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Turmeric: a powerful healing spice

Turmericby Pauline James

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family and native to Indonesia and southern India, where it has been harvested for over 5,000 years, comes from the dried root or rhizome of the Curcuma Longa plant.  This Asian spice has a peppery, warm and bitter flavour and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.  Throughout history it has been used as a food colouring, an ingredient of curry powder, a bright orangey-yellow textile dye – used for over 2,500 years to colour Hindu priests’ robes – and as a powerful healing remedy.
 
The Chinese have long used this spice as an antidepressant, while the Indians relied on its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, adding it to bandages or applying it as a paste to wounds to prevent infection.  But, more recently this spice is becoming known in the West for its potent health benefits, and is proving to be a promising weapon against Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, haemorrhaging, heart disease, childhood leukaemia and prostate, breast, colon, skin and pancreatic cancers.
 
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which is not commonly allergenic and as well as containing anti-inflammatory properties, is also a natural painkiller and inhibitor of the DOX-2 enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain – helping arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis and gout, and with no side effects.  It is also an antioxidant, reducing free radicals in the body, antibacterial and antiviral, a natural liver detoxifier, and a natural antiseptic – useful for disinfecting cuts and burns, speeds up wound healing and assists in the regeneration of damaged skin.  It also halts the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, serves to boost the effects of chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel and reduces its harsh side effects.
 
All these health benefits apply to parrots too and a cockatiel keeper once explained how turmeric saved one of his birds when it developed a cancerous tumour.  It was very old and the vet was afraid to use traditional vigorous treatments, so after removing as much of the tumour as he dare, (as part of it lay close to the spine), he prescribed curcumin powder, to be applied to the bird’s back.  After a few months, the bird had completely recovered with no trace of the cancer or the tumour!
 
Put in foods such as homemade birdy bread, turmeric acts as a natural preservative, but is an anti-coagulant too, so as a precautionary measure should be avoided when a bird is moulting or has a problem with a broken blood feather.  It also helps prevent roundworm, boosts the immune system, is anti-fungal, helps alleviate nausea, aids digestion and can be a great aid to particularly young chicks suffering crop problems.  Sprinkle on softfood or mix a little with live yoghurt to feed.
 
Turmeric root is an excellent source of iron, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre and has five times more antioxidant power than vitamin E.  Along with curcumin it contains many other phytochemicals, helping to regenerate liver cells, cleanse the liver of toxins, increase the production and levels of bile and two liver-supporting enzymes, glutathione-s-transferase (GST) and UDP glucuronyl transferase (UDPGT) and aids in fat metabolism.

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