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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 25, 2010

Smart Spice: Turmeric

By Mark Sisson
172 Comments

It may not share cinnamon’s universal applicability to consumables, but turmeric is another spice with some powerful culinary and medicinal qualities that deserves our attention. Turmeric, known officially as Curcuma longa and historically as Indian saffron, is a rhizome of the ginger family. Its horizontal root system is dug up, baked, and ground into a fine orange powder, which then goes into any number of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Southeast Asian dishes. Pretty much every curry you come across anywhere, for example, includes a generous portion of turmeric. Common yellow mustard also includes turmeric, mostly as a food colorant.

Turmeric imparts a unique flavor: slightly bitter and a bit spicy, with a mustard-like scent. Upon tasting a dab of turmeric powder by itself for the first time, one is reminded of curries and other Asian stews. It’s a bit of an “Aha!” moment, in fact; you’re finally direct witness to the identity of that secretive flavor lurking within the explosiveness of the common Asian curry after all those years of take out and home cooking with anonymous curry powder mixes. Turmeric itself is actually fairly mild and unassuming, so using it as a solitary spice won’t turn every dish into a curry bonanza – in case you were worried.

Here are a few ways to experiment with the stuff in the kitchen:

  • Turmeric pairs well with fish, often accompanied by little else than salt, pepper, and some lemon juice.
  • For roasted chicken, I’ll sometimes rub the dry, raw bird with a turmeric-butter mixture before it enters the oven.
  • You can turn that same turmeric butter into turmeric ghee – in Ayurvedic tradition, turmeric and ghee have a potent synergistic effect. Just mix softened butter with turmeric a couple hours before clarifying it.
  • Add a few teaspoons to your chili for a curious subtlety that’ll make tasters scratch their chins and wonder aloud.
  • The next time you roast a winter squash, sprinkle the finished flesh with turmeric, cinnamon, and butter.
  • Simmer a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of cardamom in a cup of coconut milk for ten minutes. Remove, strain, and add a dash of cinnamon for a hearty, healthy drink.
  • Roast fresh cauliflower dusted with turmeric, cumin, salt, and pepper and tossed in your cooking fat of choice.
  • Try this Moroccan Chicken Casserole.

Years ago, I did a short piece of the anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric. Turmeric was shown to improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels in rodent models. Mice given the supplement were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and they enjoyed greater body fat losses. Good, promising stuff all around. Plus, there’s plenty more:

Alzheimer’s/Dementia

Cancer

Miscellany

Most of the research on turmeric has revolved around curcumin, an active, antioxidant component of the spice. By weight, curcumin content of turmeric powder goes no higher than 3.14% – not a terribly large amount, considering the therapeutic curcumin dosages being studied. Doses of between 2-6g are typically used in curcumin research, and it’s basically impossible to eat enough turmeric to ingest that amount of curcumin. Say you wanted a daily intake of 3g of curcumin, obtained through turmeric powder. Assuming you go the strongest stuff, you’d have to take about 3 ounces (conversion reminder: 16 ounces is 1 pound is 454 grams) of turmeric powder on a daily basis. That’s a lot of spice powder. I don’t care how much you love Indian food – it’s not going to be easy. Luckily, curcumin is non-toxic, and doses of up to 12g daily have been safely used. Note, though, that curcumin is a potential anticoagulant, so anyone taking prescription anticoagulants should check with their physician before supplementing.

Despite the focus on extracted curcumin, the epidemiology of cancer in India and other turmeric-using countries suggest that low, regular doses are beneficial, especially in cancer prevention. I love the taste, myself, so I’ll continue to use it regardless. I think you should, too.

Got any great turmeric recipes? Any success stories after using it as a health supplement? Let us know in the comments!

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172 Comments on "Smart Spice: Turmeric"

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John Solter
6 years 4 months ago
I’m fine with a curry bonanza because I use curry on anything I can, including ham sandwiches. Looks to me like some of this evidence is from prospective hypothesis generating studies as opposed to controlled clinical studies. Good Calories, Bad Calories has taught me to be very careful about those studies. They lead to clinical proof, but are not truly proof themselves. I know Mark has said that most of his income is from supplements, and curcumin is an extracted supplement at the study doses, so is the Grok idea more that nature is a starting place (i.e. “people eat… Read more »
james
james
6 years 4 months ago

line chopped celery, onion,and lots of fresh garlic on the bottom of slowcooker. Get 6- 8 free range chicken breasts and rub very generous amounts of tumeric and curry and then add some sea salt. Cook all day on low and come home to an aroma that will please you and all your neighbors. Simple – very good over cauliflower rice.

jennifer
6 years 4 months ago

If you can find fresh turmeric root, you can make a tea out of it (once you’ve grated it). Add a touch of dried reishi mushrooms and you’ve got a potent tonic.

