Turmeric root looks similar to ginger and belongs to the same family of spices. You may know it as a yellow-orange powder that's used as one of the spices in curry. Even though the current research on turmeric and health involves mostly lab animals, not people, one of turmeric's components, curcumin, is popularly credited with providing individuals several health benefits, from reducing minor inflammation to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
Knowing that turmeric has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory in certain societies and that inflammation plays a role in cancer development, researchers at the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas decided to study the effects it would have on cancer cells. Their research revealed that curcumin, a component of turmeric, suppressed the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.
In the book, "Turmeric: The Genus Curcuma," the authors refer to research that indicates turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. They claim that turmeric oil and curcumin exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects. Oral administration of curcumin in instances of acute inflammation was found to be as effective as cortizone.
In one study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center found that curcumin treatment of obese mice reduced inflammation and diabetes.
Deepak Chopra, in "The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook," recommends that anyone with adult-onset diabetes include turmeric in his daily diet.
According to the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers studied the effects of turmeric's curcumin on the hearts of rats. Researchers gave laboratory rats curcumin and then operated on their hearts to make them susceptible to heart failure. They submitted another group of rats that didn't receive curcumin to the same procedure.
The curcumin not only prevented heart failure, it also reversed heart enlargement in the first group of rats.
In the "Chopra Center Herbal Handbook," Deepak Chopra recommends mixing turmeric in coriander or cinnamon tea to treat colds, the flu and fevers. You can also sprinkle the spice on a teaspoon of honey and take it to stop coughing.