Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy

Non-Traditional Approaches to
the Theories, Treatments and Prevention of Cancer

Spice of the Month: Turmeric

November 14, 2011

Filed under: Spice of the Month — ggrieser @ 6:54 pm

TurmericTurmeric (Curcuma domestica) is a spice superstar! Used for nearly 4,000 years in India, first as a dye, then a kitchen staple, the colorful root has been revealing its many medicinal properties over the centuries and now, under intense scientific scrutiny, it’s emerging as one of nature’s most powerful healers.

The spice owes it’s preventive and curative powers to its active ingredient: curcumin, a compound so diverse and powerfully rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that it has been shown to protect and improve virtually every organ of the body. Currently, studies are focusing on its potential to lower the incidence and severity of chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc., though over 50 healing actions – from pain relief to improved circulation – have been noted.

Preparation and Storage

Turmeric is a tropical perennial, the rhizome, or root, of a ginger-like plant. The name derives from the Latin terra merita meaning “meritorious earth,” referring to the color which, when ground, resembles a mineral pigment. In many cultures it’s simply called “yellow root.”
The spice is used most effectively in powder form. It’s very tough to grind, so you’ll usually find it available as a bright yellow, fine powder. The powder will maintain its coloring properties indefinitely though the flavor will diminish over time, so buy in moderation. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.
When cooked, turmeric has a mild fragrance, similar to ginger and orange with a slight peppery taste. To test for freshness: heat a little oil in a pan and sprinkle with turmeric, stirring so it won’t burn. In seconds you should enjoy a delicious aromatic perfume. If not, it’s past it’s prime.

Medicinal Properties

  • Cancer: Research has shown that the lowest cancer rates are in countries with the highest dietary intake of turmeric. The active ingredient, curcumin, fights cancer on many levels, slowing progression (e.g., breast, prostate, skin, pancreatic), preventing and delaying onset (colon), protecting against tobacco-induced lung cancer, etc. Studies have demonstrated that eating foods spiced with turmeric protects against environmental carcinogens: reducing risk of childhood leukemia, inhibiting damage from ionizing radiation, such as from the sun, x-rays, other medical tests, preventing formation of cancer-causing compounds in processed or cured foods.
  • Alzheimer’s: In the last 25 years, the incidence of Alzheimer’s has doubled in the U.S. and increasing around world with the exception of India, where it affects only 1 percent. Researchers suspect that turmeric may explain the difference. Curcumin has been shown to helps break down amyloid-A plaques in the brain, as well as reduce toxic metal levels in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer’s. Regular turmeric intake also protects the brain from decline in memory and enhances overall function. Among non-Alzheimer’s patients, studies have found that those who consumed the most turmeric-rich foods scored higher on standard mental tests than those who didn’t
  • Parkinson’s: Curcumin in turmeric appears to protect brain cell degeneration and the brain in general.
  • Arthritis: – Curcumin, taken as a supplement, has proven to be as effective easing inflammation as NSAID drugs (such as Celebrex, Naproxen), avoiding dangerous side effects. It’s found to be more effective than over-the-counter aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Heart Disease: Turmeric, eaten regularly, can help prevent clogged arteries, reduce size of blood clots and lower cholesterol.
  • Protects liver: Turmeric promotes production of enzymes that detoxify and rejuvenate the liver and stimulate bile flow.
  • Skin problems: Turmeric (curcumin) enhances skin vibrancy and is a common ingredient in cosmetics. In India, women apply a paste of the powdered spice as a daily mask to prevent wrinkles and blemishes and to impart a golden glow to the complexion. Topically, turmeric also has been effective for treating acne, itching, rashes, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, scleroderma.
  • Other conditions: Studies have shown that turmeric helps fight Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Chrohn’s and colitis), cystic fibrosis, depression, Type 2 diabetes, eye diseases (turmeric extract), gallbladder disease, (20 mg/day supplemental curcumin), age-related macular degeneration (AMD), pain (reduces inflammation).

