Yes, you should consider adding turmeric to your diet, and no, that doesn't mean you need to spend $5 or more for a daily turmeric "shot" or "boost." But I will tell you how to make turmeric shots from scratch if you are inclined to do so.
The use of turmeric as a medicinal root goes back thousands of years. Evidence suggests that turmeric has been used in India for at least 4500 years, and as part of the Ayurvedic system of healing for at least half that long. Aside from its medicinal uses in wound healing, pain relief, as a digestive aid, and as an anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric has deep roots (pun intended) in Indian ceremonial culture and Hindu religion.
In North America, we've commercialized the heck out of turmeric and you'll find supplements for sale even in gas station convenience stores. Unfortunately, that has equated to widespread adulteration of turmeric. There are ways to check your turmeric powder for adulteration, but that is beyond the topic of this article. If you'd like to learn how to check your turmeric powder at home, check out the methods suggested by Vasant Masala.
Is Turmeric really worth the hype?
I actually love turmeric. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) itself can be confusing for some people. There is turmeric, the fresh root, that looks like miniature ginger root, but when you slice it open it's pretty yellow and will quickly stain your fingers (and cutting board). There is turmeric powder that you will find in most spice aisles, herbal apothecaries, and has a bright yellow-mustard hue. There is curry powder that is often mistaken for turmeric because it is also bright yellow; and although there is turmeric in curry powder, curry contains a variety of spices. You'll find turmeric juice "shots," teas, capsules, and beauty creams at every major grocery store in the U.S.
When it comes to the many health benefits of turmeric, most of the research points to its constituent, curcumin, as having the greatest medical impact. Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, detoxification, and pain-relief qualities. It is often combined with other herbal medicines and nutrients to achieve greater bioavailability. Getting back to turmeric, here are 7 ways turmeric can improve your health, followed by a recipe to make your own turmeric elixir (shot) at home and a link to a few of my favorite products that contain turmeric or curcumin:
1. Turmeric has therapeutic benefits on skin health - including acne, eczema, itchy skin, hair loss, and aging skin.
2. It may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health and elevated blood lipids.
3. Turmeric may play a role in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders.
4. Turmeric may help prevent cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
5. It may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
6. Turmeric may be helpful in some psychiatric disorders such as depression.
7. It may be helpful in the management of metabolic syndrome.
Make Your Own Turmeric Juice Elixirs/Shots
Start with fresh, organic (if possible) turmeric root - about the length of your index finger (15 to 20 grams or so). Rinse well and gently peel the outer skin (you can use the back of a spoon or be very careful with a vegetable peeler). I often don't peel the root at all if I use my slow juicer. But if I'm in more of a hurry I use my Vitamix and make a larger batch and strain the skin and pulp. Either way, slice the root into little coin-sized slices and add to a blender with about 1/4 cup of water. Blend well and then strain through a fine strainer. There are a few things you can do from here. You can add a few tablespoons of the turmeric "juice" to another tablespoon or two of hot water. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, add 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon of local organic honey, and drink up. You can also add about 1/8 teaspoon of coconut oil, which can enhance the bioavailability. Alternatively, you can slice up the turmeric root, add it to about 1/2 cup of water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop (bonus - add fresh ginger as well). Then simmer for about 10 minutes and strain. Another addition to consider is black peppercorns, also thought to increase bioavailability. Drinking one of these daily is awesome, but I wouldn't be spending a lot of money buying turmeric shots from the local convenience store.
Finally, here are a few of my favorite commercially available curcumin dietary supplements (all are available in my Fullscript Dispensary:
Aqua Biome™ Fish Oil Meriva Curcumin - by Enzymedica
CurcuMax Pro - by Integrative Therapeutics
InflaThera - Klaire Labs (has a lot of other ingredients to support cardiovascular, immune, neurological, joint, and connective tissue functions).