This spice is made from drying the underground stem of the tropical plant, Curcuma longa. Interestingly, this plant is in the ginger family.
Because of it’s deep pigment, it has been used to color skin, clothing and foods for ceremonies in other areas of the world. When I cook with it, my wooden stirring utensils usually get stained.
In the U.S., turmeric is mainly used to provide color in prepared mustard.
Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which has been studied for its anti-cancer properties. Bharat Aggarwal and colleagues concluded in their 2003 review article on curcumin, “it is quite apparent that curcumin has tremendous potential for prevention and therapy of various cancers.” This is especially true for breast cancer as they found evidence in several studies that curcumin slowed the spreading and growth of breast cancer cells. Curcumin was found to have the same action with colon, liver and kidney cancer cells as well.
The same researcher conducted an animal study in 2005 which evaluated curcumin’s effect on metastatic breast cancer. Aggarwal and his team found that curcumin inhibited metastasis to the lungs of mice that were injected with human breast cancer cells. The researchers also found that curcumin helped the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, work more effectively.
As if you needed to hear more benefits about curcumin, it is also a anti-inflammatory agent! Yet another reason to include turmeric in your diet. Who knew a little spice could be so powerful!?
I use turmeric frequently in curries and red lentil dishes. My husband mixes turmeric into his almond butter. He didn’t get that idea from me, but I’ve tried it and actually like it. Dr. Weil has a recipe for turmeric tea that I am curious to try.
Here is my red lentil recipe:
Spiced Red Lentils
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 red onion chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 T minced ginger
- 1 tsp garam masala spice mix
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1.5 cups red lentils rinsed
- 1 Qt vegetable broth
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes fresh or canned
- salt to taste
1) Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and sautee about 5 minutes.
2) Next add the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Give it a good stir and cook for about 10 to 15 seconds until very aromatic.
3) Stir in lentils, followed by the broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Partially cover pan and cook at a low simmer for 25 minutes.
4) Add salt to taste.
Enjoy! This recipe is great with toasted pitas or Naan. It can also be served over brown rice for a more hearty meal.
Question: how do you use turmeric in your cooking? Share in the comments section below.
Aggerwal BB et al. Curcumin suppresses the paclitaxel-induced nuclear factor-kappaB pathway in breast cancer cells and inhibits lung metastasis of human breast cancer in nude mice. Clinical Cancer Research 2005;11:7490-7498.
Aggerwall BB et al. Anticancer potential of curcumin: Preclinical and clinical studies. Anticancer Research 2003;23:363-398.
McGee, Harold. 2004. On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. New York, NY: Scribner.
photo by: Jeffrey Taste