Turmeric is said to be a real miracle root - if you believe the hype that is being made about it. Its intense yellow color gives it the name 'golden tuber'.
But what exactly is turmeric? What makes the tuber so special? And does she actually have healing powers? We will look into these and other questions in this article and try to give you an understanding of everything to do with turmeric.
the essentials in brief
- Turmeric is a plant species from South Asia and is mainly known in this country as an Asian spice and ingredient in curry powder. In Ayurveda medicine, the tuber has been revered as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. In addition, thanks to its intense color, it is also used as a dye.
- Turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-neoplastic properties. There is growing evidence that an active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can be used medicinally to treat a variety of dermatological conditions.
- You can prepare or use turmeric in a wide variety of forms. There are countless turmeric recipes. But turmeric is also in demand in cosmetics.
Turmeric: What you should know about the 'golden tuber'
In the following we would like to answer the most important questions about turmeric - from the ingredients to their healing effects and the different uses.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric, also known as saffron root, turmeric or yellow ginger, is a plant species from South Asia. It belongs to the ginger family. The rhizome, that is to say the rootstock, is very similar to that of ginger, but it is intensely yellow.
In Ayurveda medicine, the tuber has been revered as a medicinal plant for thousands of years, but in this country it is better known as an Asian spice that gives the curry its characteristic color.
Easily mistaken for ginger from the outside until the peel is removed revealing the distinctive color of turmeric. (Image Source: FOODISM360 / Unsplash)
What is turmeric used for?
The peeled tuber is used fresh or dried as a spice but also as a coloring agent . In Indian and Chinese medicine, on the other hand, turmeric is an important medicinal product .
Turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-neoplastic properties.
There is growing evidence that an active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can be used medicinally to treat a variety of dermatological conditions.(1)
Various studies have examined the effectiveness of turmeric in relation to various skin diseases such as acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, facial photoaging, photophobia in the mouth, itching, psoriasis, radiodermatitis and vitiligo.
Several studies found a statistically significant improvement in skin disease severity in the turmeric/curcumin treatment groups compared to the control groups. Overall, there is early evidence that turmeric/curcumin products and supplements, both oral and topical, may provide therapeutic skin health benefits.(1)
In addition, clinical studies document the effectiveness of curcumin or turmeric extracts in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the small number of previous studies and their methodology by no means place the findings on a secure scientific basis.(2,6,9)
Other studies suggest that the active ingredient curcumin has a positive effect on blood pressure when taken over a long period of time.(3)
Curcumin has been shown to modulate multiple cell signaling pathways simultaneously, and thereby alleviate many different types of cancer. In other words, taking curcumin can improve the quality of life of cancer patients in support of medical therapy. In 2005, a congress in the USA recognized turmeric as the only natural remedy that can be used usefully for the prevention and adjuvant treatment of cancer, no matter what the tumor.(3,7)
It has also been found that curcumin may have a beneficial role in diabetes and its complications. Scientific literature shows that curcumin has antidiabetic effects and reduces diabetes complications.(4,8)
Finally, turmeric may even play a beneficial role in dementia and Alzheimer's. Studies suggest improvement in symptoms with turmeric treatment.(10,11)
How Much Turmeric Should You Consume Per Day?
According to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) and the World Health Organization, a daily dose of up to 3 g of turmeric powder is recommended. The duration of the application is not limited.
What ingredients are in turmeric?
100 g of dried turmeric contains approximately:
|nutritional values||per 100g|
|of which sugars||2.0g|
When looking at the nutritional values, a very healthy picture emerges. Turmeric is about 20% fiber, which is great for your gut bacteria. In this way you get your digestion going and lay the foundation for the optimal absorption of the important vital substances from your diet.
The ratio between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids is also correct. This strengthens your cardiovascular system, among other things. In addition, turmeric contains very little sugar.
The many carbohydrates in turmeric, which add a lot of calories, can be disadvantageous. However, since you will normally only consume turmeric in small amounts, it is easy to overlook it.
In what form can I consume or use turmeric?
You can prepare or use turmeric in a wide variety of forms.
On the one hand, you can of course take turmeric orally. You can either use turmeric powder or get fresh turmeric. There are countless ways to prepare turmeric. Here are some inspirations:
- Smoothie : Blend some fresh turmeric into your smoothie.
