Turmeric is a relative newcomer to American spice racks, but it’s been a mainstay in Indian cooking—and medicine—for thousands of years. The twisty root that gives your bowl of curry its bright, yellow color and distinctive flavor also holds a place of honor in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric is a rhizome (underground root stem) of the leafy Curcuma longa plant, which is indigenous to India and cultivated in tropical countries like Burma and Indonesia. In India, Ayurvedic practitioners use it for a wide range of purposes, and women apply its powdered root to their faces to give their complexion a golden glow.
Turmeric (haridra in Sanskrit) is bitter, astringent, and pungent in taste. It’s also tridoshic; its heating quality balances Kapha and Vata doshas (mind-body types), and its bitter taste balances Pitta.
Here in the West, scientists are beginning to unearth the benefits of this humble rhizome; more than 1,000 studies tout its efficacy. Below, you’ll find 5 great reasons to incorporate turmeric into your diet, plus tips on how to use it.
1. It Supports a Healthy Inflammatory Response
In India, turmeric has traditionally been used to support the body’s innate inflammatory response. When working properly, your inflammatory response system is a swift, natural mechanism that’s designed to help your body heal and repair—and then return to normal. When that system’s out of balance, however, it can simmer at a low boil. Turmeric supports your inflammatory response in doing what it does best.
2. It Has Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties
For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. For this reason—and because it makes curries taste delicious—this immunity booster has long been part of the daily diet in India.
3. It’s Good for Your Joints
Curcumin is the phyto-ingredient that gives turmeric its distinct yellow color; turmeric powder is often used as a dye for silks and other fabrics. As it turns out, curcumin is also very nourishing for the joints and supports a healthy inflammatory response. For your daily dose of curcumin, consider taking our turmeric in capsule form.
(We do not recommend taking extracted curcumin, as Ayurveda’s focus is on the wholeness value of the plant. Isolates tend to lead to side effects; this is why we offer only whole turmeric root powder at mapi.com.)
4. It’s an Antioxidant
Antioxidants like turmeric help to bolster your immunity and fight free radicals. We can all use more of that! Moreover, it can help to balance the nasal passages and respiratory system.
5. It Promotes Healthy Digestion & More
According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, this golden botanical helps to support a healthy stomach, digestive system, colon (healthy gut), and liver. It’s also been used to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and circulatory system.
How to Use Turmeric in Ayurvedic Cooking
In powdered form, turmeric can easily be sprinkled on any dish or sauté, and you’ll find it in any curry powder worth its salt. It’s also a key ingredient in our dosha-balancing Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Churna Spice Mixtures, which make Ayurvedic cooking easy. A tasty way to use turmeric is to sauté the fresh root in oil with your other spices and then add in your veggies.
You can also slice and dice it when making dhal, curry, and many other dishes (but have your hand soap ready—it tends to stain!). It is also the key ingredient in golden turmeric milk, a popular warm drink with many health benefits.
For more synergistic Ayurvedic formulas that contain turmeric, our Amrit Nectar Paste is a delicious antioxidant jam-like treat that supports overall immunity. You can also sip turmeric in tea form. Our Be Trim Tea helps quell unhealthy cravings, our Sniffle Free Tea restores respiratory balance, and our Organic Kapha Tea offers natural stimulation when you’re feeling sluggish.
Turmeric is a multi-use superfood celebrated in Ayurveda for centuries for its health benefits. Head to the recipe blog for more Ayurvedic recipes with turmeric. Bon appétit!
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