How a plate of curry can spice up your
(Daily Mail) Updated: 2007-07-30 10:24
Turmeric has been used for centuries in India as a curry ingredient, and as an antiseptic for cuts. Now research shows it also has potential against a wide range of diseases, from cancer to arthritis, and diabetes to dementia.
The main active ingredient of the spice, curcumin, is being used in new clinical trials for the prevention of Alzheimer's and the treatment of psoriasis. It is also on a trial for use in colon cancer.
But turmeric is not the only curry ingredient with health-boosting compounds. New research shows there are ten key ingredients found in popular curries such as Madras, which have been linked to health benefits in conditions as diverse as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, constipation, dementia, period pain, osteoarthritis and even loss of libido. Once I saw a lifetime single old man in my clinic for back pain and advised him turmeric. He came back and explained that the night he took turmeric he had two wet dreams. This was a 80 year old man.
The leaves and ground spice from the seed are used in many sauces and the hot curries of Sri Lanka.
One study found that fenugreek seeds may be effective against breast cancer. Researchers say it may stop or slow the growth of tumors.
A study at Tokyo University shows animals given the herb were able to exercise much longer, while a report from Purdue University in America says the plant has been used with some benefits for bronchitis, fevers, sore throats, skin irritations, diabetes and ulcers.
The world's most popular herb, its leaves have a strong earthy taste, while the seeds have an aromatic, fruity flavour.
Research at Andhra University, India, shows it has more antioxidants than vitamin C, while a study at the University of Ulster suggests it may help insulin levels in diabetics. It's also been shown to have beneficial effects both on cholesterol and on colon cancer.
A member of the ginger family, its roots are ground into the deep yellow spice used to give most curries their distinctive colour. Its key active ingredient is curcumin, and it is used in large amounts in almost all curries, mainly as a colouring agent.
It is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer's and psoriasis.
In a study of 1,000 people, researchers from the National University of Singapore found that curcumin may protect brain cells from age-related changes. According to a report by researchers from Texas University, benefits in Alzheimer's as well as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, diabetes and cancer may be down to turmeric's effects on the immune system.