- Turmeric Tea : Fresh turmeric slices make a particularly good tea to infuse with hot water. It is best to cut the turmeric with gloves, as the root stains heavily.
- " Golden Milk ": The in-drink is very easy to prepare. Heat 1 cup of milk (vegetable or animal based as you prefer) along with 1 teaspoon of turmeric paste (comprising 1/4 cup of turmeric powder and 1/2 cup of water) and a pinch of ground pepper while stirring. Pour the seasoned milk into a cup, stir in a teaspoon of coconut oil and a little honey to sweeten if needed. Depending on your mood, you can also experiment with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg at the end.
- Immunity-Shot : The turmeric-ginger shot quickly became a hype drink. A freshener for every morning, the shot is designed to arm the immune system against any illness. There are different recipes, all with turmeric and ginger playing the leading role. The shots are now also available for purchase.
- Turmeric spice : As a spice, turmeric is particularly suitable for Asian cuisine. The yellow powder is an integral part of the curry powder and gives it its yellow color. For seasoning, however, turmeric should be used sparingly, as it tastes slightly bitter in larger quantities.
- Turmeric Oil : Turmeric oil is obtained by steam distillation of the crushed root tuber. The essential oil is suitable for both internal and external use.
- Turmeric preparations : In addition to turmeric in powder form, the root is also available in tablet and capsule form. The preparations are available in health food stores, organic shops and online shops. They often also contain black pepper, which contributes to the optimal absorption of curcumin. Depending on the preparation, tablets and capsules are taken several times a day with a little water.
The golden milk is a drink from Ayurvedic cuisine. The milk gets its yellow color from turmeric, to which it also owes its name. (Image Source: Sarah Gualtieri / Unsplash)
On the other hand, turmeric is also in demand for external use, i.e. in cosmetics. There, turmeric acts as an antioxidant. It thus maintains healthy cell properties and inhibits the development of bad cell properties.
When applied externally, it has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. Here are some cosmetic uses of turmeric:
- Turmeric as an anti-wrinkle agent
- Turmeric as an exfoliant
- Turmeric as a night cream
- Turmeric as an acne cream
- Turmeric as a moisture mask
- Turmeric in shampoo for dandruff and scalp problems
How can I use turmeric effectively?
Since the curcumin contained in turmeric is not water-soluble, it is difficult for the body to absorb it outside of meals. In addition, it only stays in the bloodstream for a short time. In such a case one speaks of poor bioavailability. In order to be able to improve this, meaning to be able to absorb the curcumin better, you should consider the following:
- Always take with black pepper: The piperine found in black pepper helps improve the absorption of curcumin. A pinch is usually enough.
- Ingestion with fat: Turmeric and the curcumin contained in turmeric are not water-soluble, but fat-soluble. Therefore, turmeric should always be taken together with fat. So use turmeric to flavor fatty foods. Coconut oil can be used with turmeric for desserts. If you use fresh turmeric tubers, the naturally contained oils help absorb the active ingredient.
Can I plant turmeric?
Yes, turmeric is very easy to grow and propagate at home. The cultivation succeeds with the following tips:
- Get some fresh turmeric. You will usually find what you are looking for in a well-stocked Asian market. It is up to you whether you use a piece of the rhizome that is only about five centimeters in size or the whole piece. However, a larger plant will also grow more quickly from a larger part.
- Turmeric has a high temperature requirement. Therefore, propagation in spring or summer is recommended.
- It is important that the interface with parts of a rhizome can dry out for a few days before the root is put into the ground.
- Use a high-quality, well-drained soil.
- Fill a suitable pot with soil and dig a hole about two inches deep. Put the turmeric in, cover with soil and water lightly.
- You can either harvest the newly formed rhizomes in winter, or leave them in the pot and hibernate dry at around 10°C. This allows the rhizomes to sprout again in spring. Of course, you can also simply harvest a part and overwinter a part.
Does Turmeric Have Side Effects?
In its natural form, turmeric can hardly be overdosed. However, if you take highly concentrated turmeric extract, for example in the form of capsules, this can have a negative effect on the body over a longer period of time if the dosage is too high.
A daily amount of about 8-12 grams of turmeric is considered to be too high a dosage.
So far, gastrointestinal complaints have been identified as side effects of too high a dose. There is a risk of diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and stomach pain.
Some groups of people should prefer not to consume turmeric. This includes people with gallstones, people with liver disease, people with stomach problems, pregnant women and young children.(5)
How long does turmeric keep?
