The forests of south(east) Asia are widely considered to be among the most beautiful and unkempt Eco-systems in the world. Home to thousands of different native species, these woodlands are viewed as sacred because of the cornucopia of medicinal and culinary secrets that rests within. One of the most prominent of these mysteries lies deep in the underbrush. It’s an enigma that has the power to remedy many of our most dreaded ailments. If you haven’t already figured it out, here’s a hint: take a peek at your spice rack and look for that yellowish-orange powder with the unique aroma… we’re talking about the healing powers of turmeric!
Known to many south Indian people as haldi, the use of turmeric has been a fundamental part of the ancient practice of Siddha medicine for thousands of years. A consistent diet of turmeric (among other whole foods), is generally associated with the great health and longevity of many lives throughout Asian cultures. As more and more people have come to realize its healing powers, fields of turmeric can be found growing all over the world. But before we delve into all the wonders of turmeric, we should cover some of the basics:
Firstly, turmeric, as you know it on your spice rack, is the pulverized version of the rhizomes you see in the image to your left <- . They are the roots that grow under ground, beneath the curcuma longa flower; an amazing herbaceous perennial plant that thrives in tropical environments. Curcuma plants are fairly modest, as they don’t usually grow taller than 3 feet. Much of the energy they draw from the sun synthesizes to nourish the roots growing below.
When grown conventionally, turmeric fields line the landscape in lush green rows. They aren’t very invasive plants. So, they can grow fairly close to one another.
It isn’t until late summer that turmeric flowers begin to blossom; unraveling a sea of majestic shapes and colors. They unveil vibrant reds, whites, pinks, and lavender shaded petals that span across the color spectrum.
Both western and eastern medicinal schools agree on how amazing turmeric is for the body. There are literally hundreds of studies that were conducted at many of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions that corroborate this. In fact, it’s even gained the status of being called a “super food” in many health & wellness circles.
By far one of the greatest qualities of consuming turmeric is its ability to fight cancer cells in the body. Curcumin, which is an important substance in the turmeric root, is proven to fight carcinogens. The anti-cancer effects of curcumin essentially kills “cancering” cells before they can spread. Consider that we all have trillions of living cells within our bodies. These cells naturally die every few months through a pre-programmed “self-destruct” mechanism known as apoptosis. This is a necessary process as cells age and are replaced by new ones. In some cases it eliminates unnecessary cells (like our webbed fingers and feet when we’re developing in the womb).
Cancer cells are so uniquely dangerous because they turn off apoptosis and continue to replicate unabated by natural processes. Fortunately, researchers have demonstrated that curcumin can kill a wide variety of tumor cell types through diverse mechanisms. In other words, curcumin knows exactly how to activate death receptors within cancerous cells so they die from within. This has been proven with kidney cancer cells, skin cancer, throat cancer, prostate cancer, and many others. On top of that, the effects of curcumin only target infected cells and not the healthy ones… Reasons for this are still not fully understood, but hallelujah!
Some other substantial research has found that turmeric promotes a healthy inflammation response, amazing for skin care, a stronger cardiovascular health, supports and detoxifies the liver, as well as promotes greater gastrointestinal health. Curry dishes are among the most popular applications of eating turmeric.
If you’re like me and love eating Indian food, then you probably already have quite a bit of turmeric in-take; which is great! Otherwise, you can always add turmeric to a fresh pot of tea, spice up some veggies, take it as a supplement, or mix it in with castor oil for an amazing facial cleanser.
There you have it; you’re now officially a turmeric connoisseur. This knowledge is great for convincing people that food is powerful (if they didn’t already believe you). I’ve stumped quite a few of my medical friends with this info. It’s just a shame that western medical institutions don’t do enough to openly embrace the power of super foods. It’s no coincidence that cancer treatment generates billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical industry. A steady diet of turmeric, as well as other whole foods, could very well save your life some day. So, get to cooking and don’t forget to spice it up!