, turmeric (yu jin) has a number of uses. It increases circulation, helps the liver function more efficiently, helps calm the mind, and facilitates gall bladder function. In addition, it helps strengthen digestion, detoxify the body, and purify the blood.
Modern research is adding to this list. Here are some of the more recent findings:
Anti-inflammatory – components of turmeric, called curcuminiods, are powerful anti-inflammatories. This may help explain why people taking it experience lower levels of arthritis and other inflammatory problems, including IBS and Alzheimer’s.
Antioxidant – curcuminiods also reduce the damage from free radicals in the body. These substances damage cells and tissues and play a roll in many diseases including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Anti-cancer – curcuminiods are shown to stimulate the death of some types of cancer cells, including certain types of leukemia, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and cancer of the mouth.
Improves Digestion – strengthens the mucous lining of the stomach, helps prevent peptic ulcers, inhibits peptic ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori.
Protects the Liver from Damage – helps prevent gallstones, stimulates the flow of bile, lowers cholesterol.
In addition to these benefits, more are being discovered regularly.
Uses and Cautions for Turmeric
The best way to cook with turmeric is to use the pure powder rather than relying on it being present in curry. Most curry powders contain only a small amount of turmeric.
Alternatively, you can find supplemental turmeric in your herb store, health food store or online. Follow the instructions on the label.
As with most herbs, foods, supplements, etc., there are people who shouldn’t use turmeric medicinally. For example those on blood thinning drugs, or who might be pregnant shouldn’t use it. In Chinese medicine they recommend not taking it at the same time as eating anything with cloves in it, and there are other situations where caution is best.
Be sure to consult with a health care provider knowledgeable in herbal medicine before taking any new supplement or herb. That way you’ll be sure to avoid problems and get the most benefit from your supplements.
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Roberts, A. J., et al. Nutraceuticals: the Complete Encyclopedia of Supplements, Herbs, Vitamins and Healing Foods. Berkely Publishing Group. New York, USA. 2001:115.