Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years as both a culinary spice (it gives the yellow colour to curry powders) and as a medicinal herb. Long before it found its way into your lattes, western herbal medicine practitioners have used it as a powerful and commonly indicated herb with a wide range of indications and medicinal uses.
Whilst current research on turmeric is certainly yielding ‘promising’ results for preventing and treating many health conditions, there is a long way to go before we fully understand how turmeric can benefit us. However in my opinion, it’s certainly a herb worthy of including in the diet as well as taking medicinally (under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner) if indicated.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric
Turmeric is rich in many compounds that contain medicinal properties. The most widely researched are a group of compounds called curcuminoids (specifically curcumin appears to be the active ingredient in turmeric). Only a very small amount of curcumin is present in turmeric and its’ absorption is vastly enhanced by ingesting it with black pepper and fat (as it is a fat soluble compound). Whilst whole turmeric (fresh or dried root) only contains about 3% curcumin, supplements contain much higher amounts of active curcuminoids (with a much greater medicinal action).
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of turmeric
Most of the degenerative diseases facing Western societies involve oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. As Tumeric is a powerful anti-oxidant and has strong anti-inflammatory properties, it is very indicated to both prevent and treat a number of common health conditions. In some studies, its effectiveness with fighting inflammation has been favorably compared to anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs, but without any noticed side effect.
Some of the areas it is being researched is for the prevention and treatment of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, various cancers, respiratory disease, allergies, immune support, a range of digestive disorders, skin conditions, autoimmune disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, after injury or trauma (to promote healing) and depression.
As you can see it’s indications extend across a wide variety of conditions so it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider to ensure it is right for you or a family member!
Food as medicine
Whilst I don’t believe we should base our diet on any one food or nutrient alone, turmeric is a spice that is quite easily (and deliciously) incorporated in the diet.
So I thought I’d share 10 ways beyond the obvious (curries) that it can be enjoyed:
- Add it to smoothies – it can be added to any of your favourite smoothie combo’s really. One of my families favourite immune supportive blends is half a fresh pineapple, 2cm piece of ginger, 2 cm piece fresh turmeric root (or a teaspoon of ground turmeric), a cup of chilled coconut water, a tablespoon of coconut oil and a grind of black pepper (to help the absorption of the curcumin) and a few heaped tablespoons of natural or coconut yoghurt (ice optional). There’s load of smoothie inspiration here.
- In your porridge – mix a pinch of turmeric and cinnamon in with honey and drizzle it over your winter porridge.
- Make a home made jelly (with juice and gelatin) and add in turmeric (check out my immune boosting Lemon Turmeric Jellies recipe).
- Add it into your hot chocolate (recipe here) or a home made chai tea (recipe here).
- Add it into your chocolate cake or cookies (it’s flavour hides well behind chocolate so feel free to give your baking a boost).
- Add it to your scrambled eggs with a teaspoon of cumin powder – delicious (recipe here).
- Add it to mashed avocado (with sea salt, pepper and lemon juice).
- Toss it with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and root vegetables and roast.
- Add it to your favourite soup recipe.
- Add it to a homemade salad dressing.
For meals, here are a few of my favourite turmeric containing dishes:
- Chicken Almond Curry (kids love this sweet curry)
- Easy Vegetable Curry
- Simple, Delicious Dhal
- Salmon Curry (another family fave)
- Mum’s Lemon Chicken
The best part about turmeric is a little goes a long way, so experiment with adding a little into your diet daily – it’s a fabulous example of food as medicine!
It’s worth buying a good quality organic turmeric (as not all turmeric products are created equal)- a $5 packet will last for a very long time so it’s not a huge investment, especially when you shop at TWC (heavily discounted whole foods like herbs, spices, nuts, flours, legumes, noodles etc). Click HERE to take a look.