Turmeric, Curcuma longa
This beautiful golden root is a powerful medicinal herb. Best known, perhaps, as the spice that gives Curry powder its distinctive color, Turmeric is used alone and in blends to season food, support digestive and joint health, and treat many internal and external health complaints. I could go on an on about the wonders of Turmeric, but to keep things simple, I’d like to talk about its use as a Digestive Tonic, an Anti-inflammatory for the Joints, and as a Non-toxic and easy to use dye for natural fabric and yarn, and even hair!
Digestive and Liver Tonic
Turmeric root is often touted as a liver and gall bladder tonic. Its bitter activity stimulates the liver, and helps break down fats in the digestive system. I found this out first hand many years ago.
While I was a student, a friend of mine wanted to share a favorite dish with a group of friends, and made an enormous batch of homemade latkes for us. Being students, as soon as they came out of the pan, we devoured the whole of them in all too short a time. They were delicious and amazing, but it didn’t take long for all of us to start to feel uncomfortable in the belly from the amount of frying oil we had just consumed.
Most of us were studying Herbalism at the time, and we pondered what might be in the house that would help us feel better. We found a bottle of New Chapter’s Turmeric Force, capsules full of concentrated extract of Turmeric. We figured it was worth a try, and each of us took one.
The first thing we noticed is that the capsules tasted really good. At that strong a concentration, that was a bit unusual. I think I was the first one to bite down on my capsule, to release the liquid extract, and it tasted amazing to me. I suggested the others try it, and everyone thought it tasted great. When an herb that doesn’t usually taste good to you suddenly tastes wonderful, it’s a sure sign that your body needs whatever is in that herb. The same goes for foods. They body knows best.
In our case, within a very short time, maybe 20 minutes, all of us started to feel better, and we were blown away by how effective the Turmeric had been. Since then I have carried a few Turmeric Force capsules in my purse for eating out at restaurants or other unfamiliar places. For what I consider the ultimate digestive tonic, mix about two parts Ginger root to one part Turmeric root. As a tea, this is a little bit of an acquired taste. If you prefer, you can blend the powders together and mix with a bit of honey. Or, for convenience, use New Chapter’s critically extracted capsules, Turmeric Force and Ginger Force.
Anti-inflammatory for the Joints
Turmeric is often recommended these days for aches and pains, and mild arthritis. It blends well with Ginger, Boswellia, and other traditional joint tonics. As an anti-inflammatory, Turmeric soothes and loosens the joints. It is traditionally used by Yogis to open the joints and deepen their Asana practice. The famous Golden Milk Preparation, which at its simplest is Turmeric, Ashwagandha, and Ghee in warm milk, is an ideal way to take Turmeric to soften and strengthen the joints for Yoga. It also aids in cooling down after a hard workout, and speeds the healing of small tears in the muscles from running or lifting weights.
A Non-Toxic Yarn and Fabric Dye
Have you ever been interested in hand-dying fabric, but don’t want to mess around with unfamiliar chemicals? Well, two plants, Turmeric and Black Tea, make good dyes without using any chemical fixatives (mordants). Turmeric makes a beautiful golden-yellow dye. The photo below is of a naturally white wool yarn that has been dyed with plain Turmeric root.
I’ve also used Turmeric to dye linen and cotton fabric, and even my hair. For a long time I dyed my hair with Red Henna mixed with Turmeric for a shockingly bright orange look. It’s lots of fun, easy to do, and fades naturally over several months. Just add about a teaspoon of Turmeric powder to an ounce of Red Henna and follow the Henna instructions.
I love Turmeric, and use it every day, as a cooking spice, to keep my sometimes cranky digestive system in line, and as a general anti-inflammatory to support my high-Pitta constitution. Whether taken as a powder, liquid extract, in Golden Milk, or in capsules, Turmeric is a wonderful addition to your daily herbal regimen.
In good health!