“Hello, can you help me?” asked the man at the markets. “I am looking for a lady who is full of colour, flavour and carries herself with style … do you know of anybody?” added the man. “Indeed I do,” replied the lady across the market stall, “you must be looking for Miss Turmeric I believe … she is the only one fitting that description,” the lady continued.
There are many spices that should be in everyone’s diet and one of the best is Turmeric. It appears that although it has been in use for thousands of years, especially in India, China and other Asian countries, turmeric is a relative new comer to the west. Yet by simply putting it in your food and drink, it can do so much good, both in prevention and healing of dozens of conditions. These benefits can happen either directly or indirectly from its use. So lets learn something about this wonderful herb, and start adding it to your daily routine.
The earliest mentions I can find with the use of turmeric started during the Vedic period, which began about 1500 B.C., where it was first used as a dye, and since then it has been used for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Nobody seems to know exactly where it originated from, but probably the best guess is western India, which is the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent.
Somewhere from there, it must have spread quickly across the trade routes into various Asian countries where it grows wild and especially into China, and also into Africa. We know this because it has been used in China medicinally also for thousands of years.
In China, as in many cultures, yellow was very important and only the emperor was allowed to wear yellow.
As turmeric travelled up into medieval Europe, it was used as an alternative to saffron, gaining its name Indian saffron, because saffron was then and is still now, very expensive.
There is a product called Curcuma paper, or Turmeric paper, which was developed around the 1870’s, where a paper was brushed in a tincture of turmeric and allowed to dry. When this paper came into contact with an alkaline substance it turned a reddish-brown. This was used for many years by chemists, but eventually, it was replaced with litmus paper.
The Eclectic/naturopaths of early America never really caught on to turmeric’s benefits, but now they are really starting to get in on the act. This is due to turmeric being a powerful anti-inflammatory and very high in antioxidants.
There are at least 133 species of turmeric, but medicinally, there are two types of turmeric and sadly both are called ‘turmeric’, just to add confusion, and they are Indian turmeric – Curcuma longa and Javanese turmeric – Curcuma zedoaria. Indian turmeric has a yellow/orange colour and Javanese turmeric has white flesh and the Chinese call it E Zhu.
The Chinese herbalist splits up the Indian turmeric into two groups, one is the Yu Jin, which is the primary central tuber, and Jiang Huang, which is the rhizomes or fingers.
In Chinese Traditional Medicine, qualities of the part can be considered warm and cool, amongst other things, and here the Yu Jin is cool, but the E Zhu and the Jiang Huang are warm, therefore they would be used in different ways. But all are good for neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
How To Use Turmeric
The uses of turmeric are really just growing in the West, even though it has been very well known in the East. Somehow, I just feel that many people are put off by this strange yellow to orange powder. I think partly the reason for being put off is due to its ‘pungency’ as putting in too much into your meal can be very strong, but honestly it can be added to many meals and drinks for that matter.
Turmeric has wonderful medicinal benefits worth using. A previous herbalist that I use to work with, use to by it by the barrel full for his clients, so much that he used it in his formulas. Some of the more evidence-based uses have been: Arthritis, eczema, endometriosis, pain, tendinitis, atherosclerosis, bursitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, cancer, cataracts, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones (preventative), halitosis, periodontal disease, heart attacks, HIV/AIDS and indigestion.
Turmeric can make an excellent and health-o-licious tea, latte or what ever brew you design.
Simple Turmeric Tea
- Finely chop 1/4 teaspoon of fresh turmeric rhizome and place it into a cup
- Pour in boiling hot water
- Allow to steep for five minutes
- You can add some sweetener such as raw honey, stevia, or erythritol and a slice of lemon.
Customised Turmeric Teas
Turmeric can have quite a range of other teas and herbs added to it to create fascinating taste sensations, that are worth investigating, even just for the fun of it.
Some of the herbs and fruits that could be added or combined with turmeric could be: Hibiscus, Pomegranate, Orange, Lemon, Guava, Cardamom, Cranberry, Ginger, Mint, Saffron, Lemongrass, Bergamot, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cloves, Nutmeg, Moringa, Fennel and Tulsi.
