HERB OF THE MONTH: Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Are you taking turmeric every day yet? Experts say you should. The active compounds in turmeric – curcumin, which give the spice its bright gold color – have powerful anti-inflammatory action, and have been shown to reduce pain, ease osteoarthritis, especially when used in combination with boswellia, ashwagandha and ginger, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. and possibly block the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. And a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research foundcurcumin to be “comparable” in efficacy to diclofenac sodium, a prescription anti-inflammatory, for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Turmeric also is showing promise in cancer prevention and treatment. Respected ethnobotanist James Duke, Phd, reviewed 700 studies on turmeric and found 200 citations for turmeric and cancer, and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. Animal studies found turmeric and/or curcumin effective for the treatment and prevention of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer and oral cancer. Duke found that the effectiveness of the spice against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.
For women with recurrent breast cancer, curcumin might prove especially useful; animal models have shown that curcumin may help prevent metastasis, even after failed treatment with the drug tamoxifen. In women with HER-2 receptor-positive cancer, curcuminoids also seem to behave much like the highly successful chemotherapy drug Herceptin, although research is highly preliminary.
Dosage: It’s best to get your curcumin by using turmeric in curries and other foods. IBut if you can’t do that daily, take one 500-milligram capsule of curcumin—standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids — each day, and twice a day if you are battling pain and/or inflammation. Most experts advise that urmeric/curcumin should be formulated with black pepper for optimal absorption.
Precautions: Side effects are rare but include flatulence, diarrhea and heartburn. Do not take turmeric if you’re on blood thinners.
Good brands: Terry Naturally CuraMed, New Chapter Turmeric Force, Gaia Turmeric Supreme — which comes in several formulations, including Extra Strength, Allergy and Pain.