Medicinal Properties and Use of Turmeric

turmeric root

If you’ve ever tried Indian cooking, chances are high you’ve tried Turmeric root (Curcuma longa). In many curries and Indian dishes, that beautiful yellow color comes from the curcumin of Turmeric’s root, more correctly called rhizome. Turmeric and his cousin Ginger are two of India’s favored spices.

As an ingredient in curries, Turmeric aids digestion. It promotes circulation and helps reduce inflammation of the digestive tract. This is in part why it’s included in so many Indian recipes. In the context of Ayurveda, Turmeric is a cleansing agent often grouped with other blood purifiers. It’s recommended for imbalances of Vata and Kapha, but not for extreme Pitta excess.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile
Photo courtesy of Morguefile

Turmeric is considered heating, bitter, and pungent, so it’ll help to decrease Kapha and increase Vata. Although, with that in mind, Turmeric is classified as an herb that’s good for all tissues of the body by Ayurvedic practitioners. It’s also used to help ease depression and control pain. For many, Turmeric has held the key to reducing or even eliminating NSAID use to manage pain from conditions including arthritis and osteoarthritis as well as sprains, strains, and other muscular-skeletal injuries.

From a more Western perspective, Turmeric is top-notch at reducing overall inflammation. It helps to thin the blood and thus promote circulation. It’s often recommended for conditions that include a heart weakness, like hypertension or heart disease, as well as those that affect the digestive system directly, like diabetes and colic or flatulence. It’s also considered a natural antibiotic. It helps fight infection while at the same time helping improve digestive flora and circulation so the body is better able to fight the infection.

Turmeric can be used topically to help reduce pain and heal injuries, too. It’s long been a helpful partner in healing skin conditions in part for its antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and in part for its ability to improve circulation. Bruises, wounds, and rashes are all within Turmeric’s historical realm of healing. Beyond healing the skin, Turmeric has been applied topically to draw on the healing and blessings of the Divine Mother.

The bright yellow color of Turmeric along with its ability to purify are part of the reason it’s been included in a variety of rituals, including weddings and baby-naming ceremonies. Those folks who have tried grinding or slicing fresh Turmeric root will attest to the long-lasting color it’ll leave behind on your hands and tools. That bright yellow stain is symbolic of the gifts of prosperity, health, and well-being. It lingers for days, offering a reminder of Turmeric’s gentle yet persistent power.

Medicinal Actions

Analgesic, Antibiotic, Anti-fungal, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, Antioxidant, Digestive, Hepatic, Immunomodulative

How can you include Turmeric in your daily diet?

Turmeric Powder Photo courtesy Morguefile
Turmeric Powder
Photo courtesy Morguefile

Turmeric root is powerful even when dried. It’s available in many grocery stores thanks to the British, who spread their love of Indian cooking worldwide, making Turmeric a well-known and well-loved spice. If you have access to fresh Turmeric root, you’ll notice that the flavor is sweeter than the powder, but other than that they’re quite similar. I prefer fresh Turmeric to dried, but I keep dried on-hand just in case I really need it. I buy fresh Turmeric at my local Asian food store. I can get it nearly year-round. I like to grate fresh Turmeric and freeze it on a tray then bag it so it’s easy to use later. If you’re substituting fresh, grated root for dried in a recipe, you’ll want to use roughly three times the amount of Turmeric powder the recipe requires. Adjust to your own taste, of course.

Turmeric is used in curries, of course. It can also be added to warmed milk or teas as well. I’ve included it in cold and flu remedies as a decoction, syrup, or even occasionally a tincture. It’s a key component of Three-Root Syrup for its ability to help with recovery from illnesses and strengthen the overall constitution. Turmeric’s bitter quality makes it hard to take on its own. You can try it powdered in capsules, although I prefer Candied Turmeric myself. The intense sweet of the sugar helps offset Turmeric’s bitter qualities.


Turmeric is not recommended if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive because it is a mild uterine stimulant. Potentially, it can cause uterine contractions. Folks who are using pharmaceuticals will want to stick to lower, food-level doses and keep an eye on their drug levels. Turmeric can help improve circulation and digestion, so it may alter how the body interacts with pharmaceuticals. Additionally, Turmeric’s digestive and circulation stimulant qualities may make it inappropriate for folks on medications for some types of digestive ulcers, bile duct obstructions, acid reflux, and blood-thinning drugs. If you have a propensity toward kidney stones, be aware that the oxalic acid in Turmeric may aggravate your condition.


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