All Hail Turmeric

Is the herb turmeric really the new wonder drug? Or is it just that recent scientific studies have shown North Americans that there really may be something to the claims. This relative of ginger has been touted since ancient times as a cure for everything from osteoarthritis to ringworm to depression. A study has linked it to delayed onset of type 2 diabetes and, other information suggests it may help patients with cancer.

How Turmeric Relieved my Back Pain 
My first introduction to this miracle spice was in the whispering of a fellow client at physical therapy—a beautiful  dancer recovering from knee surgery. Even though she was hobbling around on crutches, she never stopped smiling. Make that laughing and smiling. I wondered what her secret was. I mean come on—I have chronic back pain resulting from degenerative disc disease, and I had tried the positive attitude approach, but that wasn’t always easy.

One morning during our daily exercises we started to talk. She told me turmeric was her go to medication for inflammation. At the time, I dismissed it and distinctly remember thinking—“Yeah, right.” How could something as simple as a spice that could be easily added to any diet be powerful enough to remove stiffness and pain?

Months passed. Physical therapy became a distant memory. The stiffness in my back diminished but still lingered. I was too young to feel this damn old! The exact moment of action is unclear to me now but somewhere along the way I woke up stiff yet again, and the thought of turmeric came rushing over me. A light bulb had been turned on that wasn’t burning out. “Why not?” I thought. What do I have to lose?

Turning to Turmeric
I started with supplements and added one 450 mg capsule (about a teaspoon full) from Nature's Bounty to my daily yogurt. I just  broke it open and dumped it in. I liked it so much I began adding the spice to my food—sprinkling it liberally on my salads, yogurt, mashed potatoes, name it. And sure enough, my back was even less stiff than before.

  • Please note, while turmeric has worked wonders for me it may not be safe or helpful to others. Similar to the effects of over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory medications, turmeric may thin the blood. If you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, adding turmeric to your diet may not be advisable.

As I used myself as a guinea pig for testing I started looking more deeply into my remedy. I was completely fascinated by the extensive research behind this wonder drug. Turmeric has been used for over 2,500 years in India and over 4,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine!  

One of my favorite recipes is Butter Chicken and Rice (Recipe below). Not only does the recipe call for turmeric in the butter and on the chicken, but you can sprinkle it on your rice, too. I have even discovered that substituting turmeric for salt provided new opportunities to add the spice to my food with a lot less sodium!   

Turmeric’s Active Ingredient
Curcumin is the active chemical that gives turmeric its distinctive golden color. Along with the bright, sunny hue it provides, to me, the medicinal properties are just as lovely. Turmeric's anti-inflammatory effects suggest it may benefit patients with arthritis, Crohn's disease, and potentially Alzheimer's Disease.

My health, mind and my body all rejoice and have been grateful to this superpower spice ever since. My energy level and attitude are one of the most noticeable changes. When you can move better and exercise more, a positive attitude is much easier to adopt. As anyone who has suffered silently with chronic pain can tell you, when you find the key to alleviating it, your life changes forever. Without pain, you become alive again. I share this story hoping turmeric will help to release other long-time sufferers from their prisons. Stay tuned for turmeric updates in my blog.

fragrant Indian butter chicken made with turmericFragrant Indian butter chicken made with turmeric!
Fragrant Indian Butter Chicken Recipe
Since ancient time, turmeric has been touted as a miracle spice. Curcumin, the key compound, gives turmeric it’s rich, golden hue and health promoting super powers and is now being used to treat many anti-inflammatory conditions. Try this recipe that uses turmeric for a delicious, healthy dinner!

2 Tbsp butter
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated gingerroot
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp turmeric, ground cinnamon, ground cumin and coriander
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat cut up
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
Hot cooked basmati (optional)

Melt butter in a deep 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are tender. About 5 minutes. Add gingerroot, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin.  Cook 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes, chicken broth, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cut up chicken and sour cream. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Serve over hot basmati rice, if desired. Sprinkle a little turmeric directly on the rice too for even more health benefits.

Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases, an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.