Tumeric: A Powerful, Health-Promoting Spice By Ben Kim, D.C. Ounce for ounce, few spices can compete with the health-promoting effects of tumeric. Commonly used in curry sauces in South Asian cuisine, this golden yellow spice is showing up with increasing frequency in medical journals all over the world as researchers identify the many health attributes of tumeric. Recent Findings Curcumin, the active component of tumeric, may help the immune system eliminate protein that is suspected of accumulating to form damaging plaques in the brains of people who develop Alzheimer's disease. Only 1 percent of the elderly in India develop Alzheimer's disease - this is one-quarter the rate of Alzheimer's development in North America. This difference is thought to be due in part to regular consumption of curry in India. Daily intake of curcumin may decrease the risk of developing polyps in the colon, which in turn, decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Regular consumption of tumeric may help to ease pain and inflammation that accompanies arthritis. Curcumin may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of cystic fibrosis. Curcumin can help to effectively treat skin cancer cells. Tumeric may help to prevent the spread of breast cancer cells. The medicinal properties of tumeric are so significant that the National Institutes of Health is currently conducting clinical trials to determine if tumeric (curcumin) should be a part of conventional treatment recommendations for Alzheimer's disease, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and multiple myeloma. If you would like to add tumeric to your diet via curry powders and sauces, be sure that tumeric appears on the list of ingredients. Many curry powders, sauces, and recipes use cumin, which is not to be confused with curcumin or tumeric. The health-promoting effects listed in this article are attributable to curcumin found in the spice tumeric. In addition to being a main ingredient of authentic curry powders and sauces, tumeric is also abundant in prepared mustards. When purchasing mustard, choose one that lists tumeric close to the beginning on its list of ingredients.