Findings show that a tablespoon or two a day of this aromatic and natural healer can keep the doctor away
LOCALLY KNOWN AS luyang dilaw, or yellow ginger, this ancient spice gives curry and mustard its distinct golden color and mellow kick.

The powdered version comes from the root of the turmeric plant, which is considered sacred in India where it is also called the ?Spice of Life.? Modern research has uncovered more benefits to the spice, particularly its active ingredient, curcumin. Just like most spices, it is naturally antimicrobial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal.

As a safe and potent natural treatment, turmeric shows great promise that there has been several medical research works focused on it in the past 40 years or so. Generally, most research has been confined to animal trials and lab tests, and human trials continue to be carried out.

The spice is commercially available in the Philippines in its raw form as ginger root, its usual powdered form as culinary seasoning, and also as capsules and tea bags for those desiring to use it for health reasons.

Here?s a checklist of turmeric?s healing magic based on research findings:

It prevents dementia. Currently there is much buzz to the possibility of turmeric as a major treatment against dementia or Alzheimer?s disease, spurred by findings that in nations where people eat curry several times a week, there is less incidence of dementia.

It seems that curcumin produces a chemical that clings to the amyloid plaque that covers brain cells, and dissolves it. If the plaque is left untreated, it can cause mental functions to degenerate, causing the symptoms attributed to Alzheimer?s.

It reduces inflammation. The spice first caught the attention of contemporary medicine when research journals published reports about studies showing its anti-inflammatory property in some clinical trials in the 1970s. Since then, in various studies, curcumin has shown that it is a safe and just as effective alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, used for rheumatism, arthritis and similar conditions.

Curcumin, without harming the rest of the immune system, attacks the wayward immune cells that cause swelling. The spice can reduce inflammation of recent wounds, insect bites, and skin bruises. Therefore, it can be of great help when dealing with muscle aches, RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries, bursitis and tendonitis.

It?s rich in antioxidants. Traditionally used for stomach and liver problems, the spice has demonstrated that it is protective of the liver. Studies show that curcumin tends to enhance the body?s own natural levels of the powerful antioxidant chemical, glutathione, which helps the liver detoxify properly.

Further research shows that the spice likewise protected the liver from other toxic chemicals. As an antioxidant that can inhibit free-radical behavior, curcumin chemically reacts with human cells in similar ways to the vitamins C and E.

It promotes heart health and weight loss. Not only can curcumin lower bad cholesterol, it can also relax blood vessels, which is good news for those with blood pressure problems. Should a heart attack happen, it can help lessen damage to heart tissues and even reduce the size of hemorrhagic strokes.

Animal tests reveal that the spice can also keep blood clots from forming along artery walls, but clinical trials on humans still need to be conducted. Another finding for further research is the traditional use of the spice, in India?s Ayurvedic medicine, for weight control. Studies show that during digestion, the spice enhances the production of enzymes that break down sugar and fat.

Another animal study rshows that curcumin actually prevents fat tissues from forming, by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels, which are needed to build fat tissue.

It can kill cancer cells. Studies on animals and human cells show that curcumin can stop cell mutation. Recent cancer research has focused on curcumin?s positive impact on several types of cancers such as prostate, breast, skin and colon.

The spice, due to its antioxidant ability, can stop blood vessels that supply malignant tumors from growing. Studies also suggest that the spice can ease the symptoms and damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Unfortunately, what researchers have also found out is the main problem with curcumin?s cancer-fighting potential. The spice is not easily absorbed by the human body.

Spicy challenge

The main proof that turmeric is generally safe for humans is that over thousands of years, people have been able to eat curry practically every day without any harmful side effects.

In India, the average intake of the spice ranges daily between 2-2.5 grams, or 60- 200 mg. Still, there has been no scientific finding as to the maximum dosage allowable for humans. There are also no standardization or safety tests conducted on the various forms of turmeric products marketed as supplements.

Studies show that people with active gallstones must avoid the spice totally, since it encourages the production of bile, which can cause gallstones. However, there is not enough information on whether turmeric may or may not be safe for pregnant women and infants.

A safe dosage as used in medical research would be one tablespoon of turmeric powder twice a day, or two teaspoons taken thrice a day, or grind 1- 1.5 g of dried root. To encourage absorption, steep the powder or ground root in hot water for 15 minutes and drink it.

Because turmeric is fat-soluble, try adding virgin coconut oil. Bromelain, from pineapple, is also said to be helpful for absorption. You could drink pineapple juice or eat some pineapple.

Another way to take turmeric is simply putting one tablespoon of the powdered spice straight into the mouth, and wash it down with pineapple juice, and follow with a gulp of virgin coconut oil. Do this at least twice a day, such as morning and evening.

Some specialty stalls inside shopping malls, or at trade fairs and flea markets, sell turmeric as capsules or teabags. The capsules come in concentrated dosage, and you could take maybe two to three capsules up to three times a day. Don?t take the spice, in whatever form, on an empty stomach.

The author, being allergic to Western antibiotics, uses turmeric as a natural antibacterial when necessary. It is also a regular part of her low-yeast diet, along with other herbs and spices. Visit her blog at