Corn, India style

Corn, India style

For centuries, the bright yellow spice turmeric has been used in Asian kitchens to alleviate everything from the common headache to stomach ailments and even arthritis. But now new scientific studies are showing that turmeric and its compound curcumin could be effective in fighting viruses, including HIV. We explore the science behind this powerful spice, and find out how we can incorporate it into our everyday dishes.


  • Monica Bhide Author of "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen"; creator of the iSPICE app for the iPhone and the Android
  • Aarthi Narayanan Research Assistant Professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University

Monica Bhide’s Turmeric Recipes

Bread And Corn Salad
From The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide. Adams Media, 2004

This simple recipe tastes best as soon as it is prepared. I often serve this dish for breakfast — just like toast or corn flakes. For the cooked corn you can cut kernels off roasted, steamed or boiled ears, or use well-drained canned corn or thawed frozen kernels. (One medium ear yields 1 to 1 1/4 cup kernels.)

Serves 4

2 slices white sandwich bread
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 small red onion, minced
1 green serrano chili, seeded and minced
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 dried red chili (any heat level), roughly pounded
2 cups cooked corn kernels
1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced cilantro

  1. Cut the bread into small pieces. Set aside.

  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and ginger. When the mustard seeds crackle, add the onion, green chili, salt, turmeric and red chili.

  3. Saute until the onions are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.
    Add the bread and corn kernels.

  4. Mix well and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until heated through.

  5. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the coconut, lemon juice and cilantro. Serve warm.

Pan-Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Cumin
From Modern Spice by Monica Bhide. Simon & Schuster, 2009

This has got to be one of my favorite Monday night recipes, because it’s so simple and quick. You can vary the taste by changing the spice from cumin to coriander or mustard seeds. I don’t peel the zucchini but you can if you prefer.

Serves 4

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 large zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash, diced
1/2 organic red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
Table salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, add the zucchini, squash, and bell pepper.

  2. Fry the vegetables over high heat until they soften and begin to brown, 8 to 9 minutes.

  3. Add the turmeric and chile flakes and cook for another minute, until the spices are well mixed with the vegetables. Stir in salt to taste.

  4. Serve hot, sprinkled with lemon juice and garnished with cilantro.


  • 12:28:51

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou may not think that treating yourself to a delicious Indian meal of chicken masala and naan bread is necessarily the healthiest move for your waistline. But did you know that one of the spices used in nearly every Indian dish has been found to fight colds, cancer and even detect explosives? Turmeric, which has long been used for its medicinal properties in Asia, is now making a scientific splash in the West. Researchers are using the spice and its molecules to battle viruses in animals, and they're getting promising results that they hope extend to more deadly viruses like HIV.

  • 12:29:26

    MR. KOJO NNAMDISo how does this bright yellow relative of the ginger family work in the body? And how can you incorporate it into your diet? Joining us in studio is Monica Bhide, our reference for all things spice. She is the author of three books, including "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen." She's also the creator of iSPICE, a simple spice app for the iPhone and the Android. Monica Bhide, good to see you again.

  • 12:29:52

    MS. MONICA BHIDEIt's very good to see you. Thank you for having me on.

  • 12:29:54

    NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Aarthi Narayanan, who is a research professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:30:06

    PROF. AARTHI NARAYANANThank you for having me.

  • 12:30:07

    NNAMDIIt's a food Wednesday conversation that you can join by calling 800-433-8850, sending us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to Or simply go to our website, Join the conversation there. Aarthi, you grew up in Southern India, and the spice turmeric was part of your everyday life. How was it used?

  • 12:30:28

    NARAYANANIt was -- this is a difficult question to ask, I mean, to answer, frankly speaking, because I don't even think of it that was as to how it has been used. It's just such a part of your everyday life. It's a big part of religion...

  • 12:30:45

    NNAMDIUbiquitous would be a good word.

