Using food as medicine has really caught on in the past decade. We've all heard that eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking probiotic yogurts and spreading certain margarines on toast will improve our health, but food is not just limited to fruit, leafy green veggies and 'medicinal' dairy products. Herbs and spices can provide health benefits too, perhaps even more than you might think.
It's a dark yellow, almost orange coloured spice. You probably already eat it in your Saturday night curries. The taste is no doubt synonymous with the X Factor theme tune by now. You'd recognise it straight away, even if you don't know the name.
It's a member of the ginger family. It's good for our health because turmeric root contains the active component cur cumin.
Turmeric has always been used in some cultures as a remedy for aches, pains, upset stomachs and arthritis, but recent research has highlighted its importance in healing inflammation throughout the body. Some UK GPs recommend turmeric as a support for painful conditions such as sciatica, and injuries like whiplash, sports accidents and back pain.
Although turmeric is thought of as 'hot' due to its inclusion in Indian cookery its use is quite the opposite. It's been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for thousands of years. In fact, curcumin not only acts as an anti-inflammatory for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it also increases bile flow and prevents fermentation of undigested fats.
Here are some other ways turmeric is thought to be good for you:
Adding a dose of turmeric to your health regime can improve your wellbeing. It may reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and possibly cancer, as well as helping with pains and IBS. You can add it to your cooking, take a health food store supplement, or drink it in a concoction of warm water and milk instead of yet another tea or coffee.
Any excuse to get a turmeric-infused take-away instead of cooking is fine by me. Just be careful if you are pregnant, check with your GP before taking any supplements.
Throughout history plants have been used as medicines. Many of them have healing properties, but when antibiotics were invented we forgot about our ancient (and not so ancient) cures. It's time we remembered that during WW1 doctors short of medicines rubbed garlic and lavender onto wounds to prevent infection - and it worked.
It looks like turmeric might be another of the 'wonder plants' that we need to get to grips with as we try to find alternatives to antibiotic over-reliance and a cure for cancer. It might have been there under our noses all this time - smelling and tasting amazing - but we've ignored it.
I wonder what else in the spice rack might have healing benefits?