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Turmeric root – A medicinal and culinary plant that comes to us from Southeast Asia, its Latin name is Curcuma longa and it is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, the same family as ginger and cardamom.  The root is a striking orange/yellow color, and it is the pigment responsible for this color that gives turmeric many of its prized properties, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Attention on turmeric really began when epidemiological studies showed lower rates of inflammatory chronic illnesses and cancer in India, where turmeric is consumed on a daily basis in their foods, but in generally small amounts.  In addition, most anti-inflammatory drugs have unfavorable side effects, and the search is on for compounds in nature that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects without the unpleasant side effects.
Curcuma_longa_roots
Turmeric’s primary actions in the body are: inflammation modulator (anti-inflammatory), antioxidant, antitumor, digestive tonic, carminative, stimulant, cholagogue (stimulates gallbladder to contract and release bile), choleretic (increases bile output from the liver), hepatoprotective (liver protectant), hypolipidemic, hypotensive, antiartherosclerotic, vulnerary (wound healer), anticoagulant, antiplatelet, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal (topically), tumor-preventive.
Based on the above actions, the use of turmeric as a medicine is indicated for prevention of inflammatory conditions and as an antioxidant to prevent cancer and oxidative stress.  It is also indicated preventively for helping to keep a healthy lipid and cholesterol balance, for protecting the liver, and for thinning the blood.
It is also indicated for cases of weak digestion, flatulence, dyspepsia (indigestion or digestive sluggishness), and peptic ulcers due to its tissue-healing and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its ability to stimulate bile flow and increase digestive function.
As an anti-inflammatory and liver detoxifier, turmeric is useful for skin diseases such as eczema and inflammation of the skin (taken internally and applied externally, although it will stain the skin externally).
As an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and cholagogue, turmeric is used to treat gallstones (although not if there is any chance of obstruction), acute/chronic inflammation of the gallbladder, and inflammation of the bile duct.
For rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, turmeric taken over time has proven effective due to its ability to modulate the inflammatory response.
As an anticancer herb, Curcuma longa acts against several chemical carcinogens, so can be used in adjunct with other cancer therapies.  As an antioxidant it is also useful for precancerous and cancerous conditions, particularly cancers of the colon because of the direct contact some constituents have with the cells of the colon.
As a hepatoprotective herb, turmeric is useful for someone exposed to hepatotoxic chemicals and for liver dysfunction, such as jaundice or hepatitis, where its inflammation modulating effects are useful as well.
As a hypolipidemic, turmeric is used for high cholesterol.  Curcumin has been shown to decrease total serum cholesterol, to increase HDL cholesterol, and to decrease serum lipid peroxides.
Curcumin and the class of compounds in turmeric called “curcuminoids” are the most studied compounds in the root.  These appear to exert the majority of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant/anticancer effects.  Use of just this compound in capsule form may sometimes be indicated for acute inflammation or widespread inflammatory conditions.  However, it is often important to consume the whole herb as well, as there are 100’s of compounds in an herb that can exert their own helpful effects and may prevent side effects.  Many products will be whole-root extracts that concentrate the curcuminoids in a capsule form, and generally that is my preferred method of consumption.
Turmeric appears to be safe in most situations and even in large doses. The most common “side effect” is mild gastrointestinal irritation. Usually this is mitigated by taking turmeric in the middle of a meal, but if someone has a sensitive stomach, they may not be able to consume turmeric in large, medicinal quantities. Turmeric is contraindicated if there is a bile duct obstruction due to the cholagogue (gallbladder stimulating) activity of turmeric.  Caution should also be exercised when taking turmeric concurrently with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs since it has these actions itself.  Some researchers advise caution during pregnancy because turmeric may stimulate the uterus; this is mostly likely because of its bitter and carminative effects, which stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, and may also have an emmenagogue effect (stimulating the uterus).
Turmeric root is traditionally used as a powder in curry and other foods.  In India and the Ayurvedic system of medicine, the root is often simmered with milk and slightly sweetened with honey for colds and coughs, and for digestion.  This makes sense, as turmeric is best metabolized when consumed with fat, and with black pepper.