  • 12:30:48

    NARAYANANYes, that is the perfect word for it. It is definitely incorporated in cooking on a daily basis. It goes into pretty much most kinds of things that we would eat on a daily basis as long as it is not sweet.

  • 12:31:02

    NNAMDIHow do you use it for your family today?

  • 12:31:04

    NARAYANANIt goes into pretty much every curry that I would make. It goes into pretty much every gravy that I would make, every soup that I would make. I don't even think about it. I just sprinkle.

  • 12:31:17

    NNAMDIAnd when you give your son -- honey, here's a glass of milk with honey. Does it have anything else in it?

  • 12:31:23

    NARAYANANYes. It does have other things in it as well, and he is fully aware of it.

  • 12:31:30

    NARAYANANWhen he has a cold or if -- he is very susceptible, for the most part, for respiratory tract infections, and I have -- you know, I don't like to dump too much antibiotics into a system unless I absolutely, absolutely have to. That's just me. So one of the things that I knew, which was conveyed, you know, through many generations, is you can control a cough, and you can get a good night's sleep with a warm glass of milk with a spoon of honey, a pinch of turmeric and a little bit of pepper.

  • 12:32:07

    NNAMDICan we therefore compare turmeric to ibuprofen or aspirin?

  • 12:32:12

    NARAYANANScientifically, yes. There were certain reports that said you could. I haven't done the studies myself, so I will be a bit cautious. But, yes, it exerts the same kind of influences at least.

  • 12:32:27

    NNAMDIAnd besides topical and dietary uses, turmeric is also used in social and religious gatherings in India.

  • 12:32:34


  • 12:32:35


  • 12:32:36

    NARAYANANSo every time we have a guest come home, and when they leave, you always give them a piece of turmeric. It's always given. It's -- I never understood it nowadays because I'm so deep into this. I'm thinking back to see what it meant and why they were doing that. But that is, I think, their way of wishing their guest good health and well-being.

  • 12:33:01

    NNAMDIMonica Bhide, what does turmeric look like in raw form, and what does it look like when we buy it in stores?

  • 12:33:07

    BHIDESo, actually, I brought samples to show you.

  • 12:33:09

    NNAMDIYeah, she always does.

  • 12:33:11

    BHIDEOh, and this time I remembered to actually bring them into the studio.

  • 12:33:15


  • 12:33:16

    BHIDESo here it is. You see, it looks like a really thick root, you know, very similar to ginger, which you would see in the market.

  • 12:33:23

    NNAMDIVery similar, indeed.

  • 12:33:24

    BHIDESame family. But, see, this is a split ginger, and you can see the color is sort of, you know, beiges -- beige-ish.

  • 12:33:29

    NNAMDIYeah. Now, she's splitting the turmeric.

  • 12:33:33

    BHIDEAnd it looks like a carrot inside.

  • 12:33:35

    NNAMDIYes, a bright orange.

  • 12:33:37

    BHIDEThe smell is fabulous. It's very mildly aromatic. It's not overwhelming. And if you buy it dry -- we just opened the packet, and, you know, your whole studio now smells of like very earthy tone. This is very earthy.

  • 12:33:50

    NNAMDISmells good to me, yes.

  • 12:33:52

    BHIDEYeah, it's fantastic.

  • 12:33:53

    NNAMDISo that's what it looks like? But, Aarthi, you released a study this summer that looked at in -- an important chemical found in turmeric called curcumin. Could you tell us about that, please? Just to clarify, is curcumin related to the spice we all know as cumin or cumin as we say here?

  • 12:34:13

    NARAYANANNo, they are not at all related. Curcumin comes from turmeric, which is a root. Cumin comes from a seed of a completely different plant.

  • 12:34:21

    NNAMDISo tell us a little bit more about curcumin.

  • 12:34:25

    NARAYANANSo curcumin is possibly the most well-studied compound that is found in turmeric. It has been associated with many of the medicinal properties that you see associated with turmeric itself. It exerts a lot of anti-inflammatory responses, and by that, I mean, you know, how to explain anti-inflammatory. If you had a bug bite on your skin, that portion of your skin is going to form a little bump with a little bit of red around that portion. That is your body reacting to that bug bite, which is called inflammation in scientific terms.