In the kitchen

Turmeric is probably best known as the ingredient that gives curry it’s bright yellow-orange color. However, there’s not a whole lot of it in curry, so you’ll get more of the benefits by using the spice separately. In Middle Eastern dishes the powder is sprinkled into many meat and vegetable dishes, while the Japanese add it to teas, vinegars, noodles, even dog food! In Malaysia and Thailand it’s found in the ever popular piccalilli (pickled chutney-like vegetable dish). In England, it’s in cough drops, as well as in soaps, lotions, creams, and in the U.S. it’s the yellow in your everyday “ball park” mustard.

Turmeric can enhance so many dishes that you might want to keep a shaker handy on your kitchen counter. Toss it into vegetables – steamed, stir-fried or baked. Douse on sliced apples, or season meats with it before sautéing or searing. Add to sautéed onions, soft-boiled or poached eggs, dips, salad dressings and marinades. Using black pepper and turmeric together enhances curcumin absorption, as does olive oil. Turmeric is not recommended for dishes calling for dairy, which masks its delicate flavor.

Caveat: in ancient times turmeric was used as a potent fabric dye, so be careful about spilling it – it can be tough to get the stain out of clothing or a kitchen counter!

How much?

The safest and simplest way to get the benefits of turmeric is to eat a lot of it on a daily basis. In India, the average daily dose is 1 teaspoon over 3 meals. If this is not practical, there are turmeric supplements. Look for capsules with 100% certified organic turmeric extract with at least 95% curcuminoids. The formula should be free of fillers, additives and excipients (a substance added as a processing or stability aid). There are some caveats so be sure to read the contraindications on the label.

For general health, a capsule with 400-600 mg can be taken, but check with your medical advisor about larger amounts, especially over long periods of time. This is best taken on an empty stomach about an hour before eating. To improve absorption take it with grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, pepperine (supplemental form of black pepper).

The Epicentre: Encyclopedia of Spices
Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD (Sterling Publishing)
University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
“Cancer Growth in Head and Neck Suppressed by Turmeric” – Medical News Today

Spice of the Month: Mustard

October 19, 2011

Filed under: Spice of the Month — ggrieser @ 7:55 pm

mustardOriginally, mustard was the name for the pungent sauce made by grinding the seeds of the senvy plant into a paste and mixing it with “must” (unfermented wine). The condiment was so popular that, inevitably, it just became easier to call the whole thing “mustard” ‘ seeds and all! The English name, mustard, comes from the Latin mustum ardens meaning burning must.

The mustard plant is a crucifer, the cancer-fighting plant family that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, kale, cabbage. The seeds contain concentrated amounts of the same anti-cancer compounds found in those greens. When the seed is broken or soaked, it releases an oily, fiery compound, allyl isothiocyanates (AITC) that gives mustard its distinctive bite and a lot of its healing power.


Mustard, one of the oldest spices, was and is one of the most widely used. The Chinese were adding it to foods 3,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered it an essential culinary as well as medicinal spice, applied externally for the relief of various aches and pains. Pope John XII (14th Century) was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position ‘ grand moutardier du pape (mustard-maker to the pope). In 15th Century France, up to 70 gallons of the stuff could be consumed at royal dinners. Nevertheless, King Louis XI always traveled with his royal mustard pot, just in case his hosts didn’t serve it. Mustard, however, didn’t hit the American scene until late 19th century when brothers Robert and George French bought a mill in New York and produced bright yellow French’s mustard which debuted on a hot dog at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.


There are 3 types of mustard seeds grown from different species of mustard greens:

  • White or yellow seeds (Brassica alba), the largest, have a relatively mild flavor. Colored with turmeric, these are most commonly used on ballpark hot dogs and on American family tables.
  • Brown seeds (Brassica juncea), medium size and much more pungent than the white, are popular in Europe and Asia.
  • Black seeds (Brassica nigra), the smallest and most potent (about 30% hotter than brown) are indigenous to India, but found in German mustard (weisswurstsenf), French blends, such as Dijon.

