I recall a terrifying mind-body study I heard years ago that concluded taking Tylenol (not an NSAID – read more below) is not only a top cause for liver failure in the United States, but it also reduces peoples capacity for empathy. With the world as we know it today, what we need is empathy and community.
I was also listening to a medical podcast on mind-body health that discussed micrbiome, pathways of healing and inflammation and depression. A few of the studies this Doc concluded were the fact that IL-6 can be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. When we exercise or are exposed to heat for extended periods of time such as saunas, hot yoga, or endurance sports, we are more likely to convert Tryptofan to Serotonin (*the happy hormone*) rather than it getting launched down the Kynurenine pathway which can in turn lead to more inflammation. Taking NSAIDs regularly after exercise can reduce the capacity to heal, build strength and endurance. This likely explains why Curcumin has become the latest star for the past years on the natural medicine research boat.
What is an NSAID?
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which includes Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Celexab, etc. They block prostaglandins through a pathway and are aka COX -inhibitors. Tylenol is actually not an NSAID. The action of blocking inflammation is unknown, it does likely reduce prostaglandins in the brain. Tylenol is an acetimetophin drug, also known as an analgesic. Read the links below to understand this better.
I would also like to note that there is no magic pill that substitutes an anti-inflammatory diet, sleep, fresh air and sunshine (vitamin D!), hydration, and regular exercise. On top of those Nature Cure Scripts, please note that Curcumin is a constituent of the whole plant, Turmeric , is a great addition in the kitchen along with in the medicine cabinet.
As a Physician, patients are constantly asking me about the latest health trends and Turmeric is something that is not going to trend out, for very good reasons. Curcuma Longa is related to ginger, another anti-inflammatory herb. It has long been used in Vedic and Chinese Medicine to alleviate pain and as a blood mover. It is balancing to all constitutions or all types of people in both of these traditions, which makes it a great addition for most people to ad into a daily health routine.
Turmeric as a pain-reliever
Turmeric has become a popular alternative to the over the counter painkillers; which can have serious side effects such as liver-failure, hormone disruption, and stomach and duodenal bleeding. In fact, studies have found that turmeric reduced frequency of NSAID and antibiotic-induced ulcers. Yet, because turmeric can thin the blood, it is important to consult with a natural medicine physician that knows drug-herb interactions before combining the two. Many of these NSAIDs or over the counter pain relievers also block our body’s ability to release anti-inflammatory constituents, or slow the body’s ability to heal. Turmeric is a great and mostly safe alternative to these medications. It can be used for arthritic pain and for general inflammation including ulcers.
Turmeric for cardiovascular disease & digestion
Like most plants, turmeric has many health indications. Turmeric is not only an anti-inflammatory, it helps cleanse the liver through one phase of conjugation (caution: you need to stimulate both) and actually protects the liver from damage that can be caused by pharmaceuticals or other toxins. Because turmeric is so good for the digestive tract and stimulating the liver, it can help lower cholesterol. Caution: Turmeric acts as an anti-platelet aggregator. That is fancy chat for the fact that it makes clotting less likely because it makes the platelets more slippery. Therefore, turmeric can be used as a daily addition to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Turmeric for skin & infections
It is both antiviral & antibacterial. I have actually had patients successfully combat acne, which can be caused by bacteria, with turmeric in their facial masks! (Many women that walk through my door have hormone imbalances, therefore skin issues) In Vedic medicine, turmeric was often used for poor digestion and skin conditions. From a Natural Medicine perspective, we always treat the digestion in order to clear up the skin, so this makes perfect sense. Turmeric can be successfully used to treat eczema and psoriasis. Turmeric has also been successfully used for skin cancer lesions.
So turmeric seems like it can used for everyone… who should avoid turmeric?
Always consult with your physician before initiating Turmeric in large doses, especially if you are pregnant. It can cause abortions. There is a possibility that some people are hypersensitive to turmeric and also a speculation that Turmeric may cause bile duct obstruction if you have gallstones.
Note, all of these suggestions are used in conjunction with other treatments that support the whole persons and not to be taken as medical advice.
What is the best form of Turmeric & do you have delicious recipes?
First off, not all turmeric is created equal! Ensure that you are buying organic, non-irradiated turmeric from your spice section, as turmeric is particularly sensitive to oxidation (getting older and becomes less active).
The fresh root is always best. Soulshine Farms even sold Turmeric plants & sells it when it is in season every year! Most grocery stores carry the fresh root with the Latina-inspired produce. The powder is best bought from reputable company, health-foods purveyor, or herbal store.
If you are to buy Curcuma in a capsule, ensure it is standardized to a dose of 250-500 mg Curcumin. There are specific doses to treat specific conditions. I strongly believe in the whole plant being used. At times isolates are great, and most of the time, that is treating natural medicine using the standard american medical model.
I believe in food as medicine rather than capsules, so my go-to is the Golden Mylk Latte. Think about how many capsules you’d have to take to get a tablespoon or teaspoon of Turmeric!
Golden Mylk Latte:
1 c Hemp Mylk
1 tsp Raw Honey, Coconut Syrup, Maple Syrup
¼+ tsp Turmeric Powder or ½ tsp Fresh grated Turmeric
1 dash black pepper (black pepper increases absorption)
¼ tsp Sunflower Lecithin (increases absorption)
1 tsp Coconut Oil
Combine ingredients on stovetop & Heat until warm (you can blend it if you want it frothy)
Top with cinnamon (adds natural sweet)
Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicineal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing 1996.
Godfrey, A., & Saunders, P. R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine: Volume 1 botanical medicine monographs. Toronto: Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine Press.
Kuhn, MA. Winston D. Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific & Traditional Approach. New York, NY: Lippincott;2001