  • 12:35:12

    NNAMDIHow did you test curcumin in the lab, and what were you looking for in your study?

  • 12:35:18

    NARAYANANOK. So this was where you look at something and you say, oh, I know this. I'm just going to look at it anyway. So we at NCBID -- this is the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases -- we -- the main focus area is to look at noble therapeutics for diseases where we don't have any way to treat them. And we focus on how the host responds to a disease and see can you control the host itself, thereby giving the host an easier to time to get over the disease or the infection?

  • 12:35:52

    NARAYANANSo one of the thing that we have looked at is some of the host responses that feed into this whole inflammatory response, which is known to be used by actually many viruses. Viruses are, in a way, parasites. They will use everything that you can provide them. And one thing that your body will readily provide when you have an infection is the inflammatory response. It knows to do nothing better but just respond almost instantly. And most viruses use that response.

  • 12:36:24

    NARAYANANAnd so one way of killing two birds with one stone is you regulate the inflammation, whereby you protect the host itself. And, hopefully, the same method can help you down regulate or stop the virus also.

  • 12:36:41

    NNAMDIWhat sparked your interest in exploring this spice for a potential use against viruses? What is just, as you said, I know this already, but I'm going to just investigate it anyway?

  • 12:36:51

    NARAYANANWe were looking at a whole lists of things that we could use, which is available in, you know, published -- which is well-published, which we could use to down regulate the host response. And one of the things that showed up in that list was curcumin. I recognized the name, and I said, you know, frankly speaking, curcumin is not very expensive to buy. And we were screening a whole bunch of other things anyway, so I just threw it into the list and said, let's just see what happens.

  • 12:37:18

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Aarthi Narayanan. She is a research professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University. We're talking about the health and cooking benefits of turmeric. And joining us in studio is also Monica Bhide, author of three books, including "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen." She's also the creator of iSPICE, a simple spice app for the iPhone and Android.

  • 12:37:43

    NNAMDIDo you use spices for more than just adding flavor to your dishes? Call us, 800-433-8850. More specifically, how do you use turmeric in your cooking? 800-433-8850. It is my understanding, Monica Bhide, that -- no -- being no stranger to trouble, the turmeric has...

  • 12:38:04

    NNAMDI...gotten you into trouble with three generations in your family. How so?

  • 12:38:09

    BHIDEWell, starting with my mother, you know, I think she is completely vindicated now listening to the -- to a good doctor here speak. But, yes, I've had my share of milk with turmeric every night. Every scrape on my knee, she would rush into the kitchen, take the turmeric with some water, slap it on my knee. And we would have fights because it would stain my clothes.

  • 12:38:30

    BHIDEAnd, no, I wasn't a big fan of milk and turmeric, but it works. So that was one. And then my husband -- this was a sure-fire way to either get a divorce or kill your spouse.

  • 12:38:38

    NNAMDIWho I know, yes.

  • 12:38:40

    BHIDESo we got married, God, now, 20 years ago, and the second morning after getting married, I was in the bathroom doing what my mother had always taught me to do, to beautify myself so that the hair on my face is considerably less than the hair on my husband's face. I was applying a mixture of ground flour and turmeric and yogurt and slapped it all across my face and came out. I think I frightened him after that.

  • 12:39:07

    BHIDEIs this the thing I married last night? And then, of course, my son, who has long since forgiven me, but my older son, when he was six, we gave him turmeric rice on the first day of the school. OK, he has not let me forget that. He came home and said, mom, everybody wants to know why my rice is yellow. Everybody eats either white or brown rice. Why do we have yellow rice? So that's been filed under things -- crazy things that mom does.

  • 12:39:34

    NNAMDITroubled in three generations. Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in curry. Is turmeric the spice that gives curry its yellow color?

