Turmeric is a common kitchen spice, but it is also a potent health tonic and herbal remedy - taking it's rightful place in the spotlight of many health food stores, juice bars and cuisines. Truly, Turmeric is a wildly beneficial food, and this post will highlight just why you'd want to include it in your health regimen and my two favorite recipes to use it.
Dried vs. Fresh
Turmeric can be purchased fresh and looks similar to ginger root but with a bright orange center. The fresh root is more flavorful than the dried version, but doesn't appear to have any health benefits above the dehydrated, ground spice. In fact, many sources advocate that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are enhanced when slightly heated, making the culinary powder an ideal choice.
With either dried or fresh Turmeric, the active ingredient is called curcumin and this component has been studied quite extensively among modern scientists - demonstrating its remarkable anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. While Turmeric has a lot of modern acclaim, it is by no means a modern herb - and has been used for centuries in traditional medicines like Ayruveda and Chinese Medicine.
Yu Jin – The Chinese Medicinal
Yu Jin (Tuber Curcumae) enters the Heart, Lung and Liver Channels. It is Acrid, Bitter and Cool in nature. In Chinese Medicine, we add this herb to formulas when we want to strongly invigorate the blood to help with menstrual pain, traumatic injury (such as bruising – often applied topically), or clearing such “blood heat” conditions such as nosebleed, coughing blood, hematuria (blood in the urine) and even anxiety or agitation as a result of an excess heat pattern. In certain cases, Yu Jin can benefit the gallbladder meridian by reducing jaundice.
Typically, we reserve Yu Jin for fairly extreme cases, and is usually only dosed appropriately in formulas for a short period of time. Traditionally, it is contraindicated in pregnancy due to it's strong invigorating and cooling natures - a notion that Western Medicine has not uncovered as a potential warning. I always advise expecting mamas to use their intuition, listen to their bodies and of course check with their prenatal care provider. Like anything, too much of a good thing can still be too much.
Turmeric – The Western Medicinal
Turmeric has gained recognition among popular health systems as the new “wonder herb,” and even being recognized by the Western Medical community in clinical trials. For its high anti-oxidant compound and anti-inflammatory properties, you can now find this culinary spice in therapeutic tablet form in many health food stores - which is great if you need to take large doses, or don't find the taste palatable.
It is recognized as a digestive bitter, and therefore helps to reduce gas and bloating and promotes efficient digestion. The plant is even being extensively studied in cancer trials for it’s content of Curcumin, which is proving potential cancer-preventative capabilities. It is also known for its positive effect on the cardiovascular system by helping to lower cholesterol and reduce hypertension, as well as the nervous system as an Adaptogen (mitigating the physical experience of stress).
Similar to milk thistle or lemon-water, turmeric is a great herb to incorporate during the late winter and early spring to help promote detoxification in the body and (most notably) the liver. You can see why many people are beginning to incorporate this once exotic herb into part of their everyday health routine!
To recap, below are some of the ways in which Turmeric can provide healing benefits:
- Painful Menstruation (or other inflammatory pain)
- Arthritic Joint Pain (Can be taken internally or applied topically as a poultice)
- Post traumatic injury or surgery (Can be taken internally or applied topically as a poultice)
- Chronic Cardiovascular Disease or Hypertension
- Heart Burn or Digestive Bloating, Diarrhea
- Anti-Inflammatory, Cancer-Preventative, Longevity Health Tonic
- Reduce skin irritations like eczema or acne
- Reduce Insomnia or Nervousness
- Detoxify during the late-winter or early spring
While I enjoy adding a sliver of fresh turmeric root to my bone broths, juiced in a "wellness shot" or spicing up a soup or curry dish with the turmeric powder - Golden Milk is by far my favorite way to consume this bright yellow herb (especially in the winter months). It offers a warm, comforting and nourishing beverage first thing in the morning, as an afternoon pick-me-up or right before bed. Because of Turmeric's adaptogenic properties, you really can't pick a wrong time to enjoy it!
Method One: Turmeric Paste
I find this a super convenient way to quickly prepare Golden Milk - almost as a sort of "instant beverage." I try and have a jar of Turmeric Paste in my fridge all winter long. This recipe is based off of one by The Savory Lotus.
To Make Paste:
1. In a small bowl, combine (then, set aside):
- 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Cardamom
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2. Then, in a small pot, bring 1.5 cups water to a boil
3. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and add in 1/2 cup Turmeric Powder
4. Stir constantly to incorporate, then add:
- Spice mixture from Step 1
- Have 1/2 cup water on hand and add slowly if the mixture becomes too thick
5. Stir constantly for 3 minutes, until it becomes a thick paste (note: paste will thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and add:
- 1/2 cup Coconut Oil or Ghee (I like to use 1/4 cup of each)
- 1/4 cup Raw Honey
5. Once all ingredients are incorporated, transfer to a clean glass jar. Cool completely, then secure a lid and store in the fridge. Use by the spoonful to make Golden Milk (recipe below) or add to sauces, curries or stews. Paste will keep for 2-3 weeks.
To Make Golden Milk (from Paste):
- Boil water in a tea kettle
- Place One heaping Tablespoon of Turmeric Paste in the bottom of a mug
- Pour boiling water over the paste, stir to dissolve
- Top with a splash of raw cream, milk, coconut or other nut milk (I like Cashew Milk)
- Whir in a blender if you want a frothy, lighter Golden Milk
- Place 1 Tbsp paste, 1 cup water and desired milk into a saucepan. Heat, whisk and serve.
NOTE: Because the powdered spices don't fully dissolve when making the paste, re-heating them for longer will help create a smoother-texture to your Golden Milk.
Method Two: Herbal Infusion
I also like to have some dried herbs on hand to steep a delicious Turmeric Tea. Add a splash of your favorite milk and a touch of honey and ghee, and you've got "Golden Milk." Some of my favorite brands for Tumeric Tea Bags include:
The Turmeric Chai from Mountain Rose Herbs is also a favorite - it's a loose blend of various roots, tubers and spices and offers up a truly flavorful and potent turmeric tonic. To make, simply:
- Add 2 Tbsp Herbs to 2 cups Water
- Bring to a boil
- Continue to boil, uncovered, until the mixture is reduced by half
- Add 1-2 Cups of Milk of choice
- Bring to a boil again, then remove from heat
- Strain the mixture into a mug, add honey to taste
- Store leftover Golden Milk in the fridge for later :)
Give It A Boost
Need a little more nourishment in your Golden Milk? Add a scoop or two of Collagen Peptides and you've got a hearty snack - rich with soluble proteins and healthy fats. My favorite brand of Collagen is here.
Do not begin an herbal regimen with though consulting with your primary care provider, and the assistance of a clinical herbalist.
Do not take large doses of Turmeric while pregnant. The amount in culinary dishes or the occasional Golden Milk should be safe. Always consult with your personal provider.