A perennial herbal plant related to ginger, turmeric grows 5 to 6 feet tall in tropical regions around the world. The largest producer of turmeric is India, where this flavorful plant is used for seasoning, particularly in curry dishes. In other areas turmeric is also used for medicinal purpose.
The roots, or rhizomes and bulbs, are cultivated for a variety of uses. The roots are boiled, dried and then turned into a beautiful golden powder. This powder is then used for medicine and culinary dishes.
In addition to its culinary use, there is much talk about its health benefits. Are they true?
Here is what the research says:
- Curcumin, the active substance in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants aid against cell damage.
- Curcumin lowers the level of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.
- Curcumin stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.
- Curcumin has been found to reduce the symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering with indigestion.
- Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, it may also reduce osteoarthritis pain.
Herbs have been used for centuries for treating disease and strengthening the body. Herbs should always be used in moderation and taken with care. Since herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements and medication you should always consult your physician if you are using turmeric in a medicinal way.
When used for culinary purposes turmeric can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Here are a few recipe suggestions for incorporating turmeric into your culinary repertoire:
- Turmeric pairs beautifully with warm spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and ginger. Add these spices to soups.
- Turmeric blends nicely with coconut milk, making a delicious curry.
- Mix turmeric with milk, honey and pumpkin spice for the latest craze- Golden Milk.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of turmeric to your favorite pumpkin, zucchini or banana muffin mix.
- In the Fall make autumnal dishes including smoothies or cocktails by mixing turmeric, pureed apples or pumpkin.
Want to experiment with turmeric? Try this recipe for turmeric Tea.
- Bring four cups of water to a boil.
- Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup; add honey and/or lemon to taste.
- Add a pinch of black pepper to increase absorption.
Written by Lenelle Bear, Nutrition Links Program, which is one of the many programs of Penn State Extension.