  • 12:39:42

    BHIDEIt is. And, you know, as doc mentioned here, we never really think of it as adding much flavor. Too much will make things bitter, but just a little bit of dried turmeric doesn't really add flavor. I think people use it in cooking primarily as a healer more than for any taste.

  • 12:39:56


  • 12:39:59

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have a favorite food or spice that you think benefits your health? You can call us, 800-433-8850, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. On to the phones to Anne in Bethesda, Md. Anne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:18

    ANNEHi there. I actually am so excited to talk to you because I -- when I was young -- I'm Vietnamese, and when I was young, I had some moles removed from my face. And my grandmother was obsessed with all day and every night taking a turmeric root, breaking it and rubbing it on my scars. So -- and I know she thought that it was going to help with -- to prevent scarring. But I'm wondering if you can actually talk about the science behind it as opposed to Vietnamese wives' tale because it was terrible going to school with these yellow dots all over my...

  • 12:40:55

    NNAMDIWell, what happened to the scars, Anne?

  • 12:40:57

    ANNEYou know what? They're pretty good, but their mole eradication plan didn't work. I'm just a moley person, so I have more scars or more moles now.

  • 12:41:05

    NNAMDIWell, here's Aarthi Narayanan.

  • 12:41:08

    NARAYANANI have to say I was laughing the whole time because yellow legs, low skirts happened the whole time growing up. That was the first thing. Every time you had a bug bite, scrape some turmeric, mix it with coconut oil, rub it on your leg...

  • 12:41:24

    BHIDEThat's right.

  • 12:41:25

    NARAYANAN...let it just sink in. Everything will be fine the next day. Everything is fine the next day. There is no open wound. There's no infection. You're perfectly infection-free. You also have yellow legs, so you cannot...

  • 12:41:35

    NNAMDIShould have bought more yellow clothing...

  • 12:41:38

    NARAYANANYeah, just blend. As for the, I think, the science behind the whole turmeric on an open wound, I think it is because it is a known antibacterial. So when you have an open wound, that's what most people will be first concerned about. A doctor is not going to be concerned about the scar that you have because a scar will eventually fade. What is more important is to treat that open wound and prevent any infections off that open wound. And that's what turmeric will do. It will act as a topical antibacterial.

  • 12:42:12

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation on turmeric. We still have a few lines open, so you can still call us. 800-433-8850. Do you want to put more spices into your cooking, but don't know how? Monica Bhide, she of all things spice, is here. 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:44:23

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about the health and cooking benefits of turmeric with Aarthi Narayanan, who is a research professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University, and Monica Bhide, author of three books, including "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen." She's also the creator of iSPICE, a simple spice app for the iPhone and the iDroid. And I know your husband Vinod leads culinary tours of India. Now, who were you telling me was leading a culinary tour of India?

  • 12:44:54

    BHIDEChef Vinod, though...

  • 12:44:55

    NNAMDIOh, Chef Vinod from down the street here.

  • 12:44:57

    BHIDEYeah, from Indique and Indique Heights.

  • 12:44:58

    NNAMDIFrom Indique, yes.

  • 12:44:59


  • 12:45:00

    NNAMDIHe's leading a culinary tour of India, and he's going to be demonstrating the value of...

  • 12:45:05

    BHIDETurmeric, yeah.

  • 12:45:05

    NNAMDIHe's going to be...

  • 12:45:06

    BHIDEI was talking to him last night and telling him I was coming on air, and he said Jan. 31, he's leading a culinary tour from here, going to South India. And one of the things that they're going to be covering is turmeric. In fact, on my Facebook page, which is public, we just posted a picture of him holding the root. So that's Chef Vinod of Indique.

  • 12:45:23

    NNAMDIYou go, Vinod. So how should you eat turmeric, Monica, to get its full health benefits?

