Viviane Craig in a portrait taken earlier this year by Lala La Photo for Delano
A key ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, turmeric is also one of the best kitchen medicines, with wide-ranging health benefits.
Forget kale, chia seeds, kefir, kombucha and whatever other so-called super or functional foods you’ve been trying to add to your diet lately in the quest for health and mindfulness. The real star--turmeric--has been sitting in your kitchen cupboard all along.
The vibrant orange spice has actually been used for over 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions, notably in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
“Turmeric’s active principle is curcumin and it is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant,” explains Viviane Craig, a medical herbalist based in Luxembourg and author of the booklet “Medicinal flora on the Kirchberg” (available for free at the Kirchberg land development office).
Inflammation is thought to cause or contribute to almost every major disease, so it’s no surprise that studies have shown turmeric can improve a long list of health complaints, including indigestion, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular problems, cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression.
“Curcumin is also protective of the liver, it lowers blood fat levels and it reduces weight gain. In some cases it is effective against hay fever and it can help treat inflammatory skin conditions, too. Of course, as it is a bitter, it also stimulates digestion and keeps the digestive muscular system working smoothly.”
The orange powder you buy for cooking is made from the turmeric plant’s crushed rhizomes (underground stems). It is an essential ingredient in curries and a great deal of other dishes, but is also used to colour food or as a preservative in cheeses for example.
“Turmeric is the same family as ginger,” says Craig. “The ground version bought as a spice is perfectly adapted as a health enhancer and my advice would simply be: use it liberally. Just as I’d suggest adding cinnamon to sweet dishes, I’d advise adding turmeric to as many savoury dishes as you can: soups, casseroles, rice, omelettes… The taste is subtle and can easily be covered. Turmeric is not a heal-all of course, but it is a truly beneficial addition to your diet.”