When it comes to spices and herbs, Nigeria has them at their best.
One of these wonders of nature is turmeric. More commonly known as ata ile pupa among the Yorubas and kurkum among Hausas, this staining, yellow- coloured spice with a pungent flavour is of the ginger family and has medicinal benefits that date as far back as thousands of years. Although it was used as a dye and for cosmetic purposes, its therapeutic benefit was not overlooked.
The medicinal potency of turmeric, according to research, lies in one of its active ingredients known as curcumin, which has long been known have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can relieve the aches and pains in arthritis and promote healing of wounds without leaving a scar. However, new research has begun to point out to the amazing powers of turmeric in preventing cancer as well as cleansing the liver.
In the study, “Anticancer Potentials of Curcumin: Preclinical and Clinical Studies,” published in the journal, Anticancer Research, it was discovered that “curcumin can suppress tumour initiation, promotion and metastasis”, in other words, it can prevent the formation, replication and spread of cancer cells.
Researchers at Ludwig Maximilians Universitat in Munich, Germany, also carried out a study that showed that curcumin prevents breast and prostate cancers and reduces their metastatic potential.
Not only is turmeric implicated in preventing breast and prostate cancer (the top cancers in women and men respectively), cancer researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas, United States of America, have stated that it is effective against many types of cancer because it suppresses angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels essential to a tumour). According to Professor Bharat Aggarwal, a researcher at the centre, “no cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin. The reason it is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signalling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer.”
Medical experts, however, add that “this does not mean that the compound should be seen as a replacement for conventional therapies. However, it could play a positive role in primary prevention – before a full-blown tumour arises – or help to avert formation of metastases.” They add that “the fact that the substance (turmeric) is well tolerated is very important, because one can safely recommend it to individuals who have an increased tumour risk.”
Besides its anticancer powers, it is also known to cleanse the liver and help prevent liver damage. The liver is one of the most important organs within the body as it is responsible for cleaning toxins from the blood, converting food to energy and producing bile, a fluid that aids digestion. The liver can be exposed to damage that arises from exposure to toxins, alcohol, oxidative stress, viral infections such as hepatitis and sometimes, certain medications and drugs.
A research carried out in St. Louis University, United States of America, has shown that turmeric can turn off a protein, leptin, which causes liver damage.
It was also shown to have the capability of detoxifying the liver and especially keeping the liver healthy during chemotherapy treatments.
It has also been used in relieving menstrual pain as it works as an antispasmodic on smooth muscle tissues, thus relieving pain associated with cramping.
Inasmuch as this wonder of nature has remarkable health benefits, medical experts have stated that for those taking blood thinners, those with blood clotting disorders as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, turmeric should not be taken without first consulting with your doctor.
Asides from that, it is safe, healthy and therapeutic and can be used to spice meals or infused to make tea.