Of course, a distinction must be made between fresh turmeric and dried turmeric.
Fresh turmeric roots can be kept for longer if stored correctly. Roots that have been stored too moist and for too long can form mold, while roots that have been stored too warm can dry up or even sprout.
A fresh turmeric root should ideally be stored in the crisper in the fridge. It must not be packed in airtight containers, otherwise it will become moldy. You can definitely keep the fresh turmeric root in the fridge for several weeks.
Turmeric powder, on the other hand, has a shelf life of about two to three years. For the longest possible shelf life, the powder, like all other spices, should be stored in a dark, dry and cool place and fired airtight.
What to do about turmeric stains?
It is not for nothing that turmeric is also used as a dye, because turmeric can leave stubborn stains on clothing.
However, there are some home remedies that might help:
- Baking soda : Mix a packet of baking soda with a little water to form a thick paste. Now work the paste into the stain. Then the garment goes into the normal wash.
- Sparkling water : Dampen a rag with the water and place it on the stain. Let the whole thing soak for about five minutes, then blot it dry with a dry cloth.
- Light Vinegar : Mix 1-2 tablespoons with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol (colorless) or with 2 cups warm water and dish soap. Now dip a rag into the mixture and use it to work on the stain. You should repeat this process several times if necessary.
- Bleach : Warning Bleach can only be used on white clothing! Take some bleach and dissolve it in a bowl of hot water. Let the white garment soak for about 15 minutes and then put it in the washing machine.
What alternatives are there to turmeric?
You don't have turmeric at hand and are looking for an alternative? We present two variants:
Saffron threads have a very intense taste. Of course, saffron does not taste like turmeric, but saffron also provides an intense yellow color. In addition, saffron is also a common ingredient in curry powder and is used in Indian, Spanish and Persian cuisine.
Turmeric belongs to the ginger family. As the name suggests, the two bulbs belong to the same plant family. They are not only similar in appearance, but both act as medicinal plants.
There are differences in taste: turmeric is a bit milder, while ginger is known for its fruity spiciness.
However, ginger is a good alternative if you want to benefit from similar positive effects on the body.
Turmeric, it can be said, has actually earned its name as a miracle root. It has multiple and proven health benefits. There are countless recipes that make it easy for you to regularly consume turmeric through your diet. But turmeric supplements can also help you reap the health benefits.
Turmeric can be beneficial for your skin not only internally, but also externally. You can prepare your own turmeric masks or buy appropriate cosmetic products with turmeric. In addition, turmeric acts as a natural and therefore environmentally unproblematic coloring agent.
- Vaughn AR, Branum A, Sivamani RK. Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Skin Health: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence. Phytother Res. 2016;30(8):1243-1264. doi:10.1002/ptr.5640
- Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 2016;19(8):717-729. doi:10.1089/jmf.2016.3705
- Devassy JG, Nwachukwu ID, Jones PJ. Curcumin and cancer: barriers to obtaining a health claim. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(3):155-165. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuu064
- Nabavi SF, Thiagarajan R, Rastrelli L, et al. Curcumin: a natural product for diabetes and its complications. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(23):2445-2455. doi:10.2174/1568026615666150619142519
- Prof. Dr. Sigrun Chrubasik Hausmann Specialist in General Medicine
- Chin KY. The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016;10:3029-3042. Published 2016 Sep 20. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S117432
- Kanai M, Imaizumi A, Otsuka Y, et al. Dose escalation and pharmacokinetic study of nanoparticle curcumin, a potential anticancer agent with improved bioavailability, in healthy human volunteers. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2012;69(1):65-70. doi:10.1007/s00280-011-1673-1
- Appendino G, Belcaro G, Cornelli U, et al. Potential role of curcumin phytosome (Meriva) in controlling the evolution of diabetic microangiopathy. A pilot study. Panminerva Med. 2011;53(3 Suppl 1):43-49.
- Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719-1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639
- Hishikawa N, Takahashi Y, Amakusa Y, et al. Effects of turmeric on Alzheimer's disease with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Ayu. 2012;33(4):499-504. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.110524
- Mustafa M. Husain, Yamna Channa, Mohan Chilukuri Turmeric for Prevention of Dementia: Food for Thought The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Volume 26, Issue 3, March 2018, Pages 278-279