Preparation and Storage

There is no pungency to mustard until the seed cells are broken and liquid is added. To make mustard, the seeds are ground, then mixed with cool water for about 10 minutes to release the oils containing the potent AITC enzymes. Vinegar is then added to stop the reaction so that the full flavor is preserved. Other ingredients can be added to enhance the taste, such as grape juice, lemon or lime juice, beer, cider or wine, salt, honey, herbs, etc. ‘ in short, pretty much whatever the cook dares to throw in!

Whole mustard seeds will keep for 3 years, if stored in a dry place, not necessarily away from heat. Powdered mustard will loose its bite far sooner. Prepared mustard will not last as long as seeds or powder and should be refrigerated.

Medicinal Properties

  • Muscle relief: In his writings, Hippocrates prescribed mustard for general muscular relief for which it is still used today. Although the volatile oil of mustard is a powerful irritant capable of blistering skin, in dilution as a liniment or poultice it soothes, creating a warm sensation. Mustard plasters are useful as counter-irritants, prescribed for scorpion stings and snake bites, epilepsy, toothache, bruises, stiff neck, rheumatism, colic and respiratory troubles.
  • Cancer: Currently, the most exciting mustard seed research is showing that AITC can help prevent and slow the growth of some cancers, including colon, lung, prostate, bladder, ovarian. A recent scientific review of research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY concluded that AITC “exhibits many desirable attributes of a cancer chemopreventive agent” (a natural substance that fights cancer).Indians researchers found that the inclusion of mustard seeds “in a daily diet plays a significant role in the protection of the colon against chemical carcinogenesis.”

    Canadian studies found that an extract of white or yellow mustard seeds reduced colon cancer up to 50% in experimental animals fed a high-fat diet, and that the extract might help defeat “obesity-associated colon cancer” in people.

  • Heart disease: Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data on heart disease and diet from over 1,000 people in India and found that those who cooked with mustard seed oil ‘ an excellent source of heart-protecting Alpha Lipoic Acid ( ALA), similar to omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil ‘ had 51% lower risk of heart disease than those who cooked with sunflower seed oil. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)
  • Cholesterol problems: Indian research found brown mustard seeds fed to experimental animals lowered total and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol), increased good “HDL”. (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition)
  • Prediabetes: Indian researchers fed animals a high-suger diet and their glucose and insulin levels skyrocketed. But when fed brown mustard seeds, the levels normalized. Use with patients prone to diabetes was promoted. (Journal of Ethnopharmacology)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Chinese doctors using a plaster (cloth or poultice, saturated with mustard seed powder, in protective dressing, applied to chest), found higher improvement rate in chronic bronchitis than in patients who didn’t apply the plasters. This included reduced symptoms, such as coughing and breathlessness, and higher levels of disease-fighting immune factors.
  • Brain function: Mustard seed oil, rich in ALA, “was more effective than other oils” in sparking growth and development of astrocyte cells which help control healthy blood flow to brain, repair nerve cells, improve nerve function. (Cell Molecular Neurobiology)

In the Kitchen

Mustard stimulates the appetite by increasing salivation up to 8 times, so no wonder it’s been used through the ages to give a kick to a whole range of foods that otherwise might not be so tantalizing. Whole white mustard seed is used in pickling spice and in spice mixtures for cooking meats and seafood. Powdered mustard acts as an emulsifier in the preparation of mayonnaise and salad dressings. It’s also useful for flavoring baked beans, many meat dishes, deviled eggs, beets and succotash. Heat diminishes the mustard’s bite, so it’s generally added to a dish toward the end of cooking.

There are many ready-made mustards, from mild and sweet to sharp and strong. They can be smooth or coarse and flavored with a wide variety of herbs, spices and liquids. Why not make your own? See recipe: Basic Mustard and Beyond.


Epicentre: The Encyclopedia of Spices

Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D. (Sterling Publishing)

Marvelous Mustard Homecooking

Spice of the Month: Cinnamon

September 13, 2011

Filed under: Spice of the Month — Tags: — ggrieser @ 5:54 pm

cinnamon-bspCinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum zeylanicum), believed to have come originally from Sri Lanka, is the dried, fragrant bark of the cinnamon tree.

