Swagatam, welcome. I am known as “haldi” in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit I have at least 53 different names– bhadra (auspicious or lucky), hemaragi (exhibits golden color), hridayavilasini (gives delight to heart, charming), jayanti (one that wins over diseases), jawarantika (which cures fevers), just to mention a few. As you can tell, I live in India; India produces nearly the world’s entire turmeric crop and consumes 80% of it. With my high content of the important bioactive compound curcumin, I am considered to be the best in the world.
My home is Erode, a city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu; it is the world’s largest producer of, and the most important trading center for, turmeric. I am native to southern India and Indonesia where I have grown for more than 5,000 years. I have served an important role in many traditional cultures throughout the East, including being a revered member of the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia (Ayurveda is India’s ancient holistic health system. Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” with herbs lying at the very heart of Ayurvedic practice). I was probably cultivated at first as a dye, and then became valued as a condiment as well as for cosmetic purposes. I reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD and West Africa by 1200 AD. Arab traders introduced me into Europe in the 13th century and Jamaica in the 18th Century and the ancient Polynesians carried me with them on their incredible voyage across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Today, Hawaiians call me Olena.
Today I am widely cultivated throughout the tropics. I have always been considered an auspicious material in the sub-continent, both amongst the Aryan cultures and the Dravidian cultures. My value has extended far in history with Susruta’s Ayurvedic Compendium, dating to 250 BC; it recommends an ointment containing turmeric to relieve the effects of poisoned food.
Modern medicine has begun to recognize my importance, as indicated by the over 3000 publications dealing with turmeric that came out within the last 25 years. Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, and potassium and the active ingredient curcumin. The medicinal properties of who I am have been slowly revealed over the centuries.
Long known for my anti-inflammatory properties, recent research has revealed that I am a natural wonder, proving beneficial in the treatment of many different health conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. I’m a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns. When combined with cauliflower, I have been shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer; I have even prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice. They say I may prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
I can possibly reduce the risk of childhood leukemia; I am a natural liver detoxifier and may prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain. People even use me as a natural painkiller. I have even been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression. Because of my anti-inflammatory properties, I am a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
One of my ingredients, Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests. Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints.
Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of me to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. Laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that even when breast cancer is already present, curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice. I am a miracle!! I could go on and on, but I’m getting embarrassed.
O.K. now let’s get to how you can eat me. I have a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger. While I am best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, I give ballpark mustard its bright yellow color, yes, I am beautiful too! You can use me on sautéed apples or steamed green beans and onions or how about adding me to a low-calorie dip with dried onion and creamy yogurt.
- Add me to egg salad.
- Mix me with brown rice with raisins and cashews.
- I can give salad dressings a beautiful orange-yellow hue.
- For an especially delicious way to eat me, cut cauliflower florets in half and add a generous spoonful of turmeric and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Once you start using me you will find new ways to use me every single day.
I am awesome with fish, meat or lentils or just mix plain yogurt with a little turmeric, salt and pepper to taste and serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
Let the FUN begin….
Turmeric tends to stain anything it comes into contact with, so be careful.
1/3 cup/ 80 ml good, raw honey 2 1/2 teaspoons dried turmeric
lemon lots of freshly ground black pepper
Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. You can keep this on hand, in a jar, for whenever you’d like a cup. For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot (but not boiling water) into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Add a big squeeze of juice from a lemon, and a good amount of black pepper. Enjoy! Stir now and then as you drink so all the good stuff doesn’t settle to the bottom, or top off with more hot water as you drink it.
Rice Pilaf with Lime & Cashews
- 1 cup basmati rice 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cashews 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2-3 fresh Thai, cayenne or serrano chiles, or 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place rice in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Gently swish grains in the pan with your fingertips until the water becomes cloudy; drain. Repeat 3 or 4 times, until the water remains almost clear. Cover with 1 1/2 cups cold water; let soak for 30 minutes. Bring the rice and water to a boil over medium-high heat, turn to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat; add mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, cover the pan until the popping stops. Reduce heat to medium; add cashews and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat; add lime juice, cilantro, chiles (or jalapeno), turmeric and salt. Add the mixture to the cooked rice; mix well.
Golden Squash Soup
- 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 1 large onion, chopped 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger 1 Tbsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp curry powder 1 Tbsp. + 2-3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 6 oz. canned coconut milk 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt & white pepper to taste
Chop onion and garlic. Peel and cut squash. Heat 1 Tbsp. broth in pot and sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic and ginger, and continue to sauté for another minute. Add turmeric and curry powder, and mix well. Add squash and broth, and mix. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Place in blender and blend with coconut milk. Make sure you blend in batches filling blender only half full. Start on low speed, so hot soup does not erupt and burn you. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Thin with a little broth if needed. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Reheat, and add cilantro.
Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.
Shanti, peace be with you
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.
References: whfoods.com, mnn.com, kew.org.html, Wikipedia.org, ncbi.gov books.com, 101cookbooks.com, allrecipes.com, webmd.com