The Herbs Section
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Turmeric (Curcuma longa [Latin]), also known as curcuma, produces a root that is used to produce the vibrant yellow spice used as a culinary spice so often used in curry dishes. Turmeric is native to India and parts of Asia, and is a relative of cardamom and ginger. Today's herbalists and naturopaths consider turmeric to be one of nature's most potent anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Turmeric may help treat a variety of conditions related to inflammation and antioxidant damage, including cataracts, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. It is also used to treatment of scabies and digestive disorders, promote wound healing, and strengthen the immune system.
Western medicine only recently began to study turmeric. However, this spice has long been used in Indian ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to treat infection, gallbladder problems, dysentery, arthritis, and liver disorders. Several studies performed by Indian scientists have supported many of tumeric's traditional use to fight inflammation, indigestion, and liver and heart disease.
Turmeric contains curcumin and curcuminoids, which are powerful anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that act as natural cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors in the body, and inhibit the production of the prostaglandins that cause inflammation and swelling. Indian researchers found that tumeric relieved joint pain and swelling in people with arthritis as well as prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without side effects such as abdominal bleeding or stomach upset.
Turmeric is a natural antioxidant, and thus protects the body from oxidative damage. Laboratory studies have found that tumeric inhibits the development of cataracts, breast cancer, colon cancer, and lymphoma. In one study, smokers that took just 1 teaspoon of tumeric a day for 30 days had lower levels of cancer-causing mutagens. In another study, just 500 milligrams of curcumin each day significantly reduced participants' cholesterol levels in as little as 10 days. Some studies indicate that turmeric's ability to lower cholesterol may provide the same heart-protective benefits as its close relative ginger, including blood clot prevention and reduced blood pressure.
Turmeric helps detoxify the body, and protects the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol, toxic chemicals, and even some pharmaceutical drugs. Turmeric stimulates the production of bile, which is needed to digest fat. Turmeric also guards the stomach by killing salmonella bacteria and protozoa that can cause diarrhea.
Turmeric is available in the familiar powder form used in cooking, as well as commercial capsules and tinctures. The usual dosage is 445 milligrams in capsules or 1 teaspoon of extract three times a day, or 1 teaspoon of tumeric powder in warm milk as a digestive aid. Curcumin supplements are also available, and are more effective for treatment of arthritis.
No toxic side effects have been linked to the use of turmeric, but consuming large amounts of it may cause stomach upset. People taking blood thinners should not use this herb medicinally, as it may increase the action of these medications.
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