The King of Plants
Turmeric has been used for many years as a medicinal herb but, in more recent years, the natural health industry has been heavily promoting one element of the turmeric plant: curcumin. It is difficult to argue against the health benefits of curcumin. Studies have shown that this chemical can fight against cancer, is anti-inflammatory, is a powerful antioxidant. Because the levels of curcumin are relatively low in turmeric powder (about 3-4%), natural health companies have been extracting the curcumin and selling it as a supplement. Some also prepare it with black pepper as, when taken together, black pepper helps the body to absorb curcumin.
Although curcumin supplements are great for the above mentioned health reason, recent research shows that those simply taking a curcumin supplement are missing out on the medicinal properties of the whole plant. The most recent study, carried out in Germany, has shown that the nutraceutical industry has been copying the model used by the pharmaceutical industry in that it identifies and uses a particular monochemical rather than looking holistically at a plant. In the case of turmeric, the Germand researcher have discovered that, when eaten whole, the turmeric plant can also help repair damage to the brain. Another important compound, Ar-Tumerin, is found in the turmeric plant and the germand researchers have studies this compound’s healing effect on neural stem cells. The results showed that Al-Tumerin not only helps to create new stem cells but also repairs damage on existing ones.
As we have always known but have, perhaps, forgotten as industry advice has superseded that of our ancestors: it is better not to require the powerful healing properties of plants and to use them in small culinary doses in their complete form. If you already have health issues then the supplements are excellent but, if not, then use the turmeric plant as a preventative measure and enjoy it in the way that nature intended you to.