- 2 cups coconut milk, creamier the better
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1cm / 3/8″ of grated ginger
- Cinnamon and nutmeg powder
- To sweeten use either raw honey, stevia, or erythritol
- Place all the ingredients in a saucepan (except honey, but the dry sweeteners, yes) and stir well.
- Heat over medium heat until it starts to bubble
- Turn down to low and simmer for about 5 minutes so that the flavours combine
- Strain out the grated ginger
- Add honey now if using honey and stir
- Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and nutmeg
Serves 2, because its good to share
It is one of the main ingredients of curries and curry powders, and even more so with commercially made powders. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, if you add turmeric to the oils at the beginning of the cooking process, you will get a more ‘pungent’ dish, but if you add during the cooking then you will have a more milder flavour.
I won’t add any recipes here, as really there would have to be thousands of them out there, but I would certainly invite you to hunt one down and enjoy it. Quite simply. it wouldn’t take much to tempt me, because I enjoy a little curry powder in my egg and lettuce sandwiches.
Although its the rhizomes that are usually dried and made into powder for cooking etc., some folks use the leaves to cook the food in or for flavouring, for example, fish and sweets, as the leaves promote a warm, rich and sweet aroma and others use the flower in their cooking, this is done in Thai cooking. The leaves are picked during the growing season.
A do-it-yourself Curry Powder
Stir and mix together, 10g of ginger, 5g of cayenne pepper, 30g of turmeric powder, 30g of cardamon powder and 30g of coriander seed powder. Place in a recycled herb shaker and use when needed.
Health Uses of Turmeric
Traditional Ayurvedic uses have been to treat inflammation, gastric disorders and coughs and colds. If you want to ‘up-the-ante’, as they say, add a little pepper into the mix as this increases the absorption rate of the constituents. This is caused by the ‘piperine’ in pepper, slightly irritating the stomach lining, allowing the constituents to pass through, ultimately creating better efficacy. Or another way to assist with absorption is to eat it with healthy fats, such as coconut or olive oils, this is because curcumin is ‘fat soluble’. When I personally use curcumin, and extract of turmeric, I often throw in a little turmeric to assist it, as whole herbs are generally better than extracts, due to the synergistic workings of herbs.
It can be used as or in a poultice, or directly placed on cuts or minor burns, infected wounds, bruises, acne, ringworm, sprains, and oedema, and it has been used to alleviate itching or hair removal. Remember that turmeric can stain.
Some suggest that you should not use turmeric when you are trying to conceive, that is, falling pregnant, as it may reduce fertility, or even not to use it during pregnancy, or that you shouldn’t use turmeric long term. If anyone is unsure, then don’t use therapeutic doses. I am personally not sure why this is so, and I will present my argument like this:
The Indian women have been using turmeric in their meals basically for thousands of years, they were breastfed from the moment they were born by mothers who ate turmeric and until the moment they died, they would have consumed turmeric every day of their lives, yet India’s population was 1.37 billion in 2019. Doesn’t sound like a problem to me, maybe some better studies are needed.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Turmeric
With TCM, you really need to divide the turmeric into two groups, one is the tuber, which is the primary central tuber or round, and the other is the rhizome or fingers that come off the tuber, as these have different energy and flavours and affect different organs, and therefore has different actions.
The tuber (Yu Jin)
- Reduces associated pains and moves Blood and breaks Stasis
- Regulates the Liver and relieves patterns of Stagnant Qi with pain
- Clears the Heart and Cools the Blood
- Relieves Stagnation and clears Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder
The Rhizome (Jiang Hunag)
- Unblocks Stasis and moves Blood
- Brings about the movement of Qi and reduces pain
- Clears the meridians and expels Wind and moves Blood to relieve pain
Oil of Turmeric
‘doTERRA’, one of the leaders in essential oils suggest Turmeric oil internally for:
- Supporting healthy glucose and lipid metabolism
- May enhance cellular antioxidant enzymes (e.g. glutathione)
- May help support healthy nervous and cellular function
- Shown to increase curcumin potency and absorption
- Could promote healthy immune function and response
- Maintains clean and healthy-looking skin and reduces blemishes
For further info contact doTERRA
Gardening Uses of Turmeric
Although turmeric is grown mainly for its ‘tuber/rhizome crop’, it does have a beautiful floral spike with dainty yellow to cream flowers peeking out of pockets. You can get different varieties that produce different flowers too. The plant itself does have a worthy looking stalk and lance-shaped leaves, which can add interest to the garden, giving shape, variety and colour to the garden.
