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Can curry help combat Alzheimer’s? Building on earlier research done at UCLA, an international team of researchers from Italy and the United States found further evidence of the possible effects of curcumin — a compound in turmeric, the yellow spice used in most traditional curries.The compound, already shown in lab studies to be effective against some cancers and autoimmune diseases, also may play a role in protecting the brain cells against Alzheimer’s disease.Affecting up to 4 million people in the United States alone, Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, has long baffled scientists and evaded a cure.That may be changing.Researchers believe abnormal clumping of a protein called beta-amyloid triggers the oxidation and inflammation of the brain, interrupting the synaptic connections necessary for normal cognitive function.Curcumin (not to be confused with the spice cumin) appears to inhibit this damage by preventing amyloid protein clumping and activating a gene that helps protect neurons and clear away debris within the brain, as shown in preliminary studies.Could curry also inhibit alcoholic liver disease? Another study published last year in the American Journal of Physiology found rats fed curcumin were protected against alcohol-induced necrosis of the liver.Canadian scientists also reported that curcumin helped to correct cystic fibrosis in animal studies.

Ginger also made news with a report in the April issue of Obstetrics and Gynecologyin an Australian study that found that ginger could relieve morning sickness.While the root has long been a staple in folk remedies, these findings are among the first to confirm its potential to reduce nausea and vomiting among pregnant women.Further study is needed to address concerns regarding ginger’s safety for fetuses, researchers emphasized.

Looking a little further back in our spice cabinet we come upon this item which appeared in the December issue of the journal Diabetes CareCinnamon can lower cholesterol, glucose and trigylceride levels — an important possible benefit both for type 2 diabetes sufferers as well as those struggling with high cholesterol.

While animal research has demonstrated the cholesterol-lowering effects of other herbs and spices such as fenugreek, curry, mustard seeds and coriander, this is the first human study to pinpoint the effects of cinnamon.As little as half a teaspoon a day produced results in some cases as striking as those induced by statin drugs.

Want to learn more about the uses and purported benefits of other herbs and spices, such as cilantro, cardamom and nutmeg? Nina Simonds, author of several cookbooks, among them A Spoonful of Ginger, and her site by the same name explores the healthful benefits of food, while her exotic recipes demonstrate just how delicious disease prevention can be!Tired of good herbs gone bad? We can’t stand it when we buy a bunch of fresh herbs for a recipe that calls for a small amount, thinking we’ll use it later — only to find that when later rolls around, our ginger has shriveled, our parsley has pooped out, our cilantro has wilted and our basil is no longer looking quite so green around the edges.That’s why we went ga-ga over Gourmet Garden’s line of fresh herbs in clear tubes that squeeze out just the right amount.
Published May 3, 2004

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