Turmeric is becoming the darling of the health world, the newest "superfood" of the moment. But it's nothing new! Turmeric, which is a yellow-orange root closely related to ginger, has been used for countless centuries by many different cultures. Chances are, if you've ever eaten foods from Southeast Asia or India, (or any curry dish for that matter) you've tasted turmeric! Turmeric, "the Golden Goddess" is what gives many curries that beautiful golden yellow color.
I'll admit the first time I had turmeric (outside of a curry dish) I wasn't the biggest fan. I was silly enough to order it as a shot a few years back, when it was starting to show up on juice bar menus around town. It can have a strongly bitter flavor when fresh and on its own; like biting into a nub of ginger. OUCH.
But I've given it another chance recently, as I've been reading more about the history of its medicinal and health uses.
Ayurveda, the ancient system of health & sister science to Yoga, has touted the benefits of Turmeric for thousands of years. The California College of Ayurveda writes that Turmeric "has hundreds of molecular constituents, each with a variety of biological activities. There are at least 20 molecules that are anti-biotic, 14 that are known cancer preventatives, 12 that are anti-tumor, 12 are anti-inflammatory and there are at least 10 different anti-oxidants."
The active ingredient in Turmeric is called curcumin. It's curcumin that is responsible for many of the incredible thereputic benefits of turmeric, including its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, digestive-healing, liver-protecting, and hormone-balancing effects. (For more details on the science and studies behind Curcumin, read: Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. )
It's been found that on its own, curcumin isn't easily absorbed by the bloodstream; but one study showed that consuming another substance called piperine (the active compound in black pepper) at the same time as the turmeric can enhance the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000%. (source)
You can find fresh turmeric root in most health food stores, and can also find it in supplement form should you prefer. I recently purchased some from Mountain Rose Herbs in the form of dried pieces, and I grind it up at home to make a powder for curries, or my new favorite night-cap, Turmeric Milk Tea.
To make the tea, I first make up a Turmeric Paste; this not only saves time later, but also combines the turmeric, pepper, and a healthy fat, for better absorption. You can also freeze the paste in an ice-cube tray for longer storage; then just take one out and add to your hot water later on!
(recipe adapted from turmericforhealth.com)
1 cup filtered water
1/2 cup powdered turmeric
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp ground black pepper
- Add water and turmeric powder to a small saucepan, and heat gently, stirring as you go. Keep the mix just below a simmer, and continue to stir about 6-8 minutes, until it starts to turn into a thick paste.
- Once it's a thicker paste, remove from heat, and stir in coconut oil and black pepper to combine.
- Allow to cool, then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or freeze the paste for longer storage!
Ok, so now you've got your Turmeric Paste (which I've also been feeding to the dogs, because I love to give them weird/healthy stuff on their food like sardines, coconut oil, and homemade sauerkraut). You can throw the paste right into a curry dish, or try it in my new favorite warming and delightful tea!
I went off some recipes I had seen for a turmeric milk, but wanted to cut down on the heaviness I felt when I chugged down a full mug of coconut milk. I also added a few other spices to create a rich depth of flavor.
Golden Milk Tea
1 1/2 cup hot water
1 -2 teaspoons of turmeric paste, depending on desired strength/taste
2 tablespoons coconut milk, or raw cream
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
Make it: In a large mug, blend all your ingredients, whisking lightly with a fork or frother if needed.