Turmeric - Nature’s WONDER DRUG!
OUNCE for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group. This means they can help prevent the initial triggering of mutations in your DNA that could lead to cancer or other diseases. So taking a moment to spice up your life can have far-reaching consequences. And the truly amazing properties of turmeric make it something we should sprinkle on our food every single day.
WhAT if someone could invent a magic pill that protected us from some of the worst diseases on the planet? Imagine the joy of the pharmaceutical companies — and what they’d charge us to buy it.
Well, I have news that Big Pharma doesn’t particularly want to hear. The ingredients for that pill are probably already right there on your kitchen shelves: in a packet or bottle labelled turmeric.
Since the turn of the century, more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin — the pigment in turmeric that gives it that bright yellow colour — against a variety of diseases.
These show that the spice may play a significant role in preventing or treating lung disease, brain disease and a variety of cancers — including multiple myeloma, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Curcumin has also been shown to help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis better than the leading drug of choice. It may also be effective i n treating osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions, s uch as l upus and inflammatory bowel disease.
In the latest trial for ulcerative colitis, a randomised, double-blind study found more than 50 per cent of patients achieved remission within a month on curcumin — compared with none of the patients who received the placebo. And consuming turmeric with soya may offer a double benefit for osteoarthritis sufferers.
So how much do you eat — and how do you eat it?
Turmeric is potent stuff. If I gave you an eighth of a teaspoon of turmeric to eat once a day for a week, then exposed your blood to an oxidising (bad) chemical, the number of cells with DNA damage could be cut in half. All because you had a little bit of turmeric onboard.
Because this spice can have such powerful drug-like effects, I’d advise everyone — including pregnant women — to take just a quarter of a teaspoon a day.
Ultrasound studies show that even this small amount causes the gallbladder to contract, squeezing out half its contents. In doing this, it may help to stop gallstones from forming. But be warned: if you already have a gallstone, that turmeric-induced squeeze could be painful.
And here’s a good tip. Try to have your quarter-teaspoon with black pepper.
About five per cent of black pepper i s composed of a compound called piperine. And one of the things this does is to prevent your liver from actively working to get rid of the curcumin you’ve just eaten.
Even the tiniest pinch of pepper can significantly boost curcumin levels in your blood.
You can buy turmeric from any supermarket — or get it raw from Asian shops and grate a quarter of an inch of the root into your food. There’s evidence to suggest raw turmeric may have greater anti-inflammatory effects, while cooked turmeric offers better DNA protection.
I find that turmeric of any kind goes particularly well with brown rice, lentil dishes and roasted cauliflower.
But wouldn’t it be easier to take a curcumin supplement?
No — because curcumin is not equivalent to turmeric — it’s just one of its ingredients. The few studies that have compared turmeric with curcumin have suggested turmeric may work even better.
Against breast cancer, f or instance, curcumin kicked butt, but turmeric kicked even more butt. The same was true against pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, multiple myeloma, chronic myeloid leukaemia and others.
STUDIES show that about 20 sprigs of coriander eaten daily for two months reduced inflammation levels in arthritis sufferers. The same dose also cut uric acid levels in half, suggesting that eating lots of coriander may be useful for people suffering from gout.
WhAT happens if you rub capsaicin — the burning part of hot peppers — inside your nostrils? As medical students recruited for a trial discovered, it makes you sneeze and causes a burning pain (level eight or nine on a scale of 10).
But, as the days went on, each application of capsaicin hurt less. By day five, it hardly hurt, and their noses were no longer running.
What was probably happening is the pain fibres in their noses — the nerves that carry pain sensation — had exhausted their stores of pain neurotransmitter. Meanwhile, the nerves had to make more neuro- transmitter from scratch, which takes a couple of weeks.
So how can this be exploited for medical purposes?
Well, there’s a type of headache called ‘cluster headache’, described as one of the worst pains humans can experience. So researchers decided to try the daily capsaicin experiment with people who suffered from these headaches.
By day five, half the patients were apparently completely cured.
Capsaicin is also useful for treating irritable bowel syndrome: enteric- coated capsules of redpepper powder were able to decrease significantly the intensity of abdominal pain and bloating.
And people with chronic indigestion found their stomach pains and nausea improved after a month of taking about one and a half teaspoons of cayenne pepper a day.
SCIENTISTS c onducted a double- blind clinical trial to measure how well ginger treated migraine headaches compared with sumatriptan, one of the topselling drugs in the world.
Amazingly, they found one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger worked as fast and as well as the drug. The same applied when ginger was pitted against ibuprofen.
