The more plants turn up with promising health aides born from nothing but sun, dirt and rain, the more excited I get for the future of healthcare. I am not anti-modern medicine by any grounds, but I like to explore what nature can provide for us in terms of preventative and acute health care.
Turmeric is one of the most talked about natural health aides these days, and I for one enjoy riding on this colorful bandwagon. Turmeric is related to ginger, and has a similar root-like appearance, but its fibrous flesh is more the color of a carrot than a turnip. Oh, and its juice carries with it a POTENT stain.
Turmeric is used for many many things, especially in its primary habitat, tropical India. Used for clothing dye, food coloring, food flavoring, and medicinal purposes, it is a ubiquitous and readily available ingredient in most places.
The health claims surrounding turmeric are usually of two varieties: anti-inflammatory action and anti-cancer action. Both of these claims are being extensively researched by proper scientists. Until it is properly vetted, I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone about cancer prevention or treatments. But if you are interested in exploring that option, there are doctors that do know about this substance’s use and advocate it, under supervision.
As an anti-inflammatory substance, I can personally vouch for its effects. PMS, headaches, hangovers, infections, nearly anything with pain could benefit from a dose of turmeric. Curcumin is the phenol in turmeric that is considered most beneficial. Curcumin is a polyphenol, which are some of the only proven plant compounds to be antioxidant and anti-aging both topically and internally.
Polyphenols are found in plants and have a preservative and protective property. They are a plant’s natural defenses against UV rays, predators (herbivores), fungus, bacteria, and other dangers. They are related to tannins, and usually polyphenol-containing plants have a bitter or pungent taste to them, which prevents animals from overgrazing them.
Other spotlight plants that contain polyphenols are grapes, green tea, and pomegranate. Curcumin is becoming the most popular due to its pain-relieving properties. To achieve pain relief with turmeric, you must make it bioavailable. Improving bioavailability is simple making a substance able to integrate with your body easily. A good example would be flax, you must grind or press the seeds to obtain its benefits, otherwise it will simply pass through your digestive system whole and untouched. The juice of fresh turmeric is naturally ready to go in your body, but not as easy to find as dried turmeric spice.
Curcumin’s bioavailability is greatly improved with the simple addition of black pepper and oil. Turmeric’s goodness can be taken in oral supplements, usually as capsules. I like mine as a tincture, which I make from the fresh root. One batch lasts over 6 months, and you can find my simple tutorial for making a tincture over at xoVain.
Simple turmeric inflammation relief situations:
- Gargling tincture in water for a sore throat
- I put 1 dash of tea tree oil, a tsp of turmeric in a pot of boiling water, place on a trivet and make a towel tent for instant clear sinuses and a great start to a facial.
- Mixing powdered spice into a clay or yogurt-based face mask (DO NOT USE OIL HERE OR YOU WILL LOOK LIKE A HIGHLIGHTER OR CHICKEN) to fight redness and breakouts
- Take a tsp of powdered spice in your favorite tea, I use ginger and honey tea with lemon. Don’t forget the dash of black pepper and a few drops of an oil.
- Cook with it! I add a dash of turmeric to nearly everything from my tomato sauce to scrambled eggs to steamed rice and chocolate truffles, it imparts a lovely color to foods and only tastes strong if you use a significant amount.
- Try tossing a small chunk of fresh turmeric root into your juicer, this will add a little spicy flavor and is an efficient way of consuming the plant for pain relief.
- I even add a pinch of turmeric into some of my DIY formulas to add yellow color, which you can see in the main photo for this piece in my lip balm.
When taken internally, turmeric acts similar to an NSAID pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Naproxen, and it takes a rather large amount to cause the stomach side effects that drugstore pills can have. This doesn’t mean sometimes I don’t just NEED an Aleve when I have the mean reds, but if I steadily dose myself with the golden goodness of curcumin, the pain is decidedly less intense. Nothing a heating pad and a round of cute animal videos won’t help.
External turmeric is a bit tricky, but its benefits are also viable for its use. This stuff stains. I really can’t stress that enough. It will stain your skin, your towels, your sink or tub, your clothes, and even plastic.
To avoid this, I have read that using a treated type of turmeric called Katsuri turmeric will not stain, but even in my city with a large South Asian population, I haven’t come across it to provide any personal anecdotes. If staining and mess is a concern for you, there are also products (albeit imports) that contain curcumin without the yellow aspect.
Vicco Turmeric Cream and Eraser Acne and Pimple cream are two Indian skincare products that I adore that are easy to find on Amazon. The eraser cream is a genius spot cream with so many acne fighting ingredients that I don’t know why it isn’t treated like a miracle product. It is a bit like Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, with calamine, but also contains zinc oxide, which helps zap zits fast!
Getting into turmeric is not only good for your overall health, it helps keep skin clear even from the inside. Try looking up recipes for "Golden Milk." This is something I drink more so in the winter, opting for the fresh root when the weather is nice enough to walk up and get the fresh stuff.
Golden milk is simply turmeric in heated milk, which is a suitable fat-rich substance to deliver it into your body. It is a time old Ayurvedic cure for many different ailments. I know it has helped me with some of my most annoying womanly concerns, namely hormonal acne and menstruation, but it also comes in handy for nasty congestion, brutal hangovers, and my worst migraines. No reason not to keep some on hand!