Turmeric Tonic

Today I have a tasty recipe for you! This one is a delicious, anti-inflammatory, cold & flu busting tonic. But first...you have to suffer through Turmeric 101!

Turmeric has been used for almost 4,000 years to treat many different health conditions. Studies show that turmeric may help fight infections and some cancers, decrease inflammation, and treat digestive problems.

Turmeric is most often used in cooking and is what gives curries their delicious flavor and yellow color. Turmeric is used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.

The reason for the potential health benefits of turmeric is a substance called curcumin (think of it in the same way that oranges are a source of vitamin C, turmeric is a source of cucumin), which is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants reduce or even help prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals. Curcumin can also lower the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation and been shown to stop platelets from clumping together to form blood clots. 

Turmeric root contains about 2-5% curcumin, so using a powdered form of turmeric root means that very large amounts would be required to get a beneficial amount of curcumin. Also note that curcumin is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, making even higher levels necessary. While turmeric is excellent when used as a spice, a curcumin extract is the way to go if you are looking for the health benefits it provides. Even though curcumin has not been shown to cause toxicity even at very high doses, you should always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement!  Just because it does not cause toxicity does not mean that it won't interact with medications that you may be taking, specifically blood thinners. 

Research suggests that turmeric may be helpful for the following conditions:

Indigestion or Dyspepsia

Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which may help to improve digestion. The German Commission E, which determines which herbs can be safely prescribed in Germany, has approved turmeric as a treatment for digestive issues. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric decreased symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion.

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the digestive tract with periods of exacerbations and remissions and turmeric may help people with UC stay in remission longer.  In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people whose ulcerative colitis was in remission took either curcumin or a placebo along with conventional medical treatment for 6 months. Those who took curcumin had a significantly lower relapse rate than those who took the placebo.

Osteoarthritis

One study compared people using an Ayurvedic formula of herbs and minerals with turmeric, winter cherry, boswellia, and zinc to those taking the prescription drug Celebrex. The results showed that 93% of the participants receiving the herbal combination reported reduced or no pain, compared to only 86% of the prescription drug group. The group receiving the special curcumin and boswellia combination were also able to walk further and had better range of movement, without significant adverse effects that can be caused by the drug Celebrex. It is impossible to distinguish the effects of the turmeric from the potential effects of the other supplements or if it was due to taking all of them together.

Heart Disease

Early studies suggested that turmeric may help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque that can block arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up in blood vessels. Because it stops platelets from clumping together, turmeric may also prevent blood clots from building up along the walls of arteries. But a double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking curcumin at a doses of up to 4 g per day did not improve cholesterol levels. There has also been some research showing that curcumin has the ability to decrease triglyceride levels, which is also important in reducing cardiovascular risks. 

Cancer

There a lot of research surrounding turmeric's anti-cancer properties. Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. Tumeric's preventive effects may relate to its antioxidant properties, which protect cells from damage. However, much more research is needed and cancer should always be treated with conventional medications. If you choose to use complementary therapies along with your cancer treatment, make sure you let all of your doctors know.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Test tube and animal studies suggest turmeric may kill bacteria and viruses, but researchers don't yet know whether it would work in people. 

Enough science! Time for my Turmeric Tonic recipe. You might be wondering why there's black pepper in this, it helps you absorb the curcumin from the turmeric. You can't taste it at all...trust me. 

Turmeric Tonic

Ingredients

  • 1 orange (or 2 clementine oranges)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons of juice)
  • 1 tablespoon dried turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Honey to taste

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except the honey in a blender and blend. This makes about 3/4 cup of concentrate depending on the size and juiciness of your oranges. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. When you are ready to use it, mix 1-2 tablespoons of concentrate with honey and water and enjoy.

You can be enjoy this drink hot or cold. If you want a little more zing, add soda water instead of plain water. 

Update 2/17/16: I've had several questions about using a whole orange vs. a peeled orange. You can do either based on your preferences. Using the peel will give you more fiber and vitamins, but may make the taste a little more bitter.

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Need more ways to get turmeric into your diet? Here's some delicious turmeric loaded ghee (great for cooking)! It's made with ginger and black pepper to enhance absorption...and it's tasty!

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