A beverage coined as “Golden Milk” can be made by mixing about 1 heaping teaspoon of the powdered herb with a 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and cardamom, 1/4 tsp of ginger powder, a small quantity of black pepper, then adding to 12-16 oz of milk or milk alternative of your choice, heating on the stove, and adding raw honey at the end as desired. Drinking this daily is a good way to consume turmeric as a preventative health ally, as well as to help address inflammatory concerns.
At Herban Wellness, we sell the powder, capsules (either of the powder or of the concentrated extract), and the liquid extract (tincture) of this useful plant.  The root can also be purchased fresh at some natural health food stores or Asian markets and added to food or juiced.  The root has a strong taste, with a pungent, bitter flavor; which is why most people prefer capsules or tincture.
I usually encourage people to find a way to incorporate the powder or capsules on a daily basis for prevention and health maintenance. Adding 1/2-1 tsp to smoothies, making Golden Milk, or taking 2 capsules/day is a good way to consume it. For more acute or widespread inflammation, the concentrated extract capsules, such as Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme (which also contains black pepper), or the tincture, is recommended, at a higher dosing. Typically 2 capsules or 2 milliliters of tincture  2-3 times/day is recommended for more acute situations or for widespread or severe inflammation. Sometimes it can take 2-3 weeks of taking this dosing to notice effects, so it is generally not a short-term fix.

Inflammation is a word that we are all familiar with, and most of us have some associations in our own experience that we picture when this word is uttered. For example, if you have acne, you know that this red pustule is inflamed because it is red and may even cause pain. Or, you might have some knee pain when you run, and you know that there is an aspect of inflammation involved in your knee joint that is causing this sensation of pain. You may even notice some swelling in your knee joint area.
Inflammation is a necessary, normal response to injury, to bring leukocytes to the area to “clean up” and destroy pathogens, to immobilize the area of injury, & to heal the tissue. So, we need this inflammatory response in the body in order to draw attention (an alarm) to an area of injury. Even in the case of skin inflammation such as acne, there is stimulus which is bacterial stimulated, and the redness and swelling is the body’s attempt to combat the infection.
Problems arise when inflammation becomes chronic and systemic, when it ceases to be an acute response, when it becomes a constant low-level feature of the body’s physiology that’s always on and always engaged.  Because a big part of inflammatory response is to break the tissue down, targeting damaged tissue and invading pathogens before building it back up, the inflammatory response has the potential to damage the body by targeting healthy tissue. This is the case in chronic acne, where scarring can occur, or in arthritis where the joint tissue (cartilage) becomes damaged by the chronic inflammation.
The question becomes, how does this inflammatory response get out of balance and lead to chronic inflammation?  This is a complicated question, and multi-faceted. Sometimes, something like continual impact such as running on hard surfaces lead to continual injury to the joint tissue, which leads to deterioration of joint tissue, decreasing cartilage and other protective tissues in the joints.. Other causes are food related, as certain foods and compounds we ingest either promote the inflammatory response (trans fats) or can inhibit it (such as Omega-3 fatty acids), chronic stress and the stress response in the body, hormonal imbalance, toxic exposure, food sensitivities or allergies, and many other triggers promote pro-inflammatory pathways in the body.
Here is a list of some of the most common promoters of chronic inflammation:
Toxic diets & toxic exposure in general, which can come from many sources in our modern world, including the paraffin candles burned indoors, flame retardants on our furniture that off-gas into our indoor air, food additives and colorings, chlorine in our water, etc.
Food allergiesif you’re reacting to a food that you’re constantly ingesting, this can cause a heightened immune over-response and worsen seasonal allergies, eczema, weakening of the intestinal lining.
Insufficient omega-3 intake: Omega-3 fats form the precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response.
Excessive omega-6 intake: Omega-6 fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response.
Lack of sleep: Poor sleep is linked to elevated inflammatory markers. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in developed nations.
Lack of movement: People lead sedentary lives, by and large, and a lack of activity is strongly linked to systemic, low-grade inflammation.
Poor recovery: Other people move too much, with too little rest and recovery, or are putting too much stress and strain on their bodies.
Chronic stress: Modern life is stressful & your body will have a physiological, inflammatory response to emotional stress.
Lack of down time: The parasympathetic nervous system response can help keep many systems in our body running better, including our digestion and immune system.
Lack of nature time
Poor gut health: The intestinal tract houses the bulk of the body’s immune response, so when it’s unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation.
