In Ayurvedic medicine, Turmeric has long been held in great esteem, but inceasingly, it is now being heralded as a major weapon in the fight against dementia, arthritis, stroke and cancer. US researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, are conducting human trials with a drug derived from the active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin. Initial testing in animal trials suggested that the drug reached brain cells and reduced muscle and movement problems, typical after effects of a stroke. Dr Paul Lapchak, who led the study, said the drug appeared to have an effect on critical mechanisms which might protect brain cells after a stroke.
But stroke is not the only condition that can be managed using turmeric derivatives. Professor Murali Doraiswamy, of Duke University in North Carolina, confirmed that there was evidence that eating a curry two or three times a week could help lower the risk of dementia. Dr Susan Sorensen, of the Alzheimer's Society, said : “Indian communities that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimers disease bit we don't yet know why. Alzheimer's Society is keen to explore the potential benefits of curcumin in protecting the brain and we are conducting our own research into this area”.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is traditionally used to stem inflammatory processes in the body, and in modern western medicien, thereare also experiments into its use in managing arthritic conditions as well as osteoporosis. But the most recent report on turmeric and its properties appeared on the BBC website this week. Trials have begun at hospitals in Leicester to invesitgate the effects that curcumin has when used in conjunction with conventional chemotherapy for bowel cancer. Around 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with bowle cancer in the Uk each year. Professor William Steward from Leicester University, leading the study, said that animal tests that combined the two were “100 times better” than either on their own and that had been the catalyst for the study.
Clearly many of these trials have yet to announce their findings, but what seems clear is that turmeric may hold the key to some very promising drug development on some of the Uks most serious diseases and conditions. Whilst takeaway curry has its own health risks, learning to cook curries at home is a great way to start introducing turmeric into your food. But apart from curries, turmerics sunshine yellow can be put to use in mildly spicy dishes, such as this gently spiced butternut soup recipe. The turmeric intensifies the already orange colour of the squash, and the flavour is sweet, mellow and warming.
Roast Butternut Soup
1 small butternut squash, halved, deseeded and sliced into 1 inch slices
1 onion, diced
1.25 litres chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp turmeric
1 mild chilli, deseeded and chopped
100ml of half fat single cream
salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
- Coat the butternut slices in 1 tablespoon of oil and roast in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes until soft and the edges are browning. Allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, fry the onion in the remaining half a teaspoon of olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and turmeric. Fry for a further minute or two to cook the spices out. Add the roasted butternut, and cover with the stock. Cook until butternut and onions are very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool a little then blend with a stick blender until smooth.
- Add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with some warmed crusty bread slathered with some nice garlicky soft cheese. Delish – and good for you!