Turmeric can be a very productive crop and in one season if grown well, one plant should produce a bucketful of healthy brown rhizomes, which are a orange yellow on the inside.
Due to its powerful yellow colouring ability, turmeric is excellent as a natural dye, this not only includes cloths, silk and cotton, but it is used to colour medicines, paints and varnishes, and also foods, such as cheese and yogurts and confectionaries.
I must add, that turmeric really does have a wonderful ability to stain, and if you are using the extract curcumin, as I have done, the tiniest bit can spread like you wouldn’t believe. Just get a speck on your fingers and for some strange reason it ends up ‘everywhere’!
How to Grow Turmeric
Turmeric is a tropical and subtropical herbaceous perennial plant that is part of the Zingiberaceae family, typically, it is propagated during the spring from either its primary central tuber (sometimes called rounds) that are actually a ‘modified stem’, or from the side shoots called rhizomes, which are also called fingers. The plant can produce actual tuberous roots, which form at the distal ends of the normal roots, these are of no real value.
The reason these are classified as modified stems is due to the fact that they have ‘nodes and internodes. Therefore, it is not a root crop.
The plant can grow to a height of 1m /3′ or more and its leaves are of a lance shape. The spread of the rhizome is unknown, as in, depending on its conditions it could be large or small.
It has a pocket lined floral spike of about 20cm / 8″ long, that is yellow-green in colour and its actual flowers are yellow to creamy white popping out from those pockets, but it does have other variations of colours with pinks.
Turmeric prefers growing in well drained soils that are rich in humus and also prefers a slightly acid soil. It can be planted in either full sun (very hot regions should reduce to part sun) or shade, but give it plenty mulching to prevent weeds competing against it and to preserve moisture. Cuttings and division is normally done in spring and if you are growing in cool to cold climates, then usually the crop be will smaller.
The seed from the turmeric flower is sterile, so you cannot propagate from its seed (although some varieties may be viable). I would personally believe that once it was, but due the man crossbreeding to develop more productive varieties etc., that now its sterile. And honestly it is quicker and easier to grow from the rhizomes.
You can grow turmeric from both the rhizomes, which are the fingers of the sides and the primary central tubers; and when taking cuttings, it must have at least one ‘tooth bud’ or eye/horn. The easiest place to find your rhizomes is at the fruit and veggie shop, just make sure you find the healthiest and freshest piece you can find, or order online.
Place these into a shallow pot of potting mix that is about the same size or slightly larger as the rhizome itself. Only cover the rhizome until the toothed bud is just poking out of the mix. This will now need to be kept over and above 20C / 68F and keep the soil moist and out of the sun. All going well, you should see shoots coming up in about 3 to 4 weeks, once the plant is established, then you can either plant it into a slightly larger pot or out into the garden.
Division is similar to propagating with cuttings as you are simply dividing the same, but now you are separating the sections of the rhizome and the stalk combined. Simply dig up the whole clump out of the ground, split apart the mass of rhizomes, trying to keep sections with at least a couple of buds on each. Replant these pieces into the ground or pots; support them especially if their tall and water them in.
Normally the only pruning that you will need to do is when the stalks die down at the end of autumn or beginning of winter, just to make them look nicer. Otherwise keep the ground slightly moist during the hotter growing months and allow it to become a little dry during the colder and cooler months.
Pest and Diseases
Turmeric normally doesn’t have too many problems with pests and disease, but it does get a few issues. The two pests you should be looking out for are red spider mite and scale, these normally can be controlled by washing or spraying them off with water, horticultural soap or using some other natural controls, such as, lace wings, lady beetles, birds, hoverflies, small wasps and ‘predacious’ thrips and mites.
The diseases that it make get are rhizome rot and leaf spot, the rhizome rot can usually be controlled by using well-draining soils and the leaf spot can sometimes be prevented by plenty of ventilation or controlled by a natural anti-fungal spray or you could try spraying a mix of 1/2 a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 4 litres of water / 1/2 teaspoon to a gallon.
Soil and Fertiliser
As mentioned above, make sure your soil is well draining, slightly acidic with lots of rotted compost and manure, and mulch on top. During its growing season, from spring to late autumn, add some organic pelletised or liquid fertiliser once a month.
Climate and Region
Turmeric is a tropical to subtropical plant, so of course it will grow better if this is where you live. If you are in much cooler climates, then it would be a good idea to either keep it in a pot where you can move it to warmer spots, or keep it in a hot house/ heated glass house during the colder months, as it will need to be kept above 18C / 65F.
You will know when it is time to harvest and that is when you see the leaves start to go yellow and die down, which is usually around the end of autumn into early winter. Once you see this happen, use either a shovel or garden fork to dig up the clump of rhizomes with the stalks, shake out the dirt, and keep a few rhizomes for next season or replant them if you live in a warmer climate.
Typically it takes 8 to 10 months depending where you live to produce a mature crop, so if you live in tropical to subtropical climates then you can plant, harvest and replant every 6 months all year round.
- Place the rhizomes into a saucepan and completely cover with just enough water
- Boil the rhizomes for about 40 to 50 minutes
- If there is any water left over just strain it off
- At this stage you can either carefully remove the skin from the rhizomes or just leave them on
- Now cut them up into thin slices, no more than 3mm / 1/8″ thick
- Evenly spread over a dry paper towel or cloth towel not allowing any to touch each other
- Dry them by exposing to direct sunlight.
- Natural drying can take up to 2 weeks or more depending on where you are and how dry it is
- You can dry these also in a dehydrator at 70C / 158F until completely dry
- Oven drying is one of the quickest, drying at 77 to 94C / 170 to 200F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Making Turmeric Powder
Once you have thoroughly dried your turmeric slices, place them into a blender or coffee or spice grinder, and grind until you have powder. It doesn’t hurt to sieve the powder occasionally to remove the fines so that you can keep breaking down the larger particles.
Very dry powder should last for up to a year or two if stored in a air-tight container out of sunlight. For real freshness and aroma, always dry and grind turmeric freshly and only produce what you will use each time. And if you are making your own, you will know where it came from and that there are no adulterants added.
The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.
Indian turmeric, Indian saffron, Yellow ginger, Karmin, Haldii, Haridra, Gauri, Curcuma, Curcuma domestica, Curcuma rotunda and Yellow turmeric
Rhizome or tuber
Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 4.0 – 12.0 grams
Anti-inflammatory, aromatic, anti-platelet, antioxidant, hypolipidaemic, digestive, choleretic, blood purifier, stomachic, carminative, cholagogue, bile stimulant, detoxifier and regenerator of liver tissue, tonic, astringent, analgesic, antifungal, antibacterial, alterative, anti-cancer, and anti-tumour
Peptic ulcer – includes helicobactor, dyspepsia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Enhances phase 1 & 2 liver detoxification, asthma, topical for chronic skin disorders, cholesterol, liver and gallbladder disease/insufficiency, salmonella, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer preventive, eczema, cardiovascular disease preventative, digestive weakness, psoriasis, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, diarrhoea, epilepsy, and pain. Plus, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypercholesterolaemia
Borneol, eugenol, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol, azulene, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, caryophyllene, cineole, diarylheptanoids – yellow pigments, essential oil, curcuminoids, curcumin, methyloxylated curcumins, sabinene, sesquiterpene ketones, ar-turmerone, guaiacol, limonene, linalool, 1,8-cineole, p-coumaric acid, p-cymene, vanillic acid, zingiberene, vitamins, minerals, protein and bitters
Caution with high doses in anti platelet and anticoagulant drugs, also with gallstones, obstructive jaundice, acute bilious colic and toxic liver disease
Adulterated with similar species or colourants
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“Is your aroma to the sweetest therapy”Herbal Panda