Poor acute stressor/chronic stress ratio: We respond far better to acute stressors than chronic, long-term stress, even if the latter is of a lower intensity.
Where do herbal remedies come in, as useful tools in our ability to help our bodies regulate the inflammatory response?
Medicinal plants contain a myriad of phytochemicals, nutrients, and other compounds that have multiple effects, therefore they can be useful for reducing inflammation that is in excess, while preventing potential problems (such as gastric irritation and ulcers) from synthesized anti-inflammatory drugs. Many herbs we know of help inhibit aspects of the inflammatory pathways, such as the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathways: COX-1 and COX-2 which produce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Many over the counter anti-inflammatories (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDS), inhibit the COX enzyme pathways. For example, Aspirin works because it decreases the production of inflammatory hormones/chemicals called prostaglandins, created by the COX-1 enzyme, but because this enzyme is also involved in protecting the stomach lining and the kidneys, it is known that overuse of aspirin can cause damage to the stomach lining, even leading to ulcers.
The advantage of herbs and why there is so much focus on finding anti-inflammatory herbal remedies and compounds within them, is because they do not have the same long-term potential side effects that many NSAIDS have.  In addition, herbs have many effects because of the hundreds of compounds they contain, so each herb can have multiple beneficial effects. Here are some of the herbs that have been most studied for helping reduce inflammation:
Turmeric – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor. Curcuminoids in turmeric, including curcumin, have been shown to inhibit COX-2 and stimulate glutathione S-transferase, a key detoxification enzyme.
Holy basil – contains compounds like ursolic acid and oleanolic acid that inhibit COX-2 and lipoxygenase. This herb is also anti-ulcer, antimutagenic, radioprotective, anti-tumor on the skin, and increases glutathione S-transferase, a key detoxification enzyme.  
Goldthread (Coptis) & Barberry – both contain berberine, which has been shown to inhibit COX-2. Each also contain other compounds that inhibit COX-2 but not COX-1, and also have anticancer and antitumor properties.
Goldenseal – also high in berberine, and worth mentioning here because it also helps reduce mucus production and tones/tightens sinus membranes, helping reduce congestion and inflammation from the sinuses and mucosal membranes of the gastrointestinal tract as well, in small doses.  It is also a great antibacterial & antifungal herb.
Green tea – contains COX-2 inhibitors, and contains phytonutrients that are anti-ulcer and prevent wounds or facilitate their healing.

Many other herbs are used for inflammation targeting specific tissues. These include Meadowsweet and Yarrow for inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, Yerba santa for inflammation of the sinuses and mucus membranes, Calendula flowers for epithelial tissue of the skin and gastrointestinal lining, Mullein leaf for lung tissue, and Marshmallow root as a soothing, cooling anti-inflammatory herb for the mucosal lining of the throat, stomach, GI, and urinary tract.

This has been a thought on many health-conscious people’s minds: how do I protect myself from this invisible, potentially toxic, radiation that is drifting our way via air and water from Japan as I write.  I think it is a question worth asking, even though there are those who scoff.  I especially think it’s important when prevention and acting “as if” in sensible ways could only provide health benefits. From what I can find, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, the radioactive element that can most effect/damage the thyroid gland, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years!  It also mixes easily with water and acts similarly to potassium in the body, and so is taken up and processed by the body similarly.  Cesium and uranium both have the most potential to negatively effect the kidneys.  Therefore, it appears that the thyroid gland and the kidneys are the most susceptible to nuclear radiation.
The problem with radiation  in general is that we don’t really know what damaging levels are, and our exposure has gone up as more radiation is continually being emitted around us, from electronics, cell phones, etc.  With the exposure to nuclear radiation through this current crisis,  we may not notice immediate health problems but could experience higher cancer rates years down the road.
How do we protect ourselves?  The reading that I’ve done now points to several things you can do right now, that are generally really good things for the body all the time.  Some of this is based on scientific studies that looked at mainly animals, but people as well, during and after radiation exposure, to nuclear radiation as well as radiation from cancer treatment, x-rays, etc.,  and some is based on information we know about how radiation is processed in the body.
