This potent yellow spice has been revered for thousands of years — here, learn why.
For thousands of years, this golden yellow spice has been revered for not only its signature flavor, but also its powerful medicinal benefits. In fact, ancient Ayurvedic texts even named turmeric "the giver of happiness and prosperity," since in the Ayurvedic tradition, health is considered wealth.
A vast amount of research (more than 3,000 studies in the past 25 years) continues to reveal turmeric’s effectiveness at improving and preventing variety of health challenges, from arthritis to heart disease. It's theorized that turmeric's potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are the two primary mechanisms that explain the majority of its health-bestowing effects on the body.
In addition to consuming turmeric in supplement form, it's easy to incorporate into your daily habits in a variety of ways — from meals to face masks! Let’s explore more of turmeric's powers, plus two ways to use it, below.
Immune System Support
The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Research shows that curcumin acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Some inflammation is necessary in your body, as it helps the body ward off foreign invaders and heal damage to your immune system. However, inflammation becomes problematic when it goes awry and attacks your body’s own tissues.
Researchers at leading institutions across the board now believe that inflammation plays a big part in almost all chronic diseases, from cancer to heart disease. Combating inflammation regularly with the anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric may provide a way to maintain immunity and prevent the onset of chronic disease.
Another one of turmeric’s nicknames in Ayurveda is "the giver of beautiful complexion." In Ayurveda, your skin is considered a mirror both of your mind and your digestion. Your skin is the largest organ of digestion in your body, so what you put onto your skin is just as important as what you put inside your body.
Turmeric is an excellent "skin food" due to its strong blood purifying properties, which give you beautiful, glowing skin. In Ayurveda, it is used to treat a variety of skin conditions ranging from acne to hyperpigmentation to hives.
Respiratory System Health
Turmeric is also a powerful support for your respiratory system. Due to its drying quality, turmeric helps reduce watery nose or eyes as well as decrease excess buildup of water in the body that can cause swelling.
Digestive imbalances, per Ayurveda, are the root of all respiratory issues. When clients complain about respiratory issues, Ayurveda practitioners (like myself), investigate what they are eating because respiratory problems signify an inability to digest your food. Turmeric can assist with respiratory problems because of its relationship with digestion. It not only helps you digest what you eat, but it also stimulates your appetite and cleanses, helping your body detoxify itself at all levels.
To Capsule, or Not to Capsule?
As an Ayurveda practitioner, I get asked this question a lot. My answer? It’s always preferable to consume turmeric as part of your daily diet first and foremost. Because turmeric is so powerful, it’s important to remember not to overdo it either. A little bit of turmeric a day goes a long way. As a general guideline, include 1/4 teaspoon per person in your savory foods to ensure adequate daily consumption of this herb. Try to add black pepper to your meals with turmeric too, as piperine, one of the ingredients in pepper, can boost your body's absorption by up to 2,000 percent.
The curcuminoid proprietary blend in our Turmeric Protect is a highly concentrated curcumin — seven times more concentrated than food-based sources of curcumin.
To gain the deepest benefit from herbs, I strongly believe in this customized approach, as herbs are very powerful medicinal substances that ideally need to be consumed under the care and guidance of a seasoned expert. (Book an Ayurvedic session with me here.)
Turmeric-Yogurt Soup Recipe
This recipe greatly benefits your digestive system, and also helps you build up immune resilience as a result — as strong immunity begins with having strong digestion.
- 1 cup coconut yogurt (or fresh yogurt from well-treated cows)
- 4 cups water
- 2 tsp ghee
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 4-6 curry leaves
- 1 tsp grated fresh turmeric root or powder
- 1/2 cup of your favorite squash
- 1/2 tsp pink rock salt
- 1/4 cup mung dal flour
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and water so that the yogurt dissolves into a liquid form. Set aside.
- Add ghee to a large saucepan over medium heat and then add fennel seeds and curry leaves until the leaves start to sputter (10-20 seconds).
- Add turmeric and squash and mix everything together well.
- Add salt, followed by the mung dal flour and the yogurt and water mixture prepared in step 1.
- Make a paste with the mung dal flour and water so there are no lumps. As the mung flour cooks, it will thicken the mixture.
- Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cook for another 7-10 minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro and enjoy warm with tortillas or your favorite kind of rice, quinoa or other grain.
Turmeric Face Mask Recipe
Right before Indian weddings, there is a special tradition where relatives of the bride and groom apply a special paste of turmeric powder to help bring out their beauty in anticipation of the wedding day.
It’s best to do this face mask on a day when you’re not planning to go anywhere, as the turmeric can temporarily cause some yellowness on your face. Allocate a special "turmeric towel" to wash your face and rest assured that it will all come off within one to two days.
- 1 tbsp chickpea powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Enough milk to make a paste
Combine ingredients together and apply to your face until it dries. Then rinse off in the shower.
Ananta Ripa Ajmera is the Director of Ayurveda at THE WELL, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga instructor. In her one-on-one sessions at THE WELL, she provides personalized guidance to help clients create a spiritual and seasonal lifestyle that helps you align with nature's rhythms. Learn more here.