In the ancient world, cinnamon was more precious than gold – not too surprising though, as in Egypt gold was abundant and, thus, a fairly common ornamental metal.Nero, emperor of Rome in the first century A.D., burned a year’s supply of cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre — an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss.

Egyptians used cinnamon medicinally to treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats and as a flavoring for beverages. Because of its preservative qualities, the spice was rubbed into meats to inhibit bacterial growth, delaying spoilage, with the added bonus that the strong cinnamon aroma masked the stench of aged meats. It was also used in embalming,where body cavities were filled with spiced preservatives (mummification).

Preparation and Storage

Cinnamon comes in ‘quills’, strips of bark rolled one in another. Whole quills will keep their flavor indefinitely. Unfortunately it is difficult to grind, so for many recipes the powdered variety will be preferred. Like other powdered spices, cinnamon loses flavor quickly, so should be purchased in small quantities and kept away from light in airtight containers.

Medicinal Properties

Ironically, studies have found that cinnamon, a spice most often used in sweet confections, actually helps control blood sugar. People with Type II diabetes taking one gram (about 1/2 tsp.) of cinnamon a day for three months experienced a drop in blood sugar, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (09/10/09). This amount of cinnamon per day also has been shown to reduce cholesterol (especially LDL or “bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels by as much as 20% in Type II diabetes patients. Controlling diabetes can help prevent coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

American researchers found that cinnamon may slow angiogenesis, the development of new blood supplies to tumors. Their conclusion, published in the journal Carcinogenesis, was that that an extract of the spice “could potentially be useful in cancer prevention and/or treatment.”

Cinnamon is being recommended to help curb the urge for tobacco. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends chewing cinnamon sticks when trying to quit the use of tobacco. Another effective product that people use to help with overeating and tobacco use is cinnamon toothpicks.

Old folk remedies use cinnamon in preparations to combat diarrhea and morning sickness

because it’s a carminative (an agent that helps break up intestinal gas). Due to its mild astringency, it is particularly useful in infantile diarrhea. The spice is also a good source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

A study by Alan Hirsch, M.D. at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found cinnamon scored high as an aphrodisiac for males. Another Study, conducted by Phillip R. Zoladz, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Ohio Northern University, discovered that, after smelling or tasting cinnamon, students scored better on several mental performance tests, showing improved memory, more focused attention, faster reflexes. Researchers concluded that cinnamon has potential for decreasing test anxiety and even preventing age-related memory loss.

In the Kitchen

In Medieval Europe, Cinnamon was a staple ingredient, along with ginger, in many recipes. Since most meals were prepared in a single cauldron, casseroles containing both meat and fruit were common and cinnamon helped bridge the flavors. When the Christian Crusaders (11th – 13th centuries) brought home sugar, it too was added to the pot. Mince pie is a typical combination of this period, which still survives.

Today, cinnamon, is used in many dessert dishes — cakes and other baked goods, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts, particularly apples and pears. In many Middle Eastern and North African dishes, it’s popular in flavoring lamb tagines or stuffed aubergines (eggplant). It is added to curries and pilau and in garam masala (Indian spice blend). It may be used to spice mulled wines, creams and syrups. The largest importer of Sri Lankan cinnamon is Mexico, where it is drunk with coffee and chocolate and brewed as a tea.

Sprinkle cinnamon onto apples, bananas, melons and oranges for a flavor kick. Add it to rice pilaf and stir it into hot cocoa. Mix cinnamon with mint and parsley in ground beef for burgers and meatloaf.


The Epicentre: Encyclopedia of Spices
Healing Spices by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD (Sterling Publishing) Homecooking

« Newer Posts

Watch Online

Watch on Amazon Video Watch on iTunes

Watch on DVD

Get the Book

Rethinking Cancer, by Ruth Sackman, is an excellent companion book to the film. Learn More

Newsletter signup

Bookmark and Share