Turmeric Soothes Stomach Trouble, Prevents Dementia, Fights Weight Gain… and More

As Yogi Berra so famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again” when I pick up yet another report singing the praises of the spice turmeric, with its many and varied health benefits. Just recently I’ve seen research reporting that turmeric (in combination with vitamin D) helps fight Alzheimer’s disease and obesity (by suppressing growth of fatty tissue) and is soothing to skin burned by radiation therapy. And those are just some of the newer reports. Researchers have been examining the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, made from the roots of a plant in the ginger family (Curcuma longa), for many years.

For the details on this versatile healing botanical, I spoke with registered herbalist David Winston, RH (AHG), a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild and author of Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief.


Winston told me that turmeric has a wide variety of healing abilities…

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory components safely reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis and tendonitis.
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits also extend to gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
  • Potent antioxidants help squelch unstable oxygen molecules that can otherwise run amok, damaging cells and opening the door to dangerous diseases, such as cancer. Curcumin, an active compound of turmeric, has been shown to modify more than 250 oncogenes and processes that trigger cancer tumorigenesis, proliferation and metastasis.
  • Turmeric helps curb excessive immune responses that characterize conditions such as allergies, asthma and possibly even multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, where (in animal studies) curcumin appears to inhibit development of amyloid plaques.
  • Studies suggest a still wider range of healing benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, preventing atherosclerosis and protecting the liver against chemicals and viral damage.


Don’t confuse turmeric with its most well-known active compound, curcumin. Turmeric contains a variety of inflammation-fighting compounds known as curcuminoids — the most widely known and extensively studied of which is curcumin. Importantly, large doses of curcumin can cause gastric upset, while the herb turmeric contains a number of active ingredients that combine to have a gastro-protective effect.

Winston told me he prefers the herb turmeric (commonly in capsule or tincture form) for some uses (gastritis, gastric ulcers, arthralgias) and standardized curcumin for others (cancer prevention and treatment, Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, and protecting the liver against hepatitis B and C). Both types can be purchased at the health-food store.

A typical dose of turmeric is two to four milliliters (ml) of the tincture three times a day, or two capsules of the powdered herb two to three times daily. An average dose of curcumin consists of 400 mg (containing 95% curcumin) in capsule form up to three times daily. Note: Turmeric should be used with caution in individuals prone to bleeding and, because it stimulates bile secretion, it should not be used by people with a bile duct blockage.


Developing your taste for Indian food over, say, pizza is one way to incorporate more turmeric into your diet. The spice also can be a wonderful enhancement to the flavor of an array of foods, including soups, meats and grains. The editors of Eating Well magazine shared a few interesting recipes using turmeric to give flavor to a variety of foods, meats and grains…


Spicy Turmeric Rub

Curry, cumin, coriander, mint, turmeric and ginger make a delicious Indian-inspired rub for tofu or chicken breast or with sautéed potatoes. Simply rub or sprinkle onto foods and cook.

Makes about 1 cup.


  • 6 Tablespoons curry powder
3 Tablespoons coarse salt
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

Combine curry powder, salt, crushed red pepper, cumin, coriander, mint, turmeric and ginger in a small bowl.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per teaspoon: 5 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 211 mg sodium; 19 mg potassium.

MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months.


Tangy Indian Marinade

Here we combine traditional Indian spices like cumin, coriander, mustard and paprika with yogurt and lime for a tangy marinade. Marinate seafood in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to one hour; marinate chicken for as long as eight hours.

Makes about 11/3 cups, enough to marinate 2 pounds of fish or chicken.


  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  1. Toast cumin, coriander and mustard seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and grind to a fine powder. Add paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and turmeric.
  2. Combine yogurt, lime juice, onions, garlic and ginger in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add spices and pulse to combine.

It can be used as a sauce, condiment, marinade or rub.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per teaspoon: 3 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 19 mg sodium; 8 mg potassium.

From www.eatingwell.com with permission.
 © 2009 Eating Well Inc.

You can’t eat enough turmeric to have a real therapeutic effect — that is, to cure what ails you — but Winston notes that eating this spice regularly can help prevent inflammatory problems, such as ulcers, GI tract cancers and atherosclerosis. So add a little spice to your life and give your health a boost at the same time… not a bad combination.

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