Fancy a turmeric smoothie? That’s how my husband gets his daily dose of the deep-yellow, pungent root. When his doctor took him off anti-inflammation medications, I cast around for a natural way to help him cope with the pain in his hands. He has psoriatic arthritis. We’re familiar with spices as medicine. I began reading more. While turmeric’s anti-cancer properties are already well-known, it was news to me that turmeric is also an effective anti-inflammatory with a long history of relieving arthritis pain.
The Middle East’s hot climate doesn’t exempt people from psoriatic, rheumatoid, and osteoarthritis. According to the Israeli Rheumatic Diseases Foundation (site in Hebrew), an estimated 17% of the population suffers from arthritis in one form or another, while the Emirates Arthritis Foundation estimates that 20% of the United Arab Emirates do too. These figures are slightly lower than the estimated percentage of American arthritis sufferers – 22% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now medical authorities are turning their attention to one of turmeric’s constituents, curcumin, in help in controlling the debilitating disease. A study conducted in Thailand in 2009 concluded that in controlling pain of knee osteoarthritis, curcumine was as effective as ibuprofen. This review of preclinical and clinical trials with curcumin submitted to PubMed.gov is only one of many publications attesting to its anti-inflammatory powers.
So for ordinary people with aching joints, what’s the best way to ingest the yellow stuff?
- Fresh Root Smoothie: slice off a little chunk of turmeric root, about the size of the first joint of your forefinger. Blend it with a cup of any good milk, a teaspoon of cinnamon for flavor (and because cinnamon also fights inflammation), a teaspoon or two of local honey, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper to get things circulating quickly. Add something for creaminess if you like: a banana or half an avocado. Drink it up quickly. One smoothie a day should do the trick.
- Variation with dry, ground turmeric: Use 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric (best is fresh-ground from a spice store, but even freshly-bought supermarket tumeric will do) instead of the fresh root. It’s best to heat the milk first, to help the spices disperse, and to drink it warm.
- Ground Turmeric Capsules: Some buy vegetable-based capsules and fill them at home. Three to five 00 -sized capsules are the ordinary dose, although individual needs vary.
- Curcumine Supplements: The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that adults take one to three grams of dried root powder daily; 15 to 30 drops of 1:2 tincture four times per day; or 400 mg to 600 mg of standardized curcumin powder three times a day.
I’m no great fan of standardized extracts, and suggest that if using fresh or ground turmeric is inconvenient, tincture is better.
Who should avoid medicinal doses of turmeric? Curcumin is a blood-thinner and may prevent normal blood clotting.
- People on Warfarin or similar medications should therefore not add medicinal doses of turmeric to their regime.
- Pregnant women should also restrict turmeric to ordinary culinary quantities – a pinch to color or flavor food is fine.
- People anticipating surgery should stop taking turmeric two weeks beforehand.
- Do not combine medicinal doses of turmeric with ginger, gingseng or other blood-thinning herbs.
- You’ll know you’re taking too much if you experience nausea or stomach upsets (this is true of any other culinary spice too).
How To Keep Turmeric?
- Fresh turmeric root lasts up to a year in the freezer. That’s how I store it for blending into smoothies.
- If buying dried, ground root, buy small quantities and replenish. Keep your ground turmeric away from the heat of the stove or a sunny window. It will last, kept in a cool, dark place, for six months.
To ensure a constant supply of fresh root, it’s worth growing your own. It takes little space or effort. The Backyard Gardening Blog offers an easy-to-understand guide on growing turmeric. The comments also offer valuable advice.
Since the Israeli winter is mild, with many sunny days, I myself sprouted and planted some turmeric roots recently. I hope to harvest a good amount of fresh roots to freeze, later in the year.
Food as medicine on Green Prophet:
Image of turmeric roots via Shutterstock.
Miriam also blogs at Israeli Kitchen.