Touted as a superfood with almighty powers, turmeric has been a hot topic for the past couple of years, though Venetian explorer Marco Polo introduced the spice to the Western world back in the 14th century. You know something has gone mainstream when Starbucks introduces a latte laced with the spice. The root of turmeric contains a yellow-hued chemical called curcumin that gives curries its color, adds flavor to foods and can be used to make medicine. As a potent antioxidant, it stimulates your body’s defenses against free radicals. Curcumin is also said to address inflammation and combat all sorts of illnesses and conditions. A good friend swears it helps her mental fog, and even Western doctors are prescribing it! Curcumin’s list of benefits and healing potential is long — as I have read, it may help with lupus, fibromyalgia, headaches, hay fever, liver function, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss, joint pain, acne, menstrual symptoms and more. What can’t turmeric and its mighty curcumin do?
To reap the benefits of the curcumin in turmeric, you can cook with it, make tea or ingest its powder. But it’s important to know that curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream on its own, so it’s essential to take it with black pepper. The finest curcumin supplements will also contain piperine (black pepper), which increases its absorption rate by 2,000 percent. So please don’t waste your time and money taking supplements without it. When cooking with turmeric, make sure you add black pepper to your curry or stir-fry, as well.
Another key to its absorption is fat. Curcumin is fat soluble. It needs to be taken with fat so that it can get past the stomach and into the small intestine and bloodstream.
Here are some ways to maximize the effectiveness of turmeric by combining it with fat:
- Sprinkle it on an avocado.
- Add it to your salad dressing.
- Mix it with coconut oil to stir-fry veggies.
- Toss it into bone broth.
- Make Golden Milk Tea.
Golden Milk Tea is a tasty way to maximize the power of curcumin. Not only does it contain black pepper and fat, but it’s also a hot drink — and heating turmeric is said to boost its benefits. Taken before bed, the soothing drink has warming spices like cinnamon and ginger and can help you fall asleep.
Golden Milk Tea Recipe
Makes 2 servings
- 2 cups of milk (almond, coconut, pecan, cow)
- 1 tsp turmeric (powder or freshly grated)
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 6 whole peppercorns
- ½ tsp coconut oil (optional)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp maple syrup or raw honey
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. You can also blend together the ingredients before simmering for 3-5 minutes.
Final thoughts: The deep yellow of turmeric can stain countertops, dishware and your blender. A baking-soda-water paste will help remove the stains. As always, talk to your doctor about taking turmeric, especially if you are on other medications, as it might counteract their effectiveness or cause side effects.
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Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.