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Ayurvedic herb focus: Turmeric

Turmeric seems to be the hot supplement right now, and for good reason. Ayurveda makes great use of this bright orange spice.

Turmeric is most famously known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. This comes in handy when dealing with muscle or joint pain, headache, inflamed sinuses, and skin rashes. Turmeric acts as a vulnerary, meaning that it doesn’t simply reduce inflammation but also actually repairs the tissues. Yogis love turmeric because it helps keep the body pain-free during asana and long periods of meditation.

One of my favorite ways of taking turmeric is to make a paste of dried turmeric and fresh, raw honey. Keep this paste handy – you will find many uses for it. I keep a jar in my cupboard at all times, so it’s always ready whenever I need it. An easy way to relieve a headache is to make a tea with this paste. I take a tea mug, fill it about a third of the way with cold water, and then fill it the rest of the way with hot water. Add a spoonful of the turmeric-honey paste, a few grinds of black pepper (to help absorb the turmeric) and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir and drink. **As a side note, never heat honey, as this cooks the honey which destroys many of it’s medicinal properties as well as creating ama, which is a sort of toxic sludge and the root of most disease. This is why I start with cold water added to the hot water; then it’s the perfect temperature.

This turmeric-honey paste can also be used on cold sores. I’ve found it quickly reduces and heals their ugly little breakouts. Just smear a bit of the paste on the sore, and you’re done. It certainly tastes much better than other cold sore medicine, and works better too.

Yogis like to make and drink golden milk, which is essentially turmeric and milk (the fat from milk helps to deliver the turmeric further into the tissues). Traditionally made with cow’s milk, you can substitute almond or coconut milk if desired. Warm the milk gently (not too hot since honey will be added), add some turmeric and honey, perhaps some ghee, add ginger if you like it, and there you have it: yummy golden milk. Your joints will thank you.

Turmeric is also a really great natural antibiotic. And better than prescribed antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria in the gut, turmeric actually promotes the growth of good bacteria. Take turmeric at the first sign of illness, and chances are you might not end up getting sick at all.

Another way I take turmeric is mixed with aloe gel. This is a common Ayurvedic preparation, and is best for pitta types and/or taken in summertime. Mixing about a half teaspoon of dried turmeric into a tablespoon of aloe gel will help to stimulate the liver, cleanses the blood, cools the body and mind, increases metabolism, and eases menstruation. A little warning: this mixture is the least palatable way to take turmeric, at least that I have found.

Of course, adding turmeric to your cooking is a great way to get more of it in you to receive it’s benefits. Aside from curries and kitchari, I don’t tend to use it in my cooking so much, which is why I take it in all these other ways.

One piece of advice when working with turmeric: it will stain almost anything it comes in contact with. Be very careful when preparing or consuming it.


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