Note: This week's column is dedicated to the memory of Jacquie Demaree, dedicated teacher and avid reader of the Herbal Healer.
The root of this fabled herb is valued as much for its culinary applications as it is for its curative prowess. Turmeric might be viewed as the King Midas in the world of plants, turning all that it touches into gold. Not only does it give a yellow hue to rice, salad dressing, margarine, mustard and other plant-based edibles, it also brightens clothes in its role as a dye for the robes of Buddhist monks and the saris worn by the women of India. European cooks welcomed turmeric during the 13th century when Arab traders introduced them to this valuable root, since the herb saffron, which turmeric soon replaced, was (and remains) quite expensive. Turmeric soon became known as Indian saffron.
What does it do?
Turmeric is just one of a precious few of the world’s countless herbs that rises from the ground carrying a cornucopia filled with cures. This marvelous botanical improves life for the asthmatic, it slows the progression of multiple sclerosis, it lowers cholesterol levels and it heals stomach ulcers. Turmeric helps to reduce the incidence of certain cancers (breast, prostate, skin, colon, lymphoma and leukemia). For those already stricken with this scourge, turmeric often diminishes the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Scientists hypothesize that the low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India may be an outcome of the daily consumption of turmeric-spiced curry. Curcumin, the chief active component of turmeric, appears to delay liver damage that eventually leads to cirrhosis.
About the herb
This perennial member of the ginger family hails from tropical South Asia, and as such it thrives best where rainfall and hot days are in abundance. It was cultivated as early as 3,000 B.C. by tillers of the soil belonging to ancient India’s Harappan civilization. The bulk of the world’s supply of turmeric—90%--is grown in India. When Polynesians ventured across the Pacific Ocean, they brought with them turmeric and introduced it to Hawaii’s rich volcanic soil.
To promote a healthy heart and aid the digestive process, stir a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a cup of warm water. Add fresh lemon and a stick of cinnamon and enjoy three cups daily.