Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Plant Medicine - Turmeric: Nature’s “Agent Orange” against viruses

We are finally warming up a bit here in Minnesota.  With the blessing of 40 degree temperatures for the last few days, the snow and ice that had locked us into glacial conditions is finally melting and loosening winter’s icy grip upon us.  Even so, we are still in the midst of cold and flu season which can be exacerbated by the constant temperature fluctuations.  This is the perfect time to continue our series on Plant Medicine, by introducing one of the most powerful of all herbs, Turmeric.

Turmeric is often referred to as “the Golden spice of Life” due to its amazing properties which benefit the human body.  It has been cultivated and used as far back as 3000 years ago in India and Indonesia as a dye, a food flavoring and for its Ayurvedic medicinal properties. {The term Ayurveda is a combination of the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge) It is one of the world’s oldest systems of medicine, with concepts including the interconnectedness between people, their health and the universe, and disease, which promotes the use of herbs, herbal compounds, special diets and other unique health practices.}

Those of us in the West know Turmeric as a yellowy orange powder (groundTurmeric root) typically used in Asian and Indian dishes such as curry, but it is much more than that.  The biologically active compound in Turmeric is Curcumin which is purported to contain a wealth of health benefits. It is a most powerful anti-oxidant, and displays antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is used in the treatment of stomach ailments such as indigestion and colitis.  It stimulates the production of insulin in the body, which is useful for treating type 2 diabetes.

Turmeric also lowers levels of bad cholesterol in the body, and is useful in the treatment of heart disease.  It is also helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis by improving mobility and flexibility, and minimizing the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.  In fact, Turmeric  is so powerful that it is currently being studied as both a preventative for  Cancer, and as a preventative for the onset of dementia (inflammation of the brain), including Alzheimer’s disease.

It was discovered that Curcumin stimulates the brain to produce billrubin, a powerful antioxidant. It also has its own antioxidant abilities, and it scavenges free radicals which enhances the body’s immune system and better enables it to handle infections.  Researchers suggest that Turmeric is a viable candidate for treating the flu naturally, because it seems to protect healthy cells from becoming infected, while at the same time it interferes with the replication process of viruses and other microbes

What does this mean regarding colds and the flu?  It means that the use of Turmeric not only protects us from the onset of illness by boosting our immune system, but its therapeutic action can help “kick butt” against cold and flu symptoms once we've contracted them.

***As with all herbal remedies, there are some precautions.  Avoid using Turmeric for prolonged periods, especially in high doses, which can result in liver and stomach distress. Do not consume Turmeric if you are currently suffering from gallstones and bile obstructions, or are on blood thinners.  Avoid Turmeric use in infants, or if you are pregnant and plan to breastfeed. Excessive consumption of Turmeric is known to result in constipation and dehydration, so always drink plenty of water throughout the day.  As always, consult your herbalist or healthcare practitioner if you have any questions or concerns.  By using Turmeric responsibly you can reap all of its wonderful benefits, without worry.

Incorporating small amounts of Turmeric as a spice in your diet is a good way to improve and boost your immune system. I am also including two popular remedies that can be used if you feel a scratchy sensation in your throat, which usually indicate the onset of a cough or cold.  Keep in mind, Turmeric used in this case is a medicine, and not the best tasting one at that.  However, you must push through the taste in order to gain the benefits.  “Slam” it down or gulp it down as best you can.

Turmeric Tonic

1 cup warm milk 
2 teaspoons ground Turmeric 

Stir ground Turmeric into glass of warm milk until thoroughly mixed. Drink it down as fast as possible. Use 2- 3 times a day

You can chase it down with more milk, a bite of lemon wedge, or a bit of juice to clear the taste buds.

Ginger and Turmeric Tea - Lynne Jackson (Raw Curious)

5” piece of fresh ginger root,  chopped 
2 teaspoons ground turmeric            
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (Optional)             1 lemon, juiced 
32 ounces of water  
Optional: agave nectar (or your preferred sweetener) to taste

Place ginger and water in a sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add turmeric.  Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes more.  Add cayenne, lemon juice and sweetener.  Stir vigorously, strain (or not) and serve immediately. Alternatively, for a cold version, set aside and allow mixture to cool completely.  Refrigerate to chill or serve over ice.  Makes four servings.

Ancient and revered, Turmeric is clearly a most beneficial part of Plant Medicine. As I always suggest, do your own research on the medicinal properties of this wonderful plant spice and decide for yourself.  Perhaps you too may consider using nature’s “Agent Orange” the next time you get a cold or flu.



*** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs and plants are provided on this blog is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. ***

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