Turmeric for Every Type of Sick

Questions on alcohol consumption continue to become a constant topic within the scope of my blog, and abdominal pain seems to be a popular topic within the circle of people that seem to surround me. Within the realm of herbal remedies, there are a lot of natural products that help with regenerating liver function, helping with gastritis, alleviating pancreatitis and other alcohol-induced ailments. As mentioned in an earlier article, milk thistle seed extract and coffee enemas are two great remedies to treat an over-abused liver. However this week, I would like to introduce turmeric (curcuma longa) into the daily regimen of being an alcohol connoisseur to counteract the long term effects of alcohol.

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3500 years as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, in skin ailments, etc. It has recently gained popularity within the past few years in modern medicine as a potentially miraculous herbal remedy. This spice is native to the South Asian region and the majority of the world supply comes from Erode, a southeastern Indian city more commonly called the Yellow City. As a spice, it is the main ingredient in curry powder and has been used for centuries in Asian cooking. The leaves of the turmeric root are also used in some cooking, although there is no mention of medical advantages from the leaf.

The main active substance found in the root of the turmeric plant is curcumin, the compound that gives the root its characteristic yellow color. Curcumin has been used for years as coloring for products ranging from cheese to soft drinks and is labeled E100 as a food additive. Although most of the research has been done in vitro and in animal studies, curcumin has been shown to have a variety of properties that is beneficial to medicine in human beings.

According to a few studies done within the past decade, curcumin is able to counter the effects of toxins through its antioxidant properties, inhibits the synthesis of inflammatory signals (eicosanoids), interferes with HIV P300/CBP binding sites, suppresses Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) replication by inhibiting RNA polymerase II recruitment to viral DNA, and also blocks HSV-2 in animal models of intravaginal infections. A study in 2004 has also shown that curcumin might also inhibit the accumulation of β-amyloid in Alzheimer’s in animal studies.

A correlation study, measuring the mental state of elderly Asians who ate yellow curry, showed that their mini mental state examination (MMSE) scores were higher than those who ate less or no curry at all. However in the study, there is no consideration of the other factors that contribute to good mental health. Curcumin also has a positive effect on the hippocampus and has protective properties on stress, depression and anxiety. More amazingly, this spice has been shown to be a selective MAO-A inhibitor, the same way some anti-depressants and anxiolytics work.

In addition to everything that has been previously stated, a study has shown curcumin to enhance the antibacterial effects of antibiotics against S. aureus. It also can induce apoptosis in cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. It has been shown that curcumin interferes with transcription factors, such as NF-kB, that can induce carcinogenic changes in cells. In a 2010 study done in Goethe University, curcumin inhibits malignant brain tumor proliferation, migration and invasion through interfering with the STAT3 signaling pathway.

Turmeric (kurkuma) powder can be found in Croatia at most herbal stores and is sold by Kotanyi (available in any Konzum). However, curcumin when eaten alone has little absorption and thus there is low bioavailability. Fero Leko d.o.o. sells curcumin extract in capsule form, which increases the absorption of curcumin in the system by providing the compound in an oil-solubilized form. This form is similar to most Indian curry preparations, and (for some people) would be a better alternative in complying with daily intake. Thus, I have included a recipe for a chicken dish originating from Erode below that can be eaten with brown rice, a healthier alternative to common white rice. You can also try accompanying the dish with red yeast rice, which has a natural form of the cholesterol-lowering lowering drug, lovastatin (Mevacor).

Pallipalayam Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:
1 kg chicken; I like dark meat, but if you use chicken breast, which is healthier, cut it into small, bite-size pieces.
2 large onions; finely chopped.
4 red chilies; seeds removed and broken into 3 or 4 pieces.
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds.
1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
1 or 2 curry leaves; bay leaves are a good replacement.
1 table spoon of chopped coriander leaves.
1 teaspoon of ginger and garlic.
2 tablespoons of oil.
Salt to taste.

Method:
Heat oil in a kadai or a wok and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, put the chopped onions, red chilies and curry leaves. Sauté till onions until they are slightly brown and then add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute. Add the chicken, turmeric powder, salt and a sprinkle of water to moisten the mixture. Cover the kadai or wok and cook on a low flame until the chicken is fully cooked. Remove the lid and fry for about 5 minutes on low heat until you get a dry consistency.

I must apologize for the detailed nature of this blog and the fact that I went off topic from the introduction. As I read more about turmeric in these newer studies, I stumbled upon a lot of possibilities for the spice and got excited by the research. Although eating curry every day is not a habit of mine, using a tablespoon of turmeric in daily cooking is not difficult to do. Since curcumin is available in a lot of food products already, it would be good to use these products on a daily basis.

To tie things together, turmeric (like all toxin-eradicating antioxidants) is great at fighting the effects of alcohol, and a good, hot and spicy curry will help you with the morning after symptoms. As with all the other benefits of the spices found in curry, it is no wonder that the British soldiers carried the powdered form with them, allowing the masala or mixture of spices to travel around the world. Now you can find curry in every corner of the world, making this miracle spice (or mixture of spices) easily available!

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