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The health benefits of Turmeric

July 2016

Nothing new under the Sarawak sun!

I have just been reading a fabulous book about life in Sarawak by Margaret Brooke. She was the Ranee (the wife of the English Rajah or ruler) of Sarawak in the mid 1800s.

In the middle of the book she describes how the old Dyak and Kayan tribes used to use turmeric as a medication to cure all sorts of ills. So it was interesting to see new reports out this week about the “wonderful” discovery of the health benefits of turmeric.

We have mentioned turmeric in our Food of the Month section here at Laterlife because it is a great spice to add flavour and colour to all sorts of dishes including curry.

But without doubt turmeric also has some other properties that have good influence on health, and recently these have been backed up not just by reports from Asia, but from modern scientific research.

For instance, researchers at the University of California ran a study looking at patients with head and neck cancers. The patients were given two tablets containing 1,000 milligrams of curcumin, the main component in turmeric and an independent laboratory in Maryland evaluated the results. These shows that the cancer promoting enzymes were inhibited by the curcumin, preventing further development and advance of the malignant cancer cells.

Not only that, but the Maryland researchers also said that turmeric’s powerful antioxidant properties appear to fight cancer causing free radicals, reducing and in some cases preventing damage from them. This means that there is possibility that curcumin may be able to be used to also fight other types of cancer including prostate and colon cancer.

Cancer Research UK report that a phase 1 clinical trial showed that curcumin could stop precancerous changes becoming cancer. They also reported that research has shown that there are low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 to 200 mg a day over long periods of time.

Another researcher, Dr Horwitz who is the medical director of the Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine in America, has looks at the health benefits of turmeric and has concluded it is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available.  In a test he supervised with rats, he found turmeric completed inhibited the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in the animals.  Other studies have shown that turmeric may also be helpful with other types of arthritis.

Already in Germany, turmeric can be prescribed for people with digestive problems after investigations reported turmeric can help upset stomachs, bloating and gas and could also be useful against IBS.

Turmeric needs to be eaten raw for the best benefits, and people often simply sprinkle it on vegetables.

However, there is a word of warning about turmeric. While it is generally safe and has no real side effects, it has been proven to interact with warfarin and new anticoagulants. This is because the curcumin in turmeric reduces the ability of platelets – the cells which help blood to clot – to join together so that there could be an increased risk of bleeding in people taking blood-thining medication.

While the traditional tribes in Sarawak had clearly come across something very potent, today it makes sense to talk to your doctor before self medicating with any substances including turmeric.

Daiang Lehut, one of the women of the Ranee of Sarawak
met in the the tribes that used turmeric 200 years ago.


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