As you know, I’m crazy about herbs, spices, and medicinal plants. Turmeric is definitely a top star in my go to list of herbs and on my counter in fresh root and powder forms used by me daily in several different applications from self oil massage to teas, cuisine, and wound care.
Turmeric, Curcuma Longa, is an amazing rhizome from India that has been used for centuries as a cooking spice, home remedy, preventative, curative, and adaptogenic tonic in daily Indian life. Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, in ‘The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs’, calls it “the medicine cabinet in a jar’. Here’s a great opportunity to follow the advice of the father of modern medicine and “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
Turmeric, also known as Haldi in Ayurvedic Medicine, is a superstar when it comes to skin disorders, especially eczema and psoriasis, as it reduces heat and cleanses the liver. It has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and pain in osteoarthritis sufferers, and to reduce symptoms of depression in folks who have major depressive disorder.
Turmeric and one of it’s major constituents, curcumin, have actions against several potent carcinogens, including cigarette smoke. According to Singh Khalsa, in smokers given turmeric at the rate of 1.5 grams a day for 30 days the formation of mutagenic (cancer causing) chemicals was greatly reduced. Turmeric has been shown to have positive anti-cancer affects at all stages of cancer development.
Turmeric has been shown to normalize cholesterol, reduce serum cholesterol in the blood, and remove accumulations of cholesterol in the liver. It has also been shown to reduce arterial plaque and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The absorption of Turmeric and it’s anti-inflammatory and significant anti-oxidant properties have been shown to be greatly increased by combining turmeric with piperine found in black pepper, which is traditionally the way it is taken in teas and curries with the two spices combined.
This is a short list of the many healing properties of turmeric. This rhizome is a can do root. Dig it!
Here are some great, easy ways to incorporate Turmeric into your daily life;
(If you’d like to learn more about cooking and self care with turmeric, join in my upcoming spring cleanse workshop this April)
Abhyanga (Self massage) Oil
Daily self massage is a foundational maintenance, prevention, and self care practice of the Ayurvedic tradition. There are many types of oleation, or oiling, both internal and external in Ayurveda. John Douillard says that scientists have discovered that the microbes in our intestines secrete a substance almost identical to ghee (clarified butter) in order to keep our intestines well lubricated and healthy.
Our skin absorbs 60-100% of what we apply to it, which is why we should be careful about our self care products, and why there is so much benefit from daily application of herb infused oils. This is a great way to get your turmeric through the skin.
Vata Abhyanga Oil
1c ghee or sesame oil
1/4c mixed herbs: turmeric root, fresh ginger, lotus root, fresh basil, cloves, and fresh orange peel in any combination
Essential Oils (optional): Jasmine, Basil, Orange, Rose
Pitta Abhyanga Oil
1c ghee or coconut oil
1/4c mixed herbs:turmeric root, licorice root, and lemongrass in any combination
Essential Oils (optional): saffron, sandalwood, coriander, lime
Kapha Abhyanga Oil
1c sesame or mustard seed oil
1/4c mixed herbs: turmeric root, whole black peppercorn, fresh ginger, fresh lemon peel, and cloves in any combination
Essential Oils (optional): patchouli, lemon, eucalyptus, cardamom
*In a small saucepan heat oil gently until it is beginning to boil but not smoking. stir in the herbs and remove from heat. Cover and let the herbs steep in the oil for a day and up to two days. Strain the oil through cheesecloth into a clean airtight container. Add 5-8 drops of essential oil if desired. Use for full body self massage before morning shower and meditation/yoga practice. If you cannot dedicate yourself to full body massage, just massage into the feet before bed and wear socks to protect your sheets and let the feet absorb the herb infused oil.
*Recipes adapted from ‘Inner Beauty‘ by R.M. Hora
- 2 cups of milk (or substitute coconut milk)
- 1 teaspoon dried turmeric (or one-half inch fresh turmeric thinly sliced or diced)
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger (or one-half inch fresh ginger thinly sliced or diced)
- a sprinkle of black pepper
- honey to taste (add after the milk infusion has been poured into glasses, do not heat and boil honey)
Place milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add turmeric, ginger, and pepper. Stir well if you are using the dried spices. Let the milk begin to simmer — small bubbles will form on the sides of the saucepan. Stir continuously for a minute or two and then turn off and let sit covered for a few minutes to meld the flavors. Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into cups and add honey to taste.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ cup organic whole or split mung beans (bulk section of the health food store) These need to be soaked for at least three hours before cooking.
- 4-6 cups of water
- 2 T ghee (clarified butter) An organic brand will be available at the health food store
- 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches hing (asafetida)
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 stick of kombu (seaweed) Also available at the health food store. You can substitute Wakame if need be. You just need a little. One “leaf” per pot of soup.
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 – 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional)
Wash rice and mung and soak for three hours or overnight. Drain soak water.
In a saucepan warm the ghee. Add the ginger, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and hing, and sauté for one to two minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop and the aroma of the spices is released. Add rice and mung beans and sauté for 2-4 minutes or until they start sticking to the sides of the pot. Then add 4-6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the seaweed, salt, and turmeric, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until beans & rice are tender (approx. 30-45 minutes). If you are adding vegetables to your kitchari, add the longer cooking vegetables such as carrots and beets halfway through the cooking. Add the vegetables that cook faster such as leafy greens near the end. Your finished kitchari should be the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. If you need to add more water, you can. Taste and add additional salt and fresh ground pepper as needed.