Ginger also helps with menstrual cramps, which plague up to 90 per cent of younger women.
Just one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger, three times a day, was found to drop pain levels from an eight to a six on a scale of 1-10. In the second month, the levels dropped to three.
And if you start taking ginger a week before your period, you may experience a beneficial change in your premenstrual mood.
Ginger also reduces nausea during motion sickness, pregnancy, chemotherapy, radiation, and after surgery. (The maximum daily dose of fresh ginger for pregnant women is 20g)
OrEGANO is such an antioxidantrich herb that researchers decided to see if it could reduce the DNAdamaging effects of radiation.
For their tests, they used radioactive iodine, which leaves patients so radioactive that they’re advised not to kiss anyone. To their surprise, they found chromosome damage — which can cause further cancers — was reduced by 70 per cent if the patient ate oregano.
I N LAB studies, marjoram appears significantly to inhibit the spread of breast cancer cells.
For another scientific trial, women with polycystic ovary syndrome were instructed to drink two cups of marjoram tea on an empty stomach every day for a month. At the end of the study, researchers noted that the tea had a beneficial effect on the women’s hormone levels.
rESEArChErS at Pennsylvania State University compared the effects of a high-fat chicken meal with and without a mixture of nine herbs and spices.
The people who ate added spice experienced a doubling of the antioxidant power in their bloodstreams, compared with the spicefree group. But that wasn’t all.
The spice group ended up with 30 per cent less fat in their blood and improved insulin sensitivity. So if you must eat fried chicken, have it with spices.
SOMEONE weighing about 11 stone should probably eat no more than 5 tablespoons of raw poppy seeds at a time.
And too much nutmeg can also be a problem — a toxic dose is just two to three teaspoons.
I’d always assumed no one would ever come close to that amount, until a married couple were hospitalised after eating pasta. The husband had accidentally added 4 tsp of nutmeg to the meal while cooking.
Another spice to be wary of is cinnamon. Most of the stuff we buy is the ‘cassia’ type, which contains a compound called coumarin.
Even a quarter of a teaspoon a few times a week may be too much for small children. And a daily teaspoon would exceed the upper safety limit for adults.
The more expensive Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is both inoffensive and packed with antioxidants. DAILY RECOMMENDATION: ¼ tsp of turmeric, and any other (saltfree) herbs and spices you enjoy!
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have since risen by more than 400 per cent, according to Public Health England. It strikes rapidly and affects teenagers in particular — partly because they are more mobile and encounter more types of bacteria.
Hormonal changes may also make them more susceptible (although it was Meningitis W that recently nearly claimed the life of rugby star Matt Dawson’s two-year-old son Sami). WHO GETS THE NHS VACCINE? There are two (deactivated) vaccines, Nimenrix and Menveo, which cover four groups of meningitis: A,C, W and Y (the vaccine is given in a single injection). A national vaccination programme using the ACWY vaccine was introduced last August for teenagers aged 17 and 18. First-year students, who are a high-risk group, under the age of 25 are also eligible.
From spring 2016 the Men ACWY jab will replace Men C, which is currently offered to Year Nine or Year Ten pupils (13 to 15-year-olds); this will also provide a catch-up to include pupils in Year 11 (15 and 16-year-olds). SHOULD I PAY FOR IT PRIVATELY? Dr Scurr thinks that parents should seriously consider getting private treatment for teenagers who miss the current cut-off for vaccination. The jab is available from travel health centres as it is mandatory for anyone visiting Saudi Arabia at the time of the Hajj pilgrimage and also for travel to sub-Saharan Africa. COST: Less than £100.
THE flu jab saves lives every year, says John Oxford, professor emeritus at Queen Mary University of London. ‘It can help prevent infection in the first place, but it also reduces severity of symptoms in those who do catch it.’
The jab contains three different types of deactivated flu virus. These change each year. ‘The flu bug mutates very rapidly and there are a constant stream of new strains which we have to try and second-guess,’ explains Professor Oxford.
‘Most of the time the success rate is pretty high, but there are years when a new mutation comes along which we had not expected.’ WHO GETS THE NHS VACCINE? The jab is offered every year to adults who are more vulnerable if they catch flu, including anyone aged over 65, pregnant women, and children and adults with underlying health conditions such as asthma or weakened immune systems.
And all healthy children aged two, three and four years, plus children in Year One and Year Two at school, are given a nasal spray vaccine, known as Fluenz Tetra. This is also used for any child up to the age of 17 who’s at risk because of another condition. SHOULD I PAY FOR IT PRIVATELY? ‘Considering this infection can be severe, I would seriously consider paying for a flu jab as an adult or a