Turmeric is both one of the most extensively used spices in the world and one of its most favoured medicines. Much modern research effort has focused on its yellow pigment known as curcumin. However this is extremely poorly absorbed and is barely available to the body’s tissues. It is more likely that the main impact of turmeric and curcumin is via their direct effects within the digestive system. This accords very well with the core theme in traditional India, that turmeric ignites ‘digestive fire’.
Dip your finger in freshly opened pack of turmeric powder and lick it off. Even a small quantity packs a big punch! The first impression is of a very powerful aromatic spice, quickly turning into a taste like black pepper. Then there is a significant bitterness, followed by a second wave of heat and finally a lingering aromatic warm aftertaste.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of turmeric’s key qualities below to learn more:
It is a true education in the power of turmeric to taste it on its own, not integrated into a complex spicy meal. This is clearly a medicine for the gut, that also warms up the rest of our being.
Consider adding turmeric to your daily routine for any long-term inflammatory condition, including with joint pain and skin problems. This is not an unusual measure: the average turmeric consumption in India is several grams per day.
The focus in the traditional reputation of turmeric is on the digestive system. This is key to its benefits on inflammatory problems. The gut turns out time and again to be where chronic inflammations originate and provides many important mechanisms to reduce them. Turmeric is particularly worth trying if there is inflammation within the gut; inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s may often benefit from regular supplementation with turmeric and there seem to be very few such cases where this has exacerbated the conditions.
Turmeric has wider benefits on gut health and as a prebiotic could be an important element in a programme to build a healthy gut microbiome, perhaps after antibiotic therapy or after any depleting illness. It is certainly worth trying for irritable bowel (IBS) symptoms and various forms of indigestion.
It also has a persistent reputation in helping jaundice and what we now refer to as hepatitis. It can also be considered with gallbladder problems or bile stones without risk of exacerbating this condition.
Turmeric is a warming, ‘drying’ spice in the same category as ginger (to which it is related), black pepper and chillies. So look to turmeric particularly if symptoms are worse in cold and damp, which is often the case with arthritic problems.
Women will often find turmeric useful to relieve a variety of menstrual problems, including where there is evidence of pelvic inflammation (tenderness in the region especially mid-month, vaginal discharge, bloating) and where symptoms are relieved by a hot water bottle.
A key concept in Ayurvedic health is that of supporting agni (fire) in the digestion, as a metaphor for all digestive and metabolic processes at the core of health. It relates to the Ayurvedic term ãma: the idea that toxins building particularly in the digestive functions can fuel problems elsewhere in the body.
Turmeric is known as ‘deepana’ – enkindling the digestive fire, and ‘pachana’ helping digestion. This may be the most powerful image for understanding the benefits of turmeric.
The characteristically orange robes of Buddhists were traditionally dyed using turmeric.
Turmeric is very safe and used everyday by vast number of people in Asia and elsewhere.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are