Turmeric: A Spice
That Could Save Your Life

I am hoping that turmeric will become one of your regular spice choices by the end of this page. You are probably familiar with it as one of the characteristic flavors of Indian curry, and I want to let you know also of the growing evidence for its medical benefits. But even if you are not an adventurous eater, you can still enjoy its benefits, either in “non-spicy” recipes or as an encapsulated supplement.

Turmeric is a spice that has well-researched properties for cancer prevention. It imparts that characteristic yellow-orange color to Indian foods, and has a distinctive flavor. It is not highly pungent or “hot” like chili peppers, just very flavorful. The spice is the ground powder from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant, closely related to ginger. It has been cultivated and used in cooking for at least 4000 years of recorded history in India, so you can imagine how many

recipes you could choose from after 4000 years!


First let’s talk about its potential forpreventing breast cancer . The major ingredient of turmeric powder is curcumin, which has normally been the subject of any medical research on this topic. Studies have shown that curcumin significantly slows the growth of breast cancer cells which were started by exposure to pesticides. And in combination with a soy protein the effect was even stronger. However, at least one study has shown that the addition of curcumin to the diet DURING chemotherapy for cancer made the chemotherapy less effective because curcumin is such a strong antioxidant. So let me be very clear: based on good science, I recommend that women who are concerned with breast cancer prevention eat this spice on a regular basis, and women who already have breast cancer can add it to their diet, but NOT during chemotherapy. Once finished with chemotherapy, using turmeric makes good sense as a way to enhance standard treatment. If you don’t enjoy the taste, you can find it as a ground powder in capsules. While there are no standardized preventive dosing guidelines, I recommend somewhere around 500 mg twice daily.

Next you should understand that turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. In fact, it is this strong effect against inflammation which in part explains its role in preventing cancer. But inflammation is involved in so many more unpleasant things in the body, notably arthritis, chronic pain, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s a short simple way to look at how this spicy treasure can help turn that inflammation around. There is a class of enzymes called cyclo-oxygenases (COX for short) involved in producing inflammatory compounds in the body called prostaglandins. There are 2 types of COX, and COX-2 is the one most involved in pain and inflammation. That’s why a few years ago, there was a multi-billion dollar investment by big pharmaceutical companies in making drugs called COX-2 inhibitors, which turned out to be very good treatment for arthritis. The problem with those drugs is that at least one of them also turned out to make heart attacks more likely. That was really bad news. But the good news is that research shows that turmeric also inhibits COX-2 and does not seem to have any of those nasty side effects. Thanks again to nature’s pharmacy for a helper that does not harm. You can safely use it alone or in combination with other herbs for arthritis symptoms. A good fixed dose combination is called Zyflamend, made by a company called New Chapter.

Turmeric also inhibits an immune compound in the body which can flare out of control in inflammatory disease states, called NF-kappa B, and this is probably one of the most important reasons I recommend it for the prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia.

And because this spice has been consumed in great quantities as a food over centuries, I have no concerns about its safety. I encourage you to get to know and love it in your cooking, and also to supplement with it if any of those health concerns especially concern you. It’s a real gift from nature, so enjoy it with gratitude!

To your health and wellness,


Robert Pendergrast, MD 

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