What effect does turmeric have on our health?
Turmeric has long been an integral part of Ayurvedic medicine. In curries, ‘golden milk’ or ginger and turmeric tea, the yellow tuber has an analgesic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. Turmeric is also said to prevent skin ageing and even diseases such as Alzheimer's or cancer.
Turmeric – plant and spice
Anyone who likes to cook Indian food is familiar with turmeric. In ground form, the spice gives curry powder its bright yellow colour. It's for this reason that turmeric is also known as Indian saffron. The stem is very similar in appearance to ginger. However, the inside of the stem, or rhizome, is not yellowy-white, but a strong yellow colour. Compared to ginger, turmeric tastes rather mild and somewhat bitter. In India, which is both the largest cultivator and consumer of the yellow tuber, turmeric has been used as a spice and remedy for several thousand years.
What effects are attributed to turmeric?
In Ayurveda – and also in traditional Chinese medicine – turmeric is prescribed for liver disorders. The bitter substances it contains stimulate the production of bile juices. This facilitates fat digestion, relieves the liver and prevents bloating and flatulence even after a heavy meal. Orthodox medical studies have also proven the health benefits of the curcumin contained in turmeric, due primarily to its anti-inflammatory effect. Thus, curcumin not only has a beneficial effect on the gastrointestinal tract, but also helps with osteoarthritis, for example, and with exercise-related inflammation or muscle soreness.
Curcumin is also said to have an antioxidant effect. This means that it prevents skin ageing. There is much to be said for curcumin's potential in treating serious diseases, including Alzheimer's and cancer. However, further clinical studies are needed to confirm these research results.
What to note when consuming turmeric
If turmeric is consumed alone, our bodies can only process a fraction of the curcumin it contains. To ensure that as much as possible of the ingredients are absorbed into our intestines and then enter the bloodstream, it is recommended that turmeric is consumed:
with the piperine contained in black pepper,
in combination with fats such as coconut oil or olive oil or fatty ingredients such as plant-based milk or almond butter,
in hot or heated form.
This is because the curcumin contained in turmeric is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble. According to studies, absorption increases by an astounding 2,000% in combination with piperine. The addition of fats also increases the absorption capacity. Heating produces additional active ingredients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Recipe: golden milk
To make golden milk – also called turmeric latte – finely blend the following ingredients in a mixer and then heat. If the consistency is not fine enough after blending, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. A pinch or more of pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg can be added according to taste.
Ingredients for one cup:
- 150ml plant-based milk
- 100ml water
- 1 piece of fresh turmeric root or 1 level tsp. of turmeric powder
- 1 piece of ginger
- ground, black pepper
- ground cinnamon
- ground nutmeg
- coconut oil
- Date syrup, rice syrup or honey to sweeten
Recipe: turmeric and ginger tea
The daily dose of up to three grams of turmeric recommended by the WHO can be consumed throughout the day in the form of a tea. To do this, steep fresh turmeric and ginger root slices together with lemon peel, chopped peppercorns and a cinnamon stick in hot water for about ten minutes. Then strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Finally, add lemon syrup, coconut oil and, for those who prefer it sweet, honey or rice syrup.
Ingredients for around 1 to 1.5 litres of hot water:
- 1 piece of turmeric root or 1 tsp. of turmeric powder
- 1 piece of fresh ginger
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns or a pinch of ground pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- honey or rice syrup
Nice to know: The addition of oil and pepper to tea takes some getting used to at the beginning. It is therefore advisable to start with lower doses.