Most of us know turmeric (Curcuma longa) as the vibrant orange powder located in the herb section at the supermarket. And many of us use turmeric root powder in our cooking, particularly if we have an affinity for preparing Indian-inspired dishes. Similar to the root-like component of its cousin ginger, turmeric has been a staple of Indian food traditions for millennia and has a long history of healing use (over 4000 years) in Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric’s role in Hindu devotional and sacred ceremonies is alluded to by one of its Sanskrit names: Kanchani, the “Golden Goddess,” perhaps so called because its beautiful golden hue generously bestows healing to a wide range of ailments.
Indeed, traditional Ayurvedic use includes turmeric as healing agent for skin abrasions, gastro-intestinal tract inflammation, aches and pains, arthritis and liver disorders, while modern research confirms the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties of turmeric.
The characteristic golden hue is produced by curcumin, the constituent in turmeric most isolated and studied by scientists, but the whole herb is used in herbal traditions and has also been the subject of many clinical investigation.
Immune System: As we overview in our online diploma in herbal medicine, turmeric is a potent antioxidant that helps protect against and nullify the damage caused by free radicals. It also has clinically proven anti-cancer properties and helps mobilise anti-cancer immune mechanisms. An effective immune stimulant that helps prevent and fight off infections. With its strong anti-bacterial properties, it has a natural affinity for the respiratory tract, making it a fantastic herb to use in both the prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections such as winter colds, sore throats, tonsillitis, bronchitis, sinusitis and the flu. To learn more about how to prevent winter colds, check out our online Winter Wellness Seminar.
Inflammation: One of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories within the global herbal formulary. Strongly indicated in the management of arthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, sports injuries, connective tissue damage and repetitive strain injuries. Clinical trials have examined the efficacy and safety of turmeric in patients with knee arthritis, concluding that turmeric was as effective and as safe as ibuprofen. Also very helpful in the management of inflammatory skin disorders such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, urticaria and dermatitis.
Cardiovascular: Excellent in the management of elevated cholesterol; it helps to lower bad LDL cholesterol and prevents the clotting of blood, reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Digestion: A famed digestive tonic herb, it optimises digestion and the breakdown and assimilation of nutrients. It stimulates liver function, thereby aiding the livers work as a primary organ of detoxification. It protects the mucous lining of the gut, protecting it from irritation and inflammation, indicating its use in colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, heartburn, acidity and reflux. For example, one clinical trial studied curcumin in comparison to a placebo and an over-the-counter remedy for indigestion. 87% of the curcumin group had full or partial relief from indigestion after 7 days, compared to 53% of the placebo; that’s a profound gain from a pure herbal medicine!
The easiest and most obvious way to use turmeric is to integrate it widely into your cooking. It can be added to stews, soups, casseroles, porridge, shepard’s pie and just about anything else.
However, below are two recipes for both the external and internal use of turmeric that we regularly turn to:
External Use: Because of its powerful antibacterial properties, when combined with a little salt and mixed together into warm water, it provides an excellent treatment for sore throats and tonsilits. It not only reduces inflammation in the throat (thereby reducing the pain) but its antimicrobial compounds help to clear out the infection, helping you get better faster. All you need to do is add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and a pinch or two of salt to a small cup of warm water and gargle with this several times per day.
Internal Use: The medicinal properties of turmeric may not be absorbed well due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestines unless it is consumed with black pepper. In a validating example of the time-tested concept of herbal catalysts (herbs that enhance the activity of other herbs), it turns out that the piperine in black pepper enhances the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric by 2000%. Note: black pepper may inhibit drug metabolism so should be used with caution, if at all, by those taking pharmaceutical medications.
Whether by incorporating it into cooking or taking it as one of several herbs in a tea, turmeric is at the heart of many different remedies and continues to prove its value after thousands of years of use. One such tried and tested recipe is “Golden Milk,” a traditional Ayurvedic concoction. Here is our take on this age-old recipe, with the addition of black pepper for enhanced curcumin bioavailability. This yummy, warming drink is delicious in the winter and can be served room temperature or slightly warmed if desired.
Ayurvedic Golden Milk
Ingredients (serves 1)
1 cup unsweetened coconut, rice, or almond milk
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Few shakes of ground black pepper
Generous dash of vanilla
Raw local honey to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Place 1 cup milk with turmeric paste, oil, black pepper, vanilla, and honey/maple syrup into a blender.
Blend on high briefly until combined and foamy. If you want it warm, place into a saucepan and heat until at the desired temperature.
Pour into cup, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve.
Conclusion: The evidence-based and broad benefits of this powerful and diverse herb are truly staggering. As such, we can’t recommend enough integrating this into your diet as widely and freely as possible to obtain its full range of benefits. However, as with all herbal medicines, please consult with a qualified herbalist before taking high doses of turmeric if you are taking prescribed medicines, are pregnant or breast feeding or are under medical supervision.