Being in pain sucks – there’s just no other way to put it. Very few of us can bear a severe or long-lasting pain without reaching for some sort of relief, most likely an over-the-counter analgesic, such as paracetamol, aspirin, or nurofen. But these remedies, while effective in the short term, bring their own problems. They can damage the delicate lining of the stomach, cause constipation, and stress both the liver and the kidneys. Some painkillers are addictive, meaning that you can get trapped in a cycle where you have to take more and more of the drug to get less and less of an effect. If they are limited to short-term use only, then there’s usually no problem. However many people suffer from chronic pain conditions, such as sciatica, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, and may want to find a more natural solution.
Medical science is now looking at turmeric as an alternative. Actually the spice has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and a potent painkiller. But more recently it has become one the most thoroughly researched plants and the subject of over 5,000 scientific studies. By isolating turmeric’s main component, curcumin, researchers have been able to prove that the spice is as effective under certain conditions as the pharmaceutical drugs commonly prescribed to treat conditions such as: high cholesterol, certain eye diseases, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It’s also good at relieving inflammation but the real star of the show was the performance of curcumin as a painkiller.
Turmeric can be applied on the skin or taken internally. An age-old remedy for toothache is to singe turmeric powder in a spoon over a low heat source, such as candle. Crush the burnt turmeric into a fine powder and gently press some of the powder onto the tooth and the surrounding gum. You can also apply freshly grated turmeric to a bunion to relieve the pain by helping to reduce the inflammation but make sure that the skin isn’t broken. If you want to use turmeric internally you can buy it in capsule form but a more delightful way of ingesting it is in food. If you just take turmeric by itself, however, it’s not very effective as a painkiller because your digestive enzymes will quickly metabolise it before it can be absorbed. But if you add a little piperine, or black pepper, then turmeric will become much more bio-available. Fascinatingly these are two major ingredients of one of the most popular dishes in the world – curry.
So if you’re living with a chronic pain condition as many of us are, you may want to increase your intake of curry. There are many recipes but make sure that the one you pick has both turmeric and black pepper in it. And, if you’re in Penang, you may want to consider learning some “curry secrets” from the experts who teach at the Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School.