From the Spice Rack to the Medicine Cabinet

The question I get asked most frequently from my gastroenterology colleagues is “does that stuff work?” referring to the junk-free, plant-based diet I recommend for my patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) – the two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The idea that what you put in your gut might affect what’s going on inside it may seem like common sense, but to many in the world of conventional gastroenterology, healing inflammation with anything other than prescription medicine is akin to magical thinking.

Curcumin is a plant substance derived from the Indian spice turmeric that has been used for centuries to treat inflammation. Previous experiments have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin on the cells lining the human gastrointestinal tract and curcumin has also been shown to improve colitis that’s been experimentally induced in mice. A recent study ( added curcumin to standard therapy in patients with UC and found that the addition of curcumin resulted in higher rates of remission compared to standard therapy alone. Most encouraging, given the undesirable side effect profile of most drugs used to treat IBD, was the fact that there were no adverse effects.

It’s an incredibly exciting time in medicine as we’re finally catching up to what Hippocrates admonished us to do over a thousand years ago: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Here’s my favorite creamy latte, from my friend Elise Museles (, made even healthier with the addition of turmeric:


*Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
1 heaping tablespoon fresh turmeric root, grated (or use approximately 2 teaspoons turmeric paste – see below)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated (or 1 teaspoon ground)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
Raw honey to taste

*Note: To make the turmeric paste combine 2 parts turmeric powder with 1 part boiling water. Mix and store any extra in the fridge up to 5 days.

Gently warm the almond or coconut milk in a small saucepan. Do not boil. Add turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Next, combine coconut oil with milk and heat together until melted. Use a wire whisk or immersion blender to create foam. Continue to stir until frothy and heated through.
Stir in honey to taste. Sip, savor & enjoy.

By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan