Get to Know Turmeric!
Some of you have most likely seen a bright yellow powder in a crafty cook’s kitchen cabinet, but how much do you really know about this eye-catching spice, turmeric? In this post herbalist Greta de la Montagne illuminates some prominent health benefits of turmeric and gives you great recipe ideas to see you get your daily dose of this powerful root.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a wonderful member of the ginger family and is native to India and Southeast Asia. In fact, over 90% of the world’s supply of turmeric is cultivated in India. It thrives in tropical climates preferring moist, well-drained soil, and its snaking rhizomes (roots) are the part of the plant most often used. Turmeric is easy to grow and can be propagated from root cuttings or divisions. People in Asia have utilized this easy growing herb since 600 BC, but it has only enjoyed significant rising popularity in the US for roughly the past decade.
Health benefits of turmeric
First and foremost, turmeric reduces inflammation. Curcumin (the compound that gives turmeric its intense yellow color) is the most researched constituent of the herb and is mainly responsible for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has effects comparable to cortisone and phenylbutazone, the standard in drugs for treating inflammation. However, curcumin is non-steroidal, so it has none of the side effects of using steroid anti-inflammatories. Curcumin also treats pain and promotes wound healing. Similar to cayenne, curcumin depletes nerve endings of the pain receptor neurotransmitter. Turmeric, therefore, can be used topically in a poultice for sprains and sore joints.
Turmeric is also an excellent natural antibiotic. It strengthens digestion and improves intentional flora, it purifies and stimulates the blood, and is helpful in forming new tissue. Because of these wonderful healing properties, turmeric capsules can be very handy to have in your first aid kit!
In Southeast Asia, where curry (fully loaded with turmeric) is consumed daily, there are very few instances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is now known that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin contribute to the excellent brain health of people in these cultures. This being said, isolated curcumin is not as effective as consuming turmeric in its entirety. To really reap the benefits of curcumin, turmeric must be taken wholly. Turmeric works even better when ingested along with black pepper. Piperine, a compound in black pepper, helps turmeric remain more bioavailable during the metabolic process. This means that more curcumin can be absorbed by your body, increasing the positive effects of turmeric, when eaten alongside black pepper!
Get your daily dose
The daily dose of turmeric powder for preventing inflammation in an average adult is up to 1 Tbs/day. People under 125lbs should get by with only consuming ½ tsp. For acute inflammation, like a sore knee, the dose might be as high as 4Tbs (1 ounce) per day. Turmeric is safe for everyone (similarly to ginger) and in fact, it is hard to take too much. There are always exceptions, however. People suffering from acute hepatitis and jaundice should not ingest too much turmeric, as well as pregnant women. As always, consult with your doctor or naturopath before taking on a serious increase in any herb in your diet.
Cooking with turmeric
Turmeric is easy to add into any number of foods or drinks. Stir turmeric into warm tea, or mix it with honey to make a paste that can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, or other dishes. Turmeric is a great addition to chai tea blends which can help mask it’s somewhat bitter flavor. When buying turmeric, look for the color to be bright orange-yellow. This ensures the powder is fresh! You can also look for fresh roots alongside ginger in the supermarket. Just grate the roots to use as you would ginger root. Turmeric in this way can be added to soups, stews, curries and other savory dishes, where you can also add black pepper. But beware if you are a messy cook… turmeric stains yellow and can color anything from your countertop to your clothing!
Lake Missoula Tea Company offers several blends that incorporate turmeric!
- Golden Milk
- Turmeric Twirl
- Beat the Snot out of You (Sinus Blend)
- Sweet Rhapsody
- Skin Glow
- Joint Peace Arthritis Blend Tea
Golden milk gala
Have you ever seen someone sipping on a delightful gold and creamy drink? Turns out, drinking turmeric is a great way to heal with this herb. In India, turmeric is decocted into cow’s milk and a little pinch of black pepper is added before ingesting. A slightly more elaborate method is to make a turmeric paste and cook it into milk. This “golden milk” is becoming more widely available as a beverage in the supermarket and in tea and coffee shops.
Folks are over the moon for our small batch blend of turmeric and spices! To prepare your own Golden Milk drink, mix:
- two teaspoons of Lake Missoula Tea Company Golden Milk
- honey (or sweetener of your choice)
- about a cup of hot water
- 1/4 cup of milk of our choice
- stir vigorously or blend to make extra frothy
- optional: sprinkle cinnamon on top for a fun and warming effect, or rose water or ashwagandha root make great additions, too.
- sip and smile!
Watch how we make our Golden Milks at the tea shop.
We hope you have enjoyed getting to know our lovely friend turmeric. We think this herb deserves all the praise, popularity and glowing remarks we can send its way!
Written by: Greta de la Montagne, RH (Registered Herbalist), AHG (American Herbalists Guild), and Lake Missoula Tea Company’s herbalist consultant
Edited by: Boo Curry
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