Reclaiming Your Roots

Empowering you to heal yourself

Community-Based Herbalism, offering locally crafted herbal products and wellness education.

I had a funny moment with turmeric last month when my mother showed me a copy of one of her grocery store ladies' magazines.  Woman's Day or Ladies Home Journal I think.  Normally, I tease my mom about these magazines, which tend to be filled with recipes for "low fat" meals and tips on shedding belly fat and keeping your man interested. In this issue, however, the magazine featured a several page article about turmeric.  Despite it's primary focus on using turmeric to lose weight, the article actually contained fairly accurate information about some of turmeric's other medicinal properties and certainly serves as a reflection of how prominent and widely accepted turmeric has become of late in western medicine.  And while yes it's true that turmeric stimulates your metabolism and can thus potentially help in weight loss, it also has a wide array of other amazing medicinal benefits and a gorgeous color that will stain any surface it touches.  Have I peaked your interest? Read more below.

Turmeric Curcuma longa
Parts used: Rhizome
Medicinal uses: Turmeric is a multi-rhizomatous perennial rootstock with banana-like leaves, typically growing to about 2 ft in height.  As you can see in the picture above, it looks very similar to ginger. Although it has a number of beneficial phytochemicals, curcumin is it’s most famous and probably the only one you've heard about.  Capitalizing on studies demonstrating its anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits, the supplement industry began isolating curcumin and selling it in capsule form.  However, by taking curcumin by itself, one loses many of the other benefits of this incredible plant.  Turmeric has played a significant role in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years in the form of a warming, drying, and bitter spice, considered to be balancing for all doshas. In fact, studies have shown it to be most bioavailable when heated with oil and food or as a tincture. Combining black pepper with turmeric has also been shown to create a synergistic effect, helping the body to absorb even more of its medicine. As a digestive aid, turmeric has carminative (gas-alleviating) properties and also stimulates the liver and gallbladder to release more bile, making it especially helpful in digesting high fat/protein meals.  Turmeric also has powerful anti-microbial (particularly anti-fungal) properties, which help to eliminate toxins from the GI tract and promote healthy intestinal flora.  Turmeric is an even stronger antioxidant than Vit. E, preventing and repairing free radical damage to cells.  Studies have shown it to be anti-carcinogenic and it is being used in high doses to reverse even stage four cancer.  Through its actions on the liver, turmeric also helps in balancing blood sugar levels.  It supports cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol levels and increasing circulation through dilating the blood vessels, thus helping to lower blood pressure.  Although Echinacea is usually the go-to herb for bolstering the immune system, turmeric is an equally as potent immune system herb, according to the Ayurvedic tradition and many modern herbalists.  In addition to its anti-microbial properties, it has both a soothing and astringent effect on respiratory ailments, such as coughs, sinus congestion, and asthma.  If all of these qualities weren’t already enough, turmeric is a very powerful anti-inflammatory, both internally and externally (as a topical paste), and also has analgesic (pain-killing) effects, making it useful for any inflammatory condition, such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, muscle aches, GI inflammation, external abrasions, eczema, etc.  Seriously, this plant is amazing!

Dosage: The best way to use turmeric is to simply cook with it.  I often make curry dishes with it or simply add it to my soups or sauteed veggies.  Chicken noodle soup with turmeric is great.  Traditionally, it was also added to warm milk or mixed with honey.  I think it’s pretty difficult to overdo this herb.  1-2 tsp/day of the dried powder seems to be the most-often recommended dose. The dried powder can also be tinctured in a 25-40% alcohol solution. And for a special treat, hop on over to Three Rivers Market and pick up some fresh turmeric root to cook with or simply snack on. Delicious.
Contraindications: Turmeric is a very safe, tonic herb.  However, it does have blood-thinning actions and can enhance the effect of other blood thinners. Turmeric is contraindicated during pregnancy in dosages of more than 1g/day.