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The Truth About Turmeric

What The Nutritional Companies Won’t Tell You and Don’t Want You To Know!

As a Chiropractor and Ayurvedic Physician, I see patients everyday who ask me nutritional questions.  Often the subject of Turmeric comes up because it has so many wonderful effects.  It’s really Nature’s “Super Spice” as coined in the title of the book by Surya Kant.

 If you read about Turmeric on the internet, you’ll find a lot of information about its health benefits.  But there’s more to the story that the nutritional companies don’t tell you.

Turmeric is a spice found in many Asian cultures.  Its therapeutic uses in Ayurveda have been documented for more than 5000 years.  My Ayurvedic teacher Vaidya Mishra told me that Turmeric is so beneficial that in India it’s considered a sin not to cook with it.

What Does Turmeric Do?

First of all, let me give credit to Vaidya Mishra’s son Surya whose book I mentioned above.  His book about Turmeric not only extensively documents the Scientific research and Ayurvedic knowledge on the subject, but also includes common uses and therapeutic recipes.  Some of the clinical studies he lists include these benefits:

  • Improved secretions of the Gall Bladder, Pancreas and Stomach
  • Reduced Cholesterol
  • Anti-Inflammatory and Cytotoxic effect
  • Anti-Thrombotic effect
  • Antioxidant, Ant-Mutagenic and Anti-Carcinogenic Effects
  • Anti-Hepatotoxic and Anti-Bacterial
  • Anti-tumor effect
  • Ability to protect DNA breakage by oxidation. Its effect is greater than that of Vitamin A or E.
  • Protects Human Lymphocyte DNA (improved immunity)
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s Disease.

Turmeric is actually a root or rhizome that is related to Ginger.  It can be used as root but is commonly dried and powdered.  The main chemical in the root is Curcumin which gives it the orange color, anti-cholesterol and antioxidant effects.

Ayurveda classifies Turmeric as having Bitter, Pungent and Astringent tastes along with the qualities of being light and dry.   Because of these qualities, Turmeric can make heavy food light during digestion.  Because of its Astringency it can create a lot of drying in the physiology.  These effects of heating and drying are excellent if it is cooked with other spices and food.

What the Nutritional Companies Don’t Tell You and Don’t Want You to Know (or perhaps don’t know themselves)

The nature of Science is to break things down into components and see what they do.  This is the Scientific Method of isolating variables and observation.  Therefore, in the case of Turmeric, studies have revealed the essential chemicals such as Curcumin and how they interact with the physiology to give the benefits I’ve described.

The Nutraceutical companies see these studies and then bottle Turmeric powder or even extract the Curcumin to sell.  This makes it easy and convenient to consume.  But at what cost?

Ayurveda takes a more holistic approach.  It offers a complete understanding about all spices and herbs that are prescribed.  In the case of Turmeric, it should never be taken in raw form and always cooked with food and combined with spices that balance the heating and drying qualities.  Otherwise, Turmeric can over stimulate the Liver causing it to dilate and release acidic toxins into the bloodstream and other tissues.

This basic knowledge in Ayurveda is either unknown or ignored by companies making Turmeric capsules.  It’s true that consumers may reduce their Cholesterol and joint pain by taking the capsules.  However, by not practicing proper balance, they may potentially create other problems.  Problems in fact they may never associate with taking the Turmeric capsules.

Doctors Do No Harm

As Doctor’s who want to help our patients, we never want to create disease.  Ayurveda has had over 5000 years of experience with utilizing herbs and spices to heal the sick.  We should respect that knowledge rather than taking short cuts for convenience and profit.

Case History of Incorrect Turmeric Use

I once had a patient who didn’t follow my instructions about using Turmeric.  He instead mixed it in water and drank it for several days.  One week later he returned to my office with his right arm massively swollen and red like fire.  He had literally squeezed acidic toxins from his liver by the incorrect use of Turmeric.  Luckily, they went to his arm and not his heart or brain. 

How to Safely Use Turmeric

Turmeric should be blended with other spices that balance the heating and drying qualities.  Coriander and Fennel are excellent for this.  Absorption can be improved by adding Cumin and Black Pepper.  Here is a good basic recipe to use:

  • 1 part Turmeric Powder
  • 1 part Cumin Seed
  • 6 parts Coriander Seed
  • 6 parts Fennel Seed
  • 1 part Black Peppercorns

Please note that when the prescription says for example "1 turmeric" this means 1 part. That part can be any amount as long as it's consistent with the other parts such as teaspoons or tablespoons etc. I suggest using teaspoons as your measurement so you don't make more spice mixture than you can consume before it loses its freshness.

To prepare the spice mix start with whole organic spices except for turmeric which you will buy in powdered form.  Do not buy the spices from an Indian Store as we cannot be assured of the quality.  Sometimes the spice isn't even correct, i.e. onion seed is substituted for Kalonji and yellow chalk is passed off as Turmeric.  So, only buy the spice from an Organic Market.

Toast the whole spices in a dry pan with no oil on a low heat.  Be careful not to burn the spice.  Remove from the heat and put the powdered turmeric on top of the whole spices.  That way it will toast slowly without burning. Once cooled, then grind all the spices together.  A coffee grinder, Magic Bullet or some similar device works well for this step.  Store the spice in a glass jar to maintain the freshness.  Plastic zip lock bags do not work well for spice storage.

Notice that this recipe “pre-toasts” the spices.  This removes their heating effect and makes them tastier as well.  This mixture can be used as a sprinkle spice or cooked with your vegetable either in water or sautéed in Ghee. 

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.  Also feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the page.  Your questions and comments may help others as well.

To Your Health,

Dr. Douglas Beech