Herbs and spices that we use to flavor our foods are used according to tastes that differ widely in local and regional areas. The availabilities of herbs and spices also has a lot to do with what kinds of flavor enhancers are added to foods. It’s the added spices and herbs that can really make a dish. But, did you know that a lot of the spices and herbs that we use in food and drink can benefit our health?
One such spice is curry, a favorite food for many in India and nearby regions of the world. It’s so popular that curry is the name used for the food dish and for the spice used to make such a dish. Turmeric is the actual spice that is used to make curry. It is a deep yellow powder that is obtained from drying and grinding or pounding turmeric roots.
The root of the turmeric plant contains a chemical called curcumin which is purported to have a number of health benefits. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may be responsible for the observations of improved health when curry is eaten regularly.
Pre-clinical studies have shown that curcumin has positive effects on the brain in rats that were engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease. After being fed a curcumin-laced diet the rats were healthier. Their maze times improved, which speaks to a better memory, and the degree of inflammation in the brain was reduced. Perhaps one day a drug can be developed from this knowledge that will aid Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Curcumin has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, at least in Petri dishes, but those early studies spawned further investigation. At a hospital in the UK a clinical trial will study a combination therapy involving curry capsules and a chemotherapy agent on bowel cancer. It is purported that a combination of the spice plus a chemotherapy performs much better than either one alone in fighting cancer. The ultimate goal of the research is helping to understand if there are benefits to using curcumin, and if so, how much is needed.
The theory is that curcumin somehow latches onto a cancerous or damaged cell and that may trigger cell death. Killing cancerous cells is paramount to success in riding the body of cancer as that would halt the spread of the disease if the affected cells could be destroyed. Esophageal and bowel cancer are being targeted by research teams studying the health effects of turmeric and curry.
Some other benefits of turmeric include that it aids digestion, fights infections, improves skin conditions, helps heal stroke damage, and may improve the memory of dementia patients. With all these benefits, why not have a weekly curry meal?
We invite you to share your stories on how the spice turmeric has been good for your health. How do you cook with turmeric and do you find that it aids digestion? How else do people use turmeric root or preparations with curcumin?