Doctors are now singing the praises of what many call a secret to good health: the superfood turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin. The spice is flying off the shelves in its many forms these days, for good reason.
It's only been 20 years or so since doctors identified inflammation as the root cause of virtually all of our most gripping health problems: heart disease, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and more. Inflammation is a silent killer that destroys our insides by keeping them in a constant state of stress, according to women's health expert Dr. Sara Gottfried.
"Inflammation is important," she told CBN News, "I think of it as this frat party that never stops in the body."
Dr. Gottfried is among a growing number of physicians who recommend their patients do what they can to reduce inflammation, to include consuming curcumin, the key agent in the ancient spice turmeric.
"The cool thing about curcumin is it's the most potent anti-inflammatory that we have on the planet," she said.
For example, Dr. Gottfried points out that people who live in India typically consume curcumin at every meal and tend to have very low rates of cancer, Alzheimer's, and other inflammatory diseases.
Three Ways to Get It
Raw turmeric root can be found in the produce department of the grocery store, or ground in the spice aisle or in the vitamin section as a turmeric or curcumin supplement.
"With the curcumin, there are a couple of supplements I like to use. You can also get it in food form, which is always my first choice. You can get a turmeric root and cut it up and stick it in your soup and have that once a day. You can sprinkle it on your food," she explained, adding, "Most people, especially if you have inflammation, will need a supplement grade."
Since supplements aren't as heavily regulated like pharmaceuticals, supplements can vary widely from brand to brand.
"There's a patented form called Meriva that's very effective," she said, "You get that from Pure Encapsulations or another good one is Integrative Therapeutics. I also love the curcumin from Metagenics and the brand Thorne as well as the supplement from Designs for Health. So curcumin is a part of your basic supplements that you take every day."
Boosts the Brain, Eases the Pain, Fights Cancer
Research shows curcumin is especially good for the brain. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows senior citizens who took curcumin enjoyed a significant improvement in their memory, attention span, and mood.
Curcumin can also reduce pain, and can even be used in place of pharmaceuticals like opioids, which can be highly addictive, or NSAIDS, Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, which can cause intestinal distress.
"I injured my knee a couple of days ago and so I've been taking a lot of curcumin," Dr. Gottfried said.
Dr. Gottfried says curcumin is particularly helpful to her patients battling painful uterine fibroids.
"The way that I dose it is I generally recommend 200 to 250 milligrams at a time. You can take that up to six times a day." One teaspoon of ground turmeric contains about 200 milligrams of curcumin.
Curcumin also possesses antioxidant properties. Recent studies reveal it slows the growth of a number of cancers such as prostate, colon, and breast.
"As a hormone expert, I especially like the effect of curcumin on estrogen," explained Dr. Gottfried, "In your body, you make good and bad estrogens. And what we know, is curcumin can have an anti-proliferative effect on bad estrogens, including cancer cells."
Add Fat, Black Pepper, or Both
As great as it sounds, curcumin does carry one significant drawback. It's difficult for our bodies to absorb. The degree to which a substance is absorbed into our body is called "bioavailability."
"Sometimes you can take very expensive supplements and then you're peeing out most of what you're taking. So you want to make sure you're absorbing what you're taking," Dr. Gottfried cautioned, "And that comes down to your gut function, but also how the supplement is created. In the supplement, is there in there what's listed on the label? And is it in a delivery form that allows you to absorb it to the maximal effect?"
Dr. Gottfried says two substances, dietary fat and black pepper, help curcumin absorb into our bodies.
"Black pepper is kind of amazing. It's enjoying this renaissance right now. It's been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin. So getting those two in combination can be very effective," she said, adding, "if you have fat at the same time you take your curcumin that can be very effective. So for instance sometimes in the morning, I will have coffee or tea whipped with some fat. So I'll have some butter or MCT oil. I'll make like a little latte and I'll take my curcumin along with that drink because the fat will help me improve the absorption."
Dr. Gottfried's Turmeric Latte
4 tbs. raw cashews
4 tbs. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of water
1 tsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of clove
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Blend the cashews, shredded coconut, and water till creamy. Strain through a nut-milk bag and discard the pulp (you now have cashew milk*). Put the liquid back in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and give it a quick whiz. Transfer to a pot on the stove, bring to a boil (or heat gently until warm to the touch), remove from heat, and serve warm with a dusting of cinnamon.
*NOTE: You may also like to try using coconut milk in place of the cashew milk.
Turmeric Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash cooked
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger peeled
1 onion diced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
salt and black pepper to taste
1 heaping teaspoon turmeric
In a large pot, saute the ginger and onion in oil over medium heat until softened. Add the broth, bring to a boil. Add the cooked squash, coconut milk, salt, black pepper, and turmeric.
Use an immersion blender to blend.