Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has a sweet, nutty flavor with a touch of bitterness. You can cut the raw root into small pieces and add to salads.
What does turmeric taste like? Fresh turmeric root looks very similar to ginger but has an intense yellow color on the inside and a resinous, slightly burning taste. The peeled root is used both fresh and dried as a spice and dye.
How can you use turmeric? Turmeric is particularly popular in Thai cuisine, where turmeric root is grated and used in an array of dishes. The best way to consume turmeric is probably finely grated and added to either a salad, a dish, or eaten raw by itself. Turmeric can be used to make tea or the popular turmeric latte.
To benefit from turmeric’s nutrients, it is enough to eat 3 to 5 grams per day. Eating more than this is probably not ideal, unless you spread it over several meals. 3 to 5 grams is on average half a medium-sized root per person, however root size can vary greatly. We recommend buying organic turmeric root, as the skin of turmeric also contains valuable nutrients.
In India, turmeric has been used for thousands of years and is even considered sacred. It is regarded as a “hot” spice in Ayurvedic medicine and valued for its cleansing and energizing effects. Turmeric root does not play such an important role in Western cuisine; it is most commonly found dried and ground in curry powder, as a cheap substitute for saffron or as a coloring agent in the food industry (e.g., for mustard, pasta, or turmeric rice).
For two servings, mix 12 g peeled ginger, 2 g turmeric root, 3 tbsp bee’s honey (or maple syrup), 2 tsp liquid coconut oil, 0.5 tsp ground vanilla, and 2 pinches of freshly ground pepper together with 300 mL water in a high-speed blender for at least one minute, until the mixture develops a creamy, yellow consistency. Pour the energy drink into two cups and add 100 mL hot water. The complete recipe can be found HERE.
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Fresh turmeric root can be found in a well-stocked health food store or organic shop. Larger supermarket chains usually sell dried turmeric power and occasionally fresh turmeric; however, you should look for a certified organic label and consider the supplier’s rating. Supermarkets selling dried turmeric include Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (Great Britain); Metro, Extra Foods, and Goodness Me (Canada); Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). It is rare to find turmeric at farmers markets or directly from producers in North America, Europe, and Australia.
Turmeric is mainly cultivated in tropical regions, meaning that turmeric root is in season year-round. It is uncommon to find turmeric grown in the US, Central Europe, and Southern Europe; when it is grown it is in season in winter.
Turmeric capsules are available as dietary supplements. We nonetheless recommend consuming 3 to 5 grams of fresh turmeric.
Turmeric root should be stored in a dark place and used up quickly, as it loses its flavor as well as its yellow color when exposed to light. Turmeric can be stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for about two to three weeks. To avoid mold from forming, wrap the root in kitchen paper. You can also freeze pieces of turmeric if you want to store it for a longer period of time.
Turmeric root contains up to 5 % essential oils. Curcumin and its derivatives (curcuminoids) are responsible for turmeric’s yellowish color, and account for up to 3 % of the root. The most important chemical components of turmeric after curcumin are demethodycurcumin and bisdemethodycurcumin.3
Unfortunately, the databases that we use don’t contain nutritional information for turmeric root. There are studies1,2 in which some nutritional information can be found. Unfortunately some of the data is contradictory, for example, finding that there are far lower amounts of amino acids3 than what can be found in ground turmeric. For this reason, some nutritional information has not been included, or like with amino acids has been calculated in relation to the amount of protein that turmeric contains.
In natural medicine, turmeric is used against various ailments, especially in Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In orthodox Western medicine there have not yet been any studies carried out showing that it has a healing effect. Is turmeric good for your liver? According to Ayurveda, turmeric helps with breathing difficulties, liver disorders, rheumatism, diabetic wounds, colds, coughs, and anorexia. In TCM, turmeric is used to soothe abdominal pain. In Indonesia, it is considered a traditional remedy, especially for strengthening the immune system, and preventing infections and respiratory diseases.
Turmeric is not a superfood, but it has health-promoting properties. What is turmeric good for? In general, turmeric stimulates digestion, reduces flatulence, and can help with the digestion of fat.2
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under 12 should not consume turmeric regularly or in high doses, as there are hardly any results from studies indicating the effects of turmeric for these groups of people. In moderate amounts, however, turmeric is harmless. A high intake of turmeric can cause gastrointestinal problems or inhibit blood clotting. These problems mean that people with hemophilia should consult a doctor about eating turmeric.
