April 10, 2014

Turmeric: The Orange Healing Root.


Ayurveda recognises turmeric as a heating spice; contributing bitter, pungent and astringent tastes.

All doshas can benefit from turmeric and even though it may stimulate Vata, it does not cause an imbalance.

Recently I rediscovered the powerful root turmeric and reintroduced it into my diet.

Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory and for its other medicinal benefits both in Chinese and Indian medicine. According to Ayurveda, turmeric is the best medicine, curing the body as a whole.

Turmeric comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant. With its tough brown skin, it looks like ginger but it typically has a deep orange flesh, which can also be yellow or red.

Only the yellow turmeric is used for cooking and medicine in Ayurveda since red turmeric is considered sacred (kumkuma).

Turmeric is most popularly known as the main spice in curry and is frequently used to flavour curry powders, mustards, and cheeses.

As mentioned, turmeric is a root but can be easily found in many Ayurvedic stores in powdered form for cooking, or even in tablets to take as a supplement.

Many people in Asia and the Middle East cook with turmeric to infuse their meals with its medicinal properties. In addition, it is used for its deep yellow color and slightly bitter flavor. 

In Ayurvedic cooking, turmeric is used generously because it is believed to:

  • detoxify the liver
  • balance cholesterol levels
  • stimulate digestion
  • strengthen the immune system
  • clear the skin and purify blood
  • reduce inflammation
  • balances metabolism
  • help digest protein
  • help with anemia as it is a rich source of iron.
  • improve circulation

It is also an antioxidant and Ayurveda recognises turmeric as a heating spice, contributing bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. All doshas can use turmeric and even though it may stimulate Vata, it does not aggravate it (cause an imbalance).

In “The Yoga of Herbs”, Dr. Frawley and Dr Vasant Lad discuss a fascinating additional benefit: 

“turmeric is effective for cleansing the chakras (nadhi shodahana), purifying the channels of the subtle body. It strengthens the ligaments and is, therefore, good for the practice of Hatha Yoga.”

How and Where to Buy Turmeric

Dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, but I suggest visiting local spice stores or ethnic markets. Due to the large demand and use in these ethnic groups, I found these stores carry superior quality and fresher spices than those offered in regular markets.

Turmeric powder should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Fresh turmeric should be kept in the refrigerator.

If access to a suitable store is an issue, I suggest researching online for qualified and respected vendors. I use Banyan Botanicals for many of my Ayurvedic needs.

How to Use Turmeric

When it comes to cooking, some people like to briefly fry turmeric in ghee, but be careful—you don’t want to burn the spice. I also like to sprinkle turmeric on various cooked dishes for maximum benefit. In addition, I take tablets as supplements when needed.

Turmeric can also be made into a paste and applied to specific area of the body. You can make turmeric tea, and/or sprinkle it into milk, honey, etc. It all depends on its specific use and desired effect.

The list of additional benefits and uses for this wonderful root continues to grow. You can find an abundance of information in books, websites and articles.

I would suggest contacting an Ayurvedic practitioner who can provide you with a protocol that is specific to your needs and will help you find overall wellness.

Although turmeric is generally safe, consider the following points before use.

  • According to WebMD “turmeric usually does not cause significant side effects; however, some people can experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness or diarrhea.”
  • WedMD also gives special precautions and warnings about using turmeric during pregnancy, before surgery, and by persons experiencing gall bladder and gastro-esophageal problems.

Please make sure to visit their website for additional information.


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Apprentice Editor: Ola Weber/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Author’s own

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