Antioxidants:
Makes sense, right?  Radiation causes free radical damage and antioxidants can help reduce that damage.  Some antioxidants to consider: turmeric (or curcumin at 2-4 g/day, a compound extracted from turmeric, which has been shown to protect the body from breast cancer after radiation exposure), Ginkgo biloba (protective after radiation exposure), rosemary, beta carotene (from carrots, kale, tomatoes, blue-green algae, etc.), vitamin E, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant made up of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine;  found in high amounts in barley and watercress, but otherwise is synthesized by taking the amino acids in supplement form or applying a glutathione cream), superoxide dismutase (SOD) (another powerful antioxidant that you can take in supplement form and is found in horseradish), selenium cysteine (found in high amounts in broccoli and garlic), and the brassica family plants (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.).
Mushrooms:
These wonderful fungi can help protect the body from radiation, probably partly because of a compound called beta-glucan, which is particularly protective to the bone marrow after radiation.  Mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps are also immune supportive and have many anticancer/tumor properties.  How much do you need to take to be effective?  A typical dose would be 1-2 g twice/day of the powder, capsules, or tincture.  You can also incorporate some mushrooms (shiitake, maitake)  into your food.
Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda):
This substance appears to bind to both uranium and cesium and minimize their damaging effects on the kidneys, which have to excrete them.  One source I found suggested 1/2 tsp, twice/day away from food.
Adaptogens:
This powerful category of plants is protective and supportive to the body in general.  Particularly of note are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), RhodiolaEleutherococcus (Eleuthero), and Holy basil (Tulsi).

A therapeutic dose of these would be 2 dropperfuls (about 60 drops or 2 millileters) 2-3 times/day of the tincture (1:2 extract would provide 1 gram of herb per 2 ml of liquid ingested), 2-3 cups of tea at 1 Tbsp/cup simmered for 20-30 minutes for the roots and steeped 20 minutes for the leaves (holy basil), or 2 grams of the powder/capsules, twice/day.
Algae & Other Chlorophyll-rich greens:

Chlorella & Spirulina in particular are detoxifying to the body and known to carry radiation out the body, partly due to the chlorophyll content and due to carotenes and minerals in these superfoods.  Wheatgrass is also very high in chlorophyll and shown to help with radiation.
Iodine & Seaweed:
Iodine can compete with iodine-131 for use by the thyroid gland, therefore limiting radioactive exposure.  Although potassium iodide is recommended for high levels of radioactive iodine exposure, it is not recommended for long-term use.  Seaweed and other iodine-containing substances (fish, iodized salt) are better long-term sources.  Kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, and other “brown seaweeds” are considered the best for protecting the body.  They also are a source of trace minerals that are helpful for metabolic processes in the body and have antioxidant effects.  3-5 g/day is recommended, with 3 g amounting to about 1 tsp of kelp powder.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins E, D3, C, and A are all antioxidants and vitamin D3 has been shown to support immune function, so all of these are potentially helpful.  The minerals selenium, iodine, & magnesium are most cited for their potentially beneficial effects during this time.
What would a good approach be?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing.  I take a tincture (a liquid extract) combining several herbs, including Adaptogens & Antioxidants.  Mine includes adaptogens (American ginseng & Schisandra berry, which protects the liver) and antioxidants/liver support (Turmeric, Rosemary, & Ginkgo).  I take 60 drops (2 dropperfuls) twice/day.  I take 2 – 500 mg kelp capsules twice/day, so 2 grams/day.  I also take 1 Tablespoon of a green powder blend once/day that contains chlorella, spirulina, kelp, alfalfa, and nettle.  I take about 5000 IU vitamin D3 once/day.
It may sound like a lot, but it takes me 5 minutes out of my day to do.  I put 2 squirts of my herbal tinctures in a little water, 1 squirt of my liquid vitamin D3, &  toss it back with my kelp capsules with breakfast.  At some point during the day I shake up my green powder in about 4 oz of water in a jar and get it down as quickly as possible (you could alternatively take this in a smoothie or with juice).  I then take 2 more squirts of my tincture and 2 more kelp capsules with dinner.  And I’ve done my best at getting in some good nutrients for the day, including broccoli and kale.  I was, by the way, doing all of this except for the faithful taking of my kelp capsules, before I found out about the nuclear radiation from Japan.
My hope in sharing this information is to empower you with tools you can incorporate into your life to help protect you from the radiation we are going to be exposed to in some degree over the weeks/months to come.   It is better to act than to ignore this potential danger or to freeze in fear.  Please give feedback/insights and feel free to ask questions.