The effects of turmeric is a topic of interest for scientific studies, but the results are not always clear as turmeric contains PAINS (pan-assay interference compounds), which are likely to produce incorrect results in chemical studies of turmeric.
According to individual authors, some yellow dyes such as curcumin have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects.7 However, some studies also reveal that curcumin promotes the breakdown of the tumor suppressor protein p53, suggesting that curcumin has possible cancer-promoting properties.8 However, this is controversial as a 2006 study showed that the concentration of p53 increased in breast cancer cells treated with curcumin. Furthermore, scientific evidence of these mechanisms has not yet been proven in human subjects. In mice, studies have shown curcumin to have positive effects in the case of cystic fibrosis, but such effects have not yet been found in humans.9
Curcumin influences bone metabolism. In mice, it counteracts the loss of bone density caused by a lack of estrogen. Whether curcumin promotes bone health in humans is still unclear.11,12 Curcumin has been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory effects in knee osteoarthritis, where it inhibits the enzymes cyclooxygenase-2, lipoxygenase, and nitric oxide synthases.6
As we generally consume very little turmeric and, above all, curcumin’s bioavailability is very low, it is difficult to apply in vitro studies to humans.4,5 Studies have shown that it is necessary to combine curcumin with piperine, a component of pepper, in order to increase its bioavailability.16
Turmeric root comes from South Asia, where it can still be found growing wild today, especially in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It is mainly cultivated in the tropical parts of Asia and Africa. Wild turmeric grows in South Asian forests (e.g., in India and Indonesia).
If you like fresh turmeric root, you can grow it yourself. For this purpose, purchase organic turmeric root. Leave the root in the open air to sprout. The best way to do this is to soak the root in water at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. The sprouting location should nonetheless not be too damp to prevent molding.
Water the root a little after planting. After two to three weeks a shoot should begin to grow. Turmeric grows to form a pseudostem and large leaves. In warm areas the plant can be kept in the garden from June to August. The temperature must not fall below 15 degrees Celsius, even at night.14 In cooler regions, turmeric must be moved indoors or into a heated sunroom.
When the seedling is a few centimeters tall, plant it in a wide pot or vegetable box with potting soil. The seedling should point upwards and come slightly out of the soil. It is ideal to have the seedling growing in a semi-shady spot at room temperature, and to ensure that the soil is damp without waterlogging occurring. It is important that oxygen reaches the root.
After about nine months, the plant should have formed new roots (rhizomes). You can then harvest14 the roots in winter, or let them propagate. Once the flowers and leaves of the plant have withered, the root can be dug out. It can be then stored in dry sand or soil at approx. 10 degrees Celsius. The root can be dried by being exposed to heat and then processed into powder. This can be done using an electric coffee grinder.
If you want to have the turmeric propagte, soak a root that you have grown and let it sprout. This can work with any end of the root, and you can tell it is sprouting when it develops a green color. You can divide the root to grow several plants. However, you should first dry the root cuttings for a few days, and then plant them in about 5 cm deep soil. This method is an alternative to sprouting at length above ground.
Are turmeric and ginger the same thing? Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant species in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and is related to ginger (Zingiber officinale).13 Curcuma zedoaria or white turmeric is a wild relative of turmeric that is found in India. It is used as a stomach, gallbladder, and liver remedy.
Turmeric is also known as curcurmin, curcuma, curcuma aromatic, Indian saffron, turmeric rhizome, turmeric root, curcuma longa, and wild curcuma.
Turmeric is most commonly processed into powder and used as a base ingredient for curry spice mixes. It can also be used as a coloring agent for a wide range of purposes, from food to paper, varnish, and ointments. In the chemical industry, turmeric paper has been used to identify alkalis (turning a reddish-brown at pH = 8.6). Turmeric is used as a reagent to detect boron in the form of boric acid and is responsible for producing the red dye rosocyanin in an acid solution.
As ground turmeric is relatively inexpensive, counterfeiters often use it to stretch saffron powder — you can use lye (sodium hydroxide) to check if this is the case. If you add alkaline caustic solution to saffron, an extract of saffron threads will turn red if stretched by turmeric; without turmeric it retains its yellowish color. Turmeric flowers are cream to pink in color, and thanks to their long shelf life they are often used as cut flowers.12