Organic Gabe
6 years 4 months ago

Great post, Mark!

misathemeb
6 years 4 months ago

turmeric is an awesome anti inflammatory! i swear i am not trying to “sell” this but if you like nut butter this is delicious…it’s turmeric almond butter! http://spreadhealthfoods.foodzie.com/nutmeric-almond-turmeric-spread-1.html

Tracee
6 years 4 months ago

When I’m making a batch of chicken broth I always add some, it gives it a nice golden color.

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[…] Original post by Mark Sisson […]

Rob
Rob
6 years 4 months ago

Turmeric is great with eggs also.

RSL
RSL
6 years 4 months ago

I put 1/8 tsp. of turmeric in my scrambled eggs every morning. If I don’t have eggs, I make sure to add it to my salad dressing that day.

Primal Toad
6 years 4 months ago

I love this

“Turmeric pairs well with fish, often accompanied by little else than salt, pepper, and some lemon juice.”

and this:

“Simmer a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of cardamom in a cup of coconut milk for ten minutes. Remove, strain, and add a dash of cinnamon for a hearty, healthy drink.”

Ill be enjoying salmon on Thursday and just picked up 5 cans of coconut milk today and I also love salmon.

Thanks for the ideas Mark!

Joe G
Joe G
6 years 4 months ago

I like to make an inflamation-fighting (not to mention Primal) curried chicken salad with mayo, sour cream, cilantro, walnuts, ginger, curry powder, and turmeric. My physiatrist (who admittedly has a more enlightened view of things than most western-trained MDs) has me taking turmeric along with fish oil to treat my sports-related overuse injuries (tendonitis in both shoulders, a pulled Achilles, tennis elbow, etc). Don’t know if it was the supplementation, yoga stretching, or going Primal, but my joints are pain free for the first time in years!

Grok
6 years 4 months ago

Love the stuff. Use lots of it, but I’m out. Started using it to combat training based inflammation.

I’m going to have to try the Turmeric ghee. That was a new one for me 🙂

madeline
madeline
6 years 4 months ago

Never had tumeric lol. Will add to list. Great ideas here too. Thanks Mark for the post.

Darrin
6 years 4 months ago

I love me some butternut squash soup during the autumn. I make it with coconut milk, turmeric, and cayenne pepper.

Jack
Jack
6 years 4 months ago

I’m been making a turmeric formula for my joints. What I do is take a very large root, juice it, add some lemon, honey and water. I take two tbs per day.

Try it!

James
James
6 years 4 months ago

Great post as usual!

I did a study a while ago about anti-inflammatory spices and here’s what I found on Nutrition Facts and Analysis (http://www.nutritiondata.com) for each spice and their respected inflammatory factors.
Ground Turmeric: 1 tsp – 451 (strongly anti-inflammatory)
Ground Ginger: 1 tsp – 482 (strongly anti-inflammatory)
Ground Cayenne Pepper: 1 tsp – 494 (strongly anti-inflammatory)
All great scores and I use all three of the above spices when I can. Hope this helps!

PhilM
PhilM
6 years 4 months ago

Indian Saffron? I’m confused. Then, what do you call that super expensive saffron painstakingly collected near the Himalayas?.

I would think calling turmeric by its common moniker is good enough.. There is so much confusion regarding spices and we don’t need to spread it more 🙂

Thanks for the post though! As always, interesting and packed with new information.

Bushrat
Bushrat
6 years 4 months ago

I love chilli and I’ll be adding some tumeric to my next batch. Thanks for the idea.

rik
rik
6 years 4 months ago

I’ve been generously sprinkling cumin on my egg dishes…!

Wayne
4 years 3 months ago

one day a meatlessa0day and make leeumgs the main meata0for that meal. I have a delish recipe for a spinach lentil soup ( pictured above ) that is a favorite in my home. Be creative and come up with lentil dishes that your family will

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[…] After my post on spices last week, I posed a question about how in the world to use turmeric. So obviously I was thrilled to see that Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple devoted a whole post today to the health benefits of turmeric! […]

Clint White
Clint White
6 years 4 months ago

Already had Tumeric today via the Chicken Curry recipe my wife made out of the new Primal Blueprint Recipe Book!
It is awesome!!!!

Resurgent
Resurgent
6 years 4 months ago

Here’s a nice way to enjoy both Turmeric and Ginger.

Take a piece each of fresh Ginger root and turmeric root. Scrape the skin lightly and then with a sharp knife cut both the roots into fine juliennes (little sticks just the size of regular matchsticks)
Put both together, or separately, in small glass jars. add a generous pinch of salt and cover them completely with sour lemon juice.
The ginger will turn pink on contact with the lemon, the turmeric bright orange.
Have a few of these as a condiment with almost any food that you may be having.
Enjoy!

Resurgent
Resurgent
6