Known as Indian Gold and widely used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a member of the ginger family.
Compounds found in turmeric include polyphenols and curcuminoids, which give the spice its bright yellow colour. The most well-studied of these compounds is curcumin, the substance that gives the spice its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
If you want to make turmeric tea yourself simply boil four cups of water and add one teaspoon of ground turmeric. Simmer for ten minutes and strain through a fine sieve. Add honey or lemon if you like.
Over the last ten years, a lot of research has been done to find out more about the pharmacological properties and biological activities of curcumin. This polyphenol is well-known for its antioxidant, anti-arthritic, anti-amyloid, anti-ischemic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Used in India to relieve arthritis, modern studies have shown it is as effective as the anti-inflammatory, phenylbutazone. Turmeric is also used for muscle pain, joint inflammation and carpal tunnel syndrome.
A number of studies also suggest curcumin has anti-tumour effects. A 2006 study reported in the medical journal Oncogene found curcumin inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells, while a 2007 study by the University of Alabama showed it also inhibited hormones thought to trigger prostate cancer.
Curcumin also has an effect on cholesterol levels and has strong antioxidant properties. Curcumin inhibits lipid peroxidation. Studies have shown the spice protects against powerful oxidizing chemicals used to induce cataracts in rats. The rats given curcumin were protected against damage by the chemical and their eyes also improved.
In Oriental medicine turmeric is used for asthma, candida, eczema and jaundice. It is also used as a post-trauma remedy both internally and topically to reduce inflammation from bruises, swelling and wounds. It helps wound healing by acting as an anti-coagulant and has anti-fungal properties. Other skin uses include acne and boils as it purifies the blood and gives a healthy skin colour and texture.