  • 12:45:31

    BHIDESo one of the things that I've been repeatedly told by various nutritionists and scientists -- and I hope that I'm correct -- is that in order to get the health benefit of the dried root, you must always mix it with a little black pepper. They say it helps you assimilate the turmeric better in your body. And just one thing, before we even continue on to uses, you know, a lot of American friends that I have will say to me, turmeric, I don't think I've ever eaten it. And they may not realize they've eaten it, but, like, the ballpark mustard, that yellow color...

  • 12:45:59


  • 12:46:00

    BHIDE...comes from turmeric. A lot of the cheeses use turmeric to get that bright yellow color, some butter. Sometimes it's in stock. Sometimes it's even in yellow cake. So you may not know it, but you've eaten it.

  • 12:46:10

    NNAMDIYou've eaten turmeric. Researchers at Penn State and the University of Thailand have also been testing turmeric in the lab, and they found that adding turmeric to an otherwise high-fat meal actually lowered insulin levels and triglycerides, correct?

  • 12:46:26

    NARAYANANMm hmm. Yes, that is true.

  • 12:46:28

    NNAMDIOK. We know that eating too much of a spice like nutmeg can cause some bad side effects. Can there be ill effects from having too much turmeric?

  • 12:46:37

    NARAYANANThe one thing that I have read and I've seen in a couple of places is you can have some kind of gastrointestinal discomfort, at best, if you have too much turmeric. But you cannot possibly...

  • 12:46:51


  • 12:46:51 too much turmeric. Like she was saying, it will make it a little bit bitter.

  • 12:46:54

    BHIDEIt'll make it bitter, and that -- I think when I spoke with a nutritionist before coming on, she said your daily intake should be half a teaspoon.

  • 12:47:02


  • 12:47:02

    BHIDEYou could put it in solids and things, and that's not a lot.

  • 12:47:05

    NNAMDIThere are several people who would like to join this conversation by phone. I will start with Wanda in Washington, D.C. Wanda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:14

    WANDAGreetings, Kojo, and your guests. Can you hear me there?

  • 12:47:17

    NNAMDIWe hear you very well, Wanda. Thank you for your call.

  • 12:47:20

    WANDAWell, I have two experiences with curcumin. I was in a hospital about a year ago, and I was in for two weeks and not very mobile. And when I came out, they discovered I had blood clots, and especially one "massive one" in my lungs. And so a couple of days after I talked to a friend, and she said, oh, you know, somebody just sent me a -- like, a article talking about or said help with your health and -- with blood clots.

  • 12:47:54

    WANDAAnd so that was one of the things that I zeroed in on that one, and I started taking it. And I would say about four months later, I was tested -- the ultrasound and whatnot -- and the blood clots were all gone.

  • 12:48:08


  • 12:48:09

    WANDAAnd then the other thing was that -- and then upon discovering that, I said, OK, maybe it's good for cramps because I suffered for decades with debilitating menstrual cramps. And I started taking it, and that was the end of me and ibuprofen. I have not taken one since then, and that's been about almost nine months.

  • 12:48:31

    NNAMDITurmeric. We are making new discoveries every day. Monica, how can you incorporate turmeric into our everyday dishes? For those of us who aren't going to cook a big Indian meal, how can we use it in our daily food preparation?

  • 12:48:46

    BHIDEAbsolutely. It's not hard to do at all. If you're going to use the dried turmeric powder, which is very easily available -- you can get a big bag for under $3 -- the best thing to do is to add a little bit in your broth, your soup, your stews. You can mix it with a little bit of mayo. When you're scrambling your eggs, you can sprinkle it on top of your eggs. You can make a dressing. Take a little bit of turmeric, add some olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper to activate the turmeric and make it good for you, just, you know, drizzle it over your salads.

  • 12:49:15

    BHIDEAnd some people who are not used to the taste may say it tastes, even a little bit, tastes bitter. The best thing then to do is to use it with some fat because the fat really mellows it out. So heat some butter, add the turmeric to the butter, heat olive oil, heat any kind of fat. You can use coconut milk. You know, heat coconut milk, add a little bit of turmeric. Now, that liquid becomes a beautiful curry liquid for poaching fish or using it with chicken or anything, just simple like that.

