The benefits of turmeric are commonly touted, which is why we find them in lattes, teas, soups, spice blends, and supplements.
I use it readily in cooking- I add it to broths, stews, soups, lentils, curries, and on grilled or roasted vegetables.
Turmeric is a root that looks much like ginger but has thinner branches. In fact, it comes from the same family as ginger and cardamom- the Zingiberaceae family.
Turmeric can be used fresh or as a dried spice. It reduces inflammation, provides anti-oxidants effects, boosts the immune system, and can provide great support for those undergoing cancer treatments. I wrote an article about turmeric a few years ago, where I described some of the clinical evidence supporting the benefits of turmeric.
A Recap of Turmeric’s Benefits
In addition to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune boosting, and anti-cancer effects, there is evidence that turmeric protects against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; eases pain and swelling associated with arthritis; supports healthy cholesterol and heart health; aids wound healing; and it supports the healthy functioning of the liver, skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract (Mercola, n.d.).
More recent research indicates that turmeric may help counteract the effects of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Studies indicate that turmeric can kill and/or inhibit various types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi (Ji, 2018).
Precautions with Using Turmeric
A word of caution, turmeric stains. In fact, it was used traditionally to dye clothes. When handling fresh turmeric make sure to use gloves, for even if you wash your hands immediately, it is likely your nails will stain yellow. The cutting board and utensils used to handle the fresh root will also stain. If you store food cooked with turmeric, it is also likely that the container you store the food in, particularly if its plastic, will turn yellow.
It is also common to find adulterated turmeric, especially as a dried spice, spice blend, tea, or essential oil, where it is replaced with a colorant.
To reduce the chances of getting adulterated turmeric ensure it is cultivated in India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It can also be cultivated in Haiti, Jamaica, Antilles, Peru, Nigeria, and Madagascar (Bejar, 2018). Also, make sure it is listed as an ingredient with its full Latin name: Curcuma longa.
When you see the word “curcumin,” it means an extract of turmeric is used, as opposed to the whole herb. I always recommend using the whole herb rather than its components, as it increases the likelihood that body will absorb it.
Also, avoid a product that shows another type of Curcuma listed, such as Curcuma aromatica, and Curcuma zedoaria, as these are different species that are often used as adulterants.
Uses for Turmeric
Here are some ways to use turmeric:
- Golden milk – Heat up or boil milk, and add 1 teaspoon of turmeric, ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of natural or raw honey. Any type of milk can be used including cow, almond, cashew, soy, or other.
- Fresh Herb in Cooking – If using the fresh herb, make sure to peel it first. Then, grate it or mince it and add when first starting to cook, such as when adding onions to the hot pan or hot oil.
- Ground Spice in Cooking – When using the ground powdered spice, add it to the pan after the initial vegetable base or mirepoix has changed color (or it’s sat in the pan for around 5 minutes). This initial vegetable base can be just onions, onions and garlic, a mixture of carrots, celery, and onion, or any other combination.
- Here is a recipe that uses turmeric in both fresh and dried spice from that may be useful
- Teeth Whitening - Contrary to its effect as a dye, turmeric can actually whiten teeth. Simply sprinkle some on toothpaste and brush as usual. Keep in mind the toothbrush will certainly turn yellow
- Treat Dandruff – Mix turmeric with coconut, jojoba, olive, or other hair oil and spread it on the scalp. Leave it on the scalp for 20 minutes before washing off.
- Essential Oil – Essential oil of turmeric has similar benefits to the herb. It is an anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, anti-cancer, liver detoxifier, and relaxant. Beware that it more readily stains skin and clothes, since it is more concentrated. Make sure to dilute the essential oil prior to using, unless it’s being placed in a diffuser. When diluted in a body oil, such as cold-pressed almond oil, it is quite effective in relieving arthritis and joint pain.
There are many other uses. The infographic below, used with permission, displays additional uses for turmeric:
Bejar, E. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) root and rhizome, and root and rhizome extracts. Botanical Adulterants Bulletin, May 2018. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/pdf/BAP-BABs-Turmeric-CC-V6.pdf
Ji, S. (2018). Could turmeric save us from the CDC’s ‘nightmare bacteria’? GreenMedinfo. Retrieved on August 20, 2018 from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/could-turmeric-save-us-cdcs-nightmare-bacteria
Mercola, J. (n.d.). Turmeric: how this spice can potentially improve your health. Mercola: Take Control of Your Health. Retrieved on August 20, 2018 from https://articles.mercola.com/herbs-spices/turmeric.aspx
Unsplash, Chinh Le Duc https://unsplash.com/photos/vuDXJ60mJOA
Infographic, Medly https://medlypharmacy.com/turmeric-12-uses-powerful-spice/