Turmeric: The Spice of Life

When guests are given their going-home recommendations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, we encourage them to use spice mixtures, called “churnas”, when cooking. One reason is that these spice mixtures contain all six tastes and that they help keep the doshas in balance. Another reason is that churnas contain herbs and spices that promote health.


Today we are going to focus on turmeric, the yellow-pigmented spice that is an important ingredient in all of the churnas. Turmeric has traditionally been used in Indian cuisine and in Ayurveda herbal medicine. Ayurveda practitioners prescribed the spice to reduce inflammation and joint problems, to treat digestive disorders, and to address skin disorders. Due to turmeric’s heating quality, it helps to balance Kapha and Vata doshas and due to its bitter taste, it helps to balance Pitta dosha.

In recent years, turmeric has become well known in main-stream America for its medicinal benefits. Nearly 7000 studies and scientific articles have been published on the medical effectiveness of compounds in turmeric in areas such as chronic inflammation and pain, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and brain health and memory.

How To Use Turmeric

Before I get into the wonderful details of how turmeric supports health and longevity, I wanted to highlight how best to use turmeric. Over-cooking turmeric can easily destroy the fragile molecules of the important medical compounds contained in the spice. To retain the best of both taste and health, add turmeric after you have cooked your soup, grains or vegetables.

Start with melting ghee in a frying pan until it becomes clear. Then add turmeric powder and mix it into the oil. Remove the frying pan from direct heat and allow the spice to simmer in the hot oil for 5 minutes, or until it turns a slightly darker color and releases its aroma. Pour this over your already-cooked food or add it to your pot of already-cooked soup, and serve.

When storing turmeric, it is good to protect the spice from the light and heat. Store turmeric in a dark, cool place.

Now let’s look at the wealth of benefits offered by turmeric.


Curcumin is the most well-studied bioactive ingredient in turmeric, exhibiting over 150 potentially therapeutic effects. Curcumin is also capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. This is why is it is good to add turmeric to healthy fats used in cooking, such as ghee and olive oil. The addition of turmeric allows the fats to be utilized by the brain. Our brains are composed of 60 percent fat and the brain needs fat in order to work properly.

Curcumin has been investigated for its potential role in improving Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, and stroke damage. It can also promote brain health in general, courtesy of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as discussed more below.

Amazingly, Curcumin has the ability to modulate as many as 700 of our genes. It can also insert itself into our cells’ membranes, changing the physical properties of the membrane itself by making them more orderly. Curucmin also has the ability to affect signaling molecules. For example, curcumin has been shown to directly interact with inflammatory molecules, various carrier proteins, cell survival proteins and DNA and RNA.

Turmeric May Regenerate Brain Cells

Curcumin is not the only important ingredient in turmeric. Aromatic-turmerone is a compound that can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent. Neural stem cells differentiate into neurons and play an important role in the brain’s self-repair mechanisms. This suggests that turmeric could aid in the recovery of brain function diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke

Curcumin has been shown to help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains, and curcumin is perhaps most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Given the astounding health benefits of adding turmeric to soup, grains and vegetables, we recommend making the use of this wonderful spice a daily practice.


Nourishing Your Brain with Ayurveda: Tips to Keep Your Brain Young and Healthy

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a brain disorder affecting the parts of the brain controlling thought, memory and language. About 4.5 million older Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. The number of cases are expected to quadruple by 2050. Ayurveda, the original health science of India, offers much needed knowledge on how to reverse the aging trends, even in cases of brain deterioration such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Early detection provides a greater opportunity to delay or reverse the existing symptoms of aging disorders. Maharishi Ayurveda, a systematic revival of Ayurveda, offers a comprehensive system of effective interventions.

Detection begins with a consultation with an Ayurvedic health expert using the ancient technique of Ayurvedic pulse assessment. This will help identify specific imbalances in the body which can predispose an individual to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. This individual diagnosis is a powerful tool for designing an individualized treatment program and home recommendations.

Factors Affecting Alzheimer’s

Drugs, alcohol, stress, the buildup of toxins and poor nutrition are all factors whose effects accumulate over time and contribute to the degeneration of our brain’s ability to function properly. While available drugs have been shown to be somewhat effective in reducing some aspects of cognitive decline, changes in diet and lifestyle remain the only proven means of affecting the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Don’t Let Your Brain “Dry Up”

The thousand year-old texts of Ayurveda indicate that with advancing age, the brain and body gradually become more agitated and dry. Alarik Arenander, Ph.D, a UCLA-trained neuroscientist with degrees in Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience, notes that Alzheimer’s is often associated with marked shrinkage of the brain. “The ‘drying’ effect of Alzheimer’s”, says Arenander, “must be remedied by proper diet, digestion and routine. This is the specialty of Ayurveda.”

Ayurvedic experts can offer individualized recommendations to regain balance in the physiology and nourish the brain in an effort to counteract the brain’s natural “drying” influence and establish an optimum level of mental and physical function.

In addition, Ayurvedic treatments and massages help to increase lubrication and stability and sustain quality of functioning, thereby decreasing drying, agitation and distruption of body and mind. These treatments also remove accumulated toxins and impurities which are associated with the degeneration of optimal functioning of the mind and body. The traditional Panchakarma treatments of Ayurveda are the only known means of effectively removing fat-soluble toxins from the body. Otherwise these toxin remain in the body for up to 30 years and can be passed on to one’s children.

Ayurvedic Tips to Nourish Your Brain

  • Stay physically active: Recent studies suggest that exercise which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times a week can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. One study, conducted at the University of Chicago, looked at two groups of mice. One group was allowed to exercise and the other was not. The brains in the physically active mice had 50 to 80 percent less plaque than the brains of the sedentary mice. In addition, the exercising mice produced significantly more of an enzyme in the brain that prevents plaque.
  • Mental activity: stay mentally alert by reading, playing cards, crossword puzzles and writing.
  • Eat a wide variety of green vegetables and include milk products (only milk contains significant levels of B12 which is absolutely essential for proper nervous system function) in your diet. If you are feeling mentally weak and are experiencing memory loss, have your doctor check your vitamin B levels, especially vitamin B1
  • Include plenty of antioxidants in your diets. Free radicals and oxidative stress are major factors in premature aging. Include plenty of organic fruits and green vegetables in your diet.
  • Include high quality oils in your diet. It is good to sauté spices such as tumeric and black pepper when you use oils. Your brain is composed of over 50% fat. Nervous system tissue is most nourished by oils, especially ghee, or clarified butter. Organic ghee and olive oil are the best cooking oils. Tumeric and freshly ground black pepper have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which helps lubricate the brain. In India, where tumeric is used in great quantity, the rate of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases are very low.

The treatments and techniques of Ayurveda are based on age-old wisdom of how to maintain perfect balance in the physiology. This ancient wisdom sheds light on how to maintain and promote healthy, youthful brain functioning.

Learn more about Ayurvedic programs to optimize brain functioning at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website: