Top 5 Ways to Use Turmeric
"Each spice has a special day to it. For Turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck."―Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Herbs and spices appear in nearly every aspect of human life, dating back far beyond written documentation and into oral traditions. Some information came in the form of recipes. Other traditions suggest Turmeric for healing, protective charms, and perfumery (to name a few). Turmeric is among the ancient herbs that still appear in pantries around the world. So what are five ways to use Turmeric?
To answer that question, start by learning a little more about Turmeric. For example, did you know it's the main spice in curry? That warm/bitter taste coming through is Turmeric's flavor profile through-and-through. In Asia, where it grows wild, Turmeric also flavors butter, cheese, and mustard blends.
Botanical Bounty: What is Turmeric?
The exploration of the five key uses for Turmeric begins in Botany. The formal name for Turmeric is Curcuma longa. It's actually a kissing-cousin of ginger, both of which have roots used in cooking. The Indian subcontinent is ideal for growing Turmeric, which thrives in areas averaging 75 degrees with plenty of rainfall.
In East Asia, Turmeric flowers in August. These are funnel-shaped blossoms in pink, yellow, or white, for readers looking for a lovely addition to a salad platter. Turmeric flowers are edible, tasting a bit like bitter lettuce.
Turmeric Uses in History
You can find hundreds of notations about Turmeric in Asian literature. It is one of the primary herbs in Ayurveda, an ancient healing practice. Turmeric sometimes became part of rituals, and in other cases, it became a dye for fabric, especially for Buddhist monks and priests.
As trade routes developed, Turmeric traveled along. Merchants touted all it's wondrous (or miraculous) benefits, calling it the Golden Spice of India. Turmeric's benefits touted by Sages included improved passion, confidence, strength, and protection from malevolent spells.
Turmeric's popularity spread westward into Medieval Europe in 6 BCE with the folk name of Indian Saffron. From that center of civilization, Turmeric would become a player on the grand stage of shared spices used all around the world.
Savor the Flavor: Culinary Applications for Turmeric
Asian dishes feature Turmeric regularly. It adds an earthy-element, pungent, and bitter. While considered a savory spice, sometimes Turmeric takes a walk on the wild side as part of sweet dishes, including ice cream. Cooks also like Turmeric's yellow hue for visual impact.
Iranians combine Turmeric with caramelized oil. In Morocco, there is a spice blend featuring Turmeric. Each family or seller has their secret recipe, but it ends up as a rub for meat, or an addition to couscous. South Africans apply Turmeric for coloring white rice, which is then added to a blend of meat, pine nuts, and other seasonings. In Thailand, Turmeric appears in Satay, and the Thai people have Turmeric soup.
Turmeric Root for Health
While Turmeric's efficacy requires more study (as with many herbal medicinals), the most common health benefits reported for Turmeric are relieving pain and inflammation. Some suggest it for depression, heartburn, memory improvement, and high cholesterol as well as:
Acne (facial mask)
Gingivitis (mouth wash)
Hay fever relief
Itching (as a paste)
Please remember that herbal (holistic) approaches often have conflicting evidence. There are numerous products available when looking at Turmeric's health benefits, but rating them is still subjective.
Turmeric Powder Uses & Benefits
Turmeric in powder form is one of the top 5 ways of using this herb. In powder form, it's easy to add to nearly any blend. You can add Turmeric powder to your water daily, for example, for boosting your immune system. Since drinking water is a proven way for supporting on-going health, Turmeric adds to that, especially in winter, when you're more vulnerable to viruses. Ancient Indian culture suggests Turmeric water as an aphrodisiac and post-postpartum tonic.
Alternatively, you can mix Turmeric with milk for improved sleep. Just a pinch before bedtime, and you're good to go. The blend is called Golden Milk. Here's a recipe for you to try:
1 cup of almond milk
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tsp. Powdered Turmeric
1 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon*
1 Tbs. Honey (orange blossom is delightful)*
Pinch of fresh grated ginger
Just pour all your ingredients into a non-reactive saucepan and bring them to a low-rolling boil. Whisk. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain, and add honey if desired. Enjoy!
* Additional or alternative spices include cardamom, almond, and vanilla bean
** Alternative sweeteners include stevia, real maple syrup, or coconut sugar.
Turmeric Beauty Treatments
While you might automatically think of Turmeric's uses as limited to food and health, there are many other ways you can apply Turmeric spice, including for looking your best. As an illustration, you can make it into toothpaste, add it to your foundation makeup for glow, and mix it with olive oil as a scalp treatment deterring dandruff.
When you wish, you can make hair dye with Turmeric too. Use 2 tsp of ground turmeric to two cups of boiling water. When the herb dissolves, remove the pan and allow the mixture to cool completely. Transfer this blend to a squeeze bottle and apply it as you might any other hair dye, and comb it through. Leave the Turmeric hair dye in place for 15 minutes (no more unless you're really married to bright yellow).
Applications for Turmeric Herb Flowers
Among the top five uses for Turmeric, we find flowers. The trick with Turmeric flowers is that you need to use them on the same day for the best taste. Traditional pairings for Turmeric flowers include bean sprouts, chilies, coconut, and beans. Sometimes they're added to rice for a fragrant appeal. And they are healthy for you! Turmeric flowers contain curcumin, a component with antioxidant effects.
Once a year, people gather Turmeric roots, some of which get used immediately, and others saved for a new growing season. You can boil them, dry them, or grind them. In all forms, Turmeric tastes a bit like bitter black pepper.
As you can see, Turmeric is very versatile. While this article highlights the top 5 ways to use Turmeric spice, there are many more. Don't be afraid to try different things, especially in your kitchen!