By Dr. Mark Wiley

Some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted was cooked in London. During the years the British held governance over the region, curry dishes and their related spices were imported back home until they became somewhat of a national passion in England. Today, curry dishes continue to evolve out of their south Asian roots.

Aside from your standard Chicken or Goat curries, there is a whole list of Indian dishes that contain flavorful ingredients like cardamom, coriander, ginger, cloves, chili and turmeric. Not only are the recipes tasty, the ones containing turmeric are especially healthful.

In traditional cultures that are thousands of years old like India, there are deep traditions of cooking daily meals with medicinal herbs. These herbs act as preventive measures for sustaining good health, and prevention is the cornerstone of India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Turmeric is one such medicinal root that made it into a vast number of Indian recipes. It is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties. And modern scientists have proven that turmeric’s primary chemical constituent, curcumin, truly does reduce swelling in a healthy way.

It is true that inflammation is a natural response your body has to potentially damaging stimuli. Catch cold, sprain an ankle and the immune system kicks in, produces swelling to guard while healing takes place. But often the body does not know how or when to stop the inflammation and this causes too much fibrin in the tissues that can lead to pain and stiffness. If left untreated, it can become a chronic health issue.

Unlike aspirin or ibuprophen, turmeric’s curcumin reduces inflammation naturally, without damaging the liver or kidneys. It has been found especially helpful in treating conditions like arthritis, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, Chrone’s disease, tendonitis and various autoimmune diseases. Some research even suggests that curcumin may also help those suffering asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and, yes, even cancer.

Since turmeric’s curcumin component is an anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxident, it has been used for treating wounds, digestive disorders, liver issues, arthritis, and in the prevention of cancer. Statistics also show that Asian children experience less incidence of leukemia than their Western counterparts, and it seems a diet rich in turmeric may be the reason why.

Recent studies show that rats that were prone to multiple sclerosis developed very few if any symptoms after being given curcumin. And the journal Science reported in their April 23, 2004 issue that curcumin has countered in mice, the genetic damage that leads to cystic fibrosis, a lung disorder. It was also shown that curcumin protects against alcohol’s damaging affects on the liver as well as harmonizing the stomach and digestion.