Graedons' Pharmacy: Tumeric, found in curry, holds variety of health benefits

August 9, 2011 

Growing up in India, whenever we had a bruise that was swelling up fast, it was treated very effectively with turmeric. The turmeric was heated with slaked lime [calcium hydroxide], forming a paste. The warm paste was applied on the bruise.

Within minutes, the pain would subside, and the swelling would go down in a couple of hours. The lime would make the skin weird for a few days, but the paste was very effective.

In addition, if we were feeling symptoms of an oncoming cold, a glass of milk with a pinch of raw turmeric would help us hold up much better.

Turmeric is used in curry and is responsible for the yellow color of mustard. We have heard from people who grew up in India that turmeric has many benefits.

Scientists are studying the active ingredient in this spice (curcumin) for its potential activity against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and even cancer.

Another person offered this: “I am from India. My mother taught me to use just 1 or 2 teaspoons of turmeric in cooking a dish for the family. Each person might get 1/2 or2/3 teaspoon. This dose has been passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years.

“I currently live in the U.S. Many people here buy turmeric in bulk and use it without any dosing guidance. Too much in a meal can upset your stomach and is not good for you.

“When I get a small cut that bleeds, I put turmeric powder on it to stop the bleeding. It stops right away, and within a few days the cut has healed.”

I am in my early 60s, and I am miserable with hot flashes. My doctor has taken me off hormones because he is concerned about the risk of blood clots and heart attacks. (I do have high blood pressure.)

Now that it is so darned hot outside, my frequent hot flashes are even harder to bear. This is no way to live! I would appreciate any information on how to alleviate this problem.

Nonhormonal approaches for easing hot flashes include Pycnogenol (French pine bark extract), black cohosh and St. John’s wort. Doctors may prescribe drugs such as gabapentin (Neurontin), paroxetine (Paxil) or venlafaxine (Effexor) to ease symptoms.

We discuss all of these approaches in much greater detail in our Guide to Menopause.

Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (64 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

I heard on your radio show a woman who is concerned about irregular heart rhythms after drinking caffeinated beverages. I have trouble with this as well.

When I want to drink coffee or tea, I take a combination of magnesium (250 mg) and vitamin B-6 (100 mg) on a daily basis for a few days. I have found that together these help the arrhythmia subside.

Thank you for the suggestion. Russian researchers found they were able to induce arrhythmias in magnesium-deficient rats.

Giving the rats a combination of magnesium and vitamin B-6 (Magne B6) protected them from the heart-rhythm changes (Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, July 2008).

Joe and Teresa Graedon, can be reached at www.Peoples Pharmacy.com.

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