Turmeric: The wonder spice

I was first introduced to turmeric as a student during my work experience with a graphic design agency in London. I met a wild and adorable American lady named Catherine, a fashion designer, who was a few years my senior and far more worldly.

I would stay with her and visit regularly over the next ten years or so and many of my favourite and now ‘signature’ dishes were inspired by her. She once cooked ‘Bisteeya’ ( a Moroccan Chicken, or pigeon,pie) and my taste buds were electrified. I had never tasted anything like it and so I promptly went out and bought the recipe book she used for this recipe. Claudia Roden’s ‘Mediterranean cookery’ is still on my kitchen cook book shelf and now falls open at the bisteeya recipe.

The magic ingredient was turmeric used instead of saffron. Claudia calls it the ‘poor man’s saffron’ and it appears that in 1987 the full glory of turmeric was yet to be discovered.

Turmeric continued to be my spice of choice and would be added to soups and casseroles or baked chicken to add an exotic taste to dishes made using a student or artists budget.

About nine  years ago more was leaking out about the medicinal benefits of curcumin,(diferuloylmethane) the active ingredient in turmeric. Extensive clinical trials over the past quarter century have addressed the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy of this nutraceutical against numerous diseases in humans. Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, idiopathic orbital inflammatory pseudotumor, oral lichen planus, gastric inflammation, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic microangiopathy, lupus nephritis, renal conditions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and chronic bacterial prostatitis.(1)

The biggest difficulty with accessing all these incredible benefits was extraction and absorption. To make churchmen and effective health ingredient, it has to be processed in a way that allows delivery to blood plasma. Poor bioavailablilty has made supplements barely worth taking as to fully absorb churchmen  the body needs piperine, found in black pepper which enhances the absorption by 2000% (2)

Curcumin is also fat, rather than water, soluble and so it needs to be taken with a fatty meal, or mixed with an oil.

In summary Curcumin has the following beneficial qualities;

  • A natural anti-inflammatory
  • dramatically increases the antioxidant capacity of the body
  • linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases
  • lowers the risk of heart disease
  • can help to prevent, ( and perhaps even treat) cancer
  • Useful in preventing and treating Alzheimers
  • has incredible benefits against depression
  • May help delay raging and fight age-related chronic diseases (3)

Eric Cole has written an interesting piece about the medicinal benefits of curcumin which you can read here. on our Facebook page.




(1)Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials
Subash C. Gupta, Sridevi Patchva, and Bharat B. Aggarwal

(2)Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Shoba G1, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS.

(3) www.authority nutrition.com

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