  • 12:49:42

    BHIDEAnd if you find the fresh root, which actually you can get at Harris Teeter, you can get it at Whole Foods, you can get it at the Korean stores, at the Indian stores. Big, big bag of roots is, like, two bucks. You can peel it and grate it. It's milder than ginger. And you can use that grated root in spice pastes, use, you know, add coriander or cilantro, use it like that. You can add it to your stir fries. You can heat a little bit of olive oil, you know, heat the root in it, and pour it over completed soups.

  • 12:50:12

    BHIDEWhat I do -- and this is the only thing I hide from my kids, people. I feed them everything. They know what it is except this, 'cause I take the root and I squeeze out a little juice and I put it in their apple juice and give it to them. And the reason I don't tell them is because they want to help. And when they want to help with turmeric, it stains everything.

  • 12:50:29

    NNAMDIKeep their hands out of it.

  • 12:50:31

    NARAYANANIt'll stain the counter, the clothes, and then they'll whine for, like, a week 'cause their fingers are all yellow, you know? So that's the only thing in my life that I've hidden from them and not told them it's in there, but I -- but it's in there.

  • 12:50:41

    NNAMDIAnd if you go to our website,, you will see a couple of Monica Bhide-supplied recipes for which you can use turmeric. That's at our website, Aarthi, do you see a day soon or maybe not so soon when patients are prescribed turmeric pills to fight diseases?

  • 12:50:57

    NARAYANANI hope so. I mean, it is certainly something that -- the way I think about it is it is one of those things which would form a base composition. When you have a mix of things that you would add to any drug, this would be one of the things that would be added on a regular basis. It's how I envision it just because of how broad it is in the various, you know, illnesses that it can treat. So definitely, yes, that is a strong belief that I have, that there will come a day, very soon, that we will have a version of pharmacy-grade curcumin which can be used.

  • 12:51:33

    NNAMDIDoes turmeric or curcumin come in some vitamin supplements?

  • 12:51:36

    NARAYANANYes, it does come in vitamin supplements. The first time I saw this was in a -- in an ad for one of the Costco discount magazines. So I actually saw something which said supplement for liver health or something. And it had a big mound of yellow. I didn't know what it was. So the next time I went to Costco, I actually went and looked it up to see what it was, that mound of yellow on the ad, and it actually said in the back, in the ingredients that it is turmeric.

  • 12:52:06

    NNAMDIOn to Merriam in Falls Church, Va. Merriam, your turn.

  • 12:52:11

    MERRIAMOh, hi. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 12:52:14

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:52:16

    MERRIAMI want to say that the turmeric is the oldest preservative in the world. Coming from Middle East, and I wondered why they always have turmeric in the stew. But I found out that it's the -- because there was -- when you make a stew fresh, you want to keep it for a day or two, and turmeric is there to preserve it. I didn't know about that. And another thing that turmeric helped me a lot with the sore throat, when you have sore throat, and you can take turmeric with little hot water and honey.

  • 12:53:03

    NNAMDIThat's what the point that Aarthi was making earlier about it being an anti-inflammatory.

  • 12:53:08

    MERRIAMYes, exactly. And I found out this when my daughter had a really bad sore throat when she was at TOPS University and she was under a lot of stress. And I went to Whole Foods store, and I saw this cashier that looks from India. I just give her some turmeric, hot water and honey in one tablespoon. And I saw the result in 10 minutes that she could talk, and she didn't have to write down what she want to.

  • 12:53:43

    NNAMDIOK, Merriam, thank you very much for sharing that story with us. We got a tweet from someone who says, "I used turmeric to keep ants away. It works. Who knew?" Have either of you ever heard of that use for turmeric before? There you go. We keep discovering things here on this broadcast. We move on to Leo in Baltimore, Md. Leo, your turn.

