Common Names: turmeric, turmeric root, ‘olena (Hawaiian Turmeric)
Latin Names: Curcuma longa, Curcuma aromatica
Turmeric: Benefits and Uses
Throughout history, humans have relied on numerous herbs and spices for their powerful healing properties. Turmeric is one herbaceous plant that has stood the test of time. It also happens to be all the rage in the modern world of wellness.
Due to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms, turmeric is widely believed to have numerous health benefits.
Turmeric has historically been used to help:
- Reduce chronic inflammation (anti-inflammatory)
- Improve the signs of oxidative stress (antioxidant)
- Stabilize metabolism
- Enhance exercise recovery
- Reduce anxiety & depression
Potential health benefits aside, turmeric has been used around the world for centuries as a cooking spice and natural dye for food and clothing.
The Golden Child of Wellness
Turmeric’s current popularity can, in part, be attributed to wellness entrepreneurs; who are making the golden herb readily available to consumers in delicious and easy to use formats.
You can now get the herb delivered right to your front door in the form of supplements, dried powder, latte mix, coffee creamer, CBD tinctures, and more.
One of our editor’s favorite ways to add turmeric to her routine is a with a delicious turmeric latte, aka “golden milk.” Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric is fat soluble, so it’s smart to make this latte with a fatty nut milk such as coconut milk or macadamia nut milk.
West of Wild Golden Turmeric Latte Recipe
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Cooking Level: Easy
- Serves 2
- 1 Cup Coconut Milk Beverage (unsweetened)
- 1 Cup Macadamia Nut Milk (unsweetened)
- 4 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- Pinch of Black Pepper
- Pinch of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
- Pinch of Cardamom (to taste)
- Pinch of Nutmeg (to taste)
- 1 tbsp. Local honey
- In a small pot, add the coconut milk, macadamia milk, turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and honey.
- Whisk together and bring ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Mixture should reduce slightly.
- Pour mixture into two of your favorite mugs.
- Let cool.
Ancient Plant Wisdom
- Turmeric, a plant in the ginger family, is native to South East Asia.
- Hawaiian turmeric (our personal favorite) was brought to Hawaii in the canoes of Polynesian voyagers. Thus, in the Hawaiian Islands, turmeric or ‘olena, is categorized as a non-native canoe plant.
- Today, turmeric’s rhizome (underground stem) is used to treat conditions such as chronic inflammation and depression. Historically, turmeric was used widely in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
- Curcumin is a major component of turmeric. The activities of turmeric are commonly attributed to curcuminoids (including curcumin and closely related compounds). Curcumin is also what give turmeric its bright yellow color.
- Turmeric dietary supplements are generally made from its dried rhizome and typically contain a mixture of curcuminoids. Similarly, Turmeric lattes contain dried turmeric rhizome, pepper, and healthy fat to aid in absorption. Dried turmeric rhizome can also be used in DIY face masks.
Aside from making a Turmeric Latte, the herb can be consumed in multiple ways, such as:
- A Dietary Supplement
- Whole, Fresh Turmeric ‘root’ (for use in cooking)
- Topical Skincare (face masks, face serums, etc.)
- Combined with CBD (check out our favorite Turmeric + CBD tincture, here)
How To Increase Bioavailability
According to a 2017 study, “ingesting curcumin by itself does not lead to the associated health benefits due to its poor bioavailability”. Luckily, the same study points out that “[t]here are several components that can increase bioavailability.”
The study points to piperine, the major active component of black pepper, as one such component. Further noting that, when combined with curcumin, piperine may increase the bioavailability of turmeric by 2000%.
Thus, you can take turmeric with black pepper to aid in absorption.
Perennials: Environmental Impact
Turmeric is a herbaceous perennial in the Zingiberaceae family and is related to ginger.
When compared to annual plants, (which comprise about 80% of the world’s food crops), perennial plants such as turmeric provide a substantial positive impact on the environment.
This is largely due to their long life cycle—lasting several years. Their longer life cycle allows perennials to grow deep roots that help to fortify the soil.
- to a reduction in soil erosion;
- more efficient water consumption;
- the need for less external fertilizer, and;
- reduced runoff.
Is Turmeric Safe?
According to the NIH:
- Turmeric and conventionally formulated curcumin products are generally safe when taken orally or applied to the skin in the recommended dosage.
- Furthermore, curcumin products are starting to be made with increased bioavailability. However, improving bioavailability may lead to increases both the desirable and potentially harmful effects of turmeric.
- You should always talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use (including turmeric supplements). Especially if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.