April 15, 2012

Herb and Spice Fact of the Day

Turmeric (Hindi: हल्दी) is one of the most important spices in India. 

It is used in practically every dish whether it contains meat, or vegetables, or rice. Depending upon the amount used, it colors the food to a pale yellow, or deep orange. Turmeric has been used in India for over 3000 years and has been shown to have extensive medicinal properties. 

Its active ingredient Curcumin has been tested extensively for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns. Mixed with milk and clarified butter, it is useful in reducing the symptoms of the common cold. Mixed with oils in a thick paste, and applied to wounds, it is useful in wound healing and reducing scars. 

Growing up in India, my grand mother would make potions at home for virtually every ailment and they included turmeric in some form. Curcumin has been explored as a natural painkiller and for its anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative effects against a variety of cancers.

Note: Curcumin is poorly absorbed in the body but co-consumption of piperine, a natural active ingredient in black pepper,  has been shown to increase Curcumin absorption by as much as 2000%. 

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