  • 12:54:04

    LEOHi, Kojo. I just have a quick question actually about another spice. Being a young person, I really am trying to get into more homeopathic and natural remedies for ailments. And what I found, at least on the Internet that maybe your guest can comment on this, was that the power of cayenne pepper is really staggering.

  • 12:54:23

    LEOAnd it can -- there even have been cases of people having -- going into cardiac arrest and having heart attacks and doctors giving them, I think, a quarter of a tablespoon or teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and that could -- I read it has cured people and fixed, you know, their issue and they haven't died from having cardiac arrest. I'll take the comments off the air, but I really appreciate it. Thank you.

  • 12:54:44

    NNAMDIKnow anything about that at all, Aarthi?

  • 12:54:46

    NARAYANANI have heard among those lines, but I don't know exactly how it works. But I've definitely heard something along those lines, yes.

  • 12:54:53

    NNAMDIAnother interesting scientific study on curcumin is that University of Massachusetts, physicists there are studying curcumin's light-emitting properties and how those properties can help detect explosive material in the air. The hope is that curcumin can be used in a cheap portable device that would help detect landmines. Aarthi, did you ever imagine you'd be working with spices in your scientific career?

  • 12:55:20

    NARAYANANOh, no. Honestly speaking, no.

  • 12:55:24

    NNAMDIAnd did you know that Monica was trained as an engineer?

  • 12:55:26

    NARAYANANYes. She just told me outside.

  • 12:55:28

    NNAMDIDid she? And she is now working spices also. We move on to Matt in Martinsburg, W.Va. Matt, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:55:37

    MATTHey, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call, and I love NPR, by the way. My question, I guess, comment is my daughter, 3 1/2-year-old, has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Obviously it's very severe. And I've done a lot of research on natural, homeopathic kind of methods, and turmeric, obviously, was, like, at the top of the list. I was wondering if you had read of any studies or is there any proof that that helps. We've been using it now for about two months, not on a daily basis.

  • 12:56:02

    MATTAnd it hasn't done much. We obviously used naproxen, and we're using everything the doctor tells us to use to help supplement it. Well, have you heard of anything like that?

  • 12:56:11

    NNAMDIWell, the only thing we can share is what we have heard because we're not giving, really, medical advice here. But here's Aarthi.

  • 12:56:17

    NARAYANANThere is evidence in the literature that curcumin can actually downplay the effects of arthritis, again, because it is an anti-inflammatory. But you have to remember that this is not a pharmaceutical-grade product the way it exists right now. So this is not something that is going to exert an effect in, like, you know, a couple of days. This is something that's going to take conditioning over a period of time. And it may be used in combination with other things, other anti-inflammatories which may be pharmaceutical grade for you to be able to see something.

  • 12:56:49

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your, Mark. (sic) Finally, here is Kaye in Silver Spring, Md. Kaye, your turn.

  • 12:56:55

    KAYEHi. I'm glad to make it on. I read about a year ago in the AARP magazine -- there was one page on spices, I think it was a Dr. Oz page. And turmeric came up. And my father, toward his later years to 88, had some dementia. And when you read articles about Alzheimer's, they always mention amyloid plaque -- plaques. And the page in the AARP magazine said that turmeric acts on amyloid plaques. I've never seen anything anywhere mentioning -- that talked about acting on these things.

  • 12:57:29

    NNAMDIAllow me to have Aarthi respond as to whether or not she's heard or read anything.

  • 12:57:32

    NARAYANANI have actually seen scientific evidence that says that it will act on plaques in case of Alzheimer's disease. Yes.

  • 12:57:39

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. I'm afraid we're just about out of time. Aarthi Narayanan is a research professor at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University. Thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:51

    NARAYANANThank you so much.

  • 12:57:51

    NNAMDIMonica Bhide is author of three books including "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen." She's also the creator of iSPICE, a simple spice app for the iPhone and the Android. Monica, always a pleasure.

  • 12:58:04

    BHIDEThank you so much for having me.

  • 12:58:05

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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