Turmeric Is the Latest Super-Food, but Is It Safe for Managing Asthma?

Turmeric, a popular spice used in Indian cooking is the latest “super-food.” People are stirring it into their latte’s and sprinkling on to their veggies to boost their health. It adds a beautiful color and interesting taste to a wide variety of dishes.

It is believed that turmeric reduces inflammation, and therefore helps improve all chronic conditions, including asthma. Turmeric is commonly used in Ayurvedic therapies, primarily to treat the skin, heart, liver, and lungs. It’s thought to fight allergies and boost immunity.

Does turmeric help asthma?

Since the main culprit of asthma is swelling in the airways, it seems logical that eating foods thought to reduce inflammation may be helpful. We do know that eating a diet of processed foods can cause or increase inflammation in the body, which can worsen asthma and contribute to weight gain. For asthma, the Ayurveda suggestion is to drink one cup of boiled milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

Is there a downside to using turmeric?

Imported turmeric may contain high amounts of lead, high enough to be considered unhealthy per the FDA. Manufacturer’s from outside the US often add lead to increase the weight and yellow color of the spice. Even organic turmeric purchased in bulk or packaged from “health food” stores can contain high amounts of lead. In fact, in 2016, there was a recall on certain brands of ground turmeric. Learn more about the recall here to make sure the spices in your pantry are not part of the recall. The FDA suggests using caution when using Ayurvedic therapies, which may contain high levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic. High doses of turmeric can also cause digestive issues and headaches.

How does lead get into turmeric?  

There are three ways lead gets into our spices and food supply:

  1. The soil our food is grown in contains lead.
  2. The equipment and facilities our food are manufactured in are contaminated with lead.
  3. Lead chromate is added to enhance its color, weight and hide imperfections.

Can we still enjoy turmeric? 

The best way to protect yourself is to purchase turmeric root that is made in the United States and grate it yourself. Better yet, grow your own! If you see an Ayurveda practitioner ask what their policy is for ensuring the herbs and supplements they use do not contain lead. If you take a supplement with turmeric, choose one with turmeric extract called curcumin instead of turmeric powder.

Children, pregnant and lactating women are especially vulnerable to lead. If you consistently use Indian spices or Ayurvedic therapies, talk to your healthcare provider about a simple blood test that will measure the amount of the lead in your body, and how to reduce or avoid exposure. Learn more about the symptoms and dangers of lead poisoning. 

Do you use turmeric or other alternative therapies to manage your asthma? Please share your experience in the comments.

Follow me on social media to get more tips on eating well and breathing happy on Twitter and Instagram:  @asthmachef

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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