"Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.” — Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, “The Mistress of Spices”
Turmeric. Though a novelty in the West, many in the East are familiar with this yellow tinged herb. Turmeric has been used for centuries as a cooking spice, and is often seen in its powdered form in many an Indian kitchen. Despite it’s ubiquitous use, many are unaware that this golden powder comes from the root of a plant in the ginger family. Turmeric, like ginger, has numerous medicinal properties.
Turmeric is also known by one of its plant components, curcumin. This is a popular supplement at health food stores due to its anti inflammatory effects. However, herbs are composed of hundreds of phytonutrients that work synergistically to provide an optimal medicinal effect, and are best used in the whole form. Therefore, although an individual constituent like curcumin may have limited efficacy, it cannot provide the maximum impact of the whole plant or herb.
In the East, turmeric is often mixed into a glass of milk as a remedy for various ailments. It is also used in daily cooking to promote general immunity. However, one of the most potent formulations of turmeric is the extract. This concentrated form can effectively relieve swelling and irritation related to disease processes like arthritis, the common cold or bronchitis. In addition, it can be used to prevent damage as a pre-workout supplement or help heal injury after working out.
Turmeric also has anti microbial effects, so may help in preventing infectious processes like the common cold or help reduce the symptoms of such illness. Whether it is used for acute or chronic situations or eaten as food or taken as a supplement, turmeric can be a potent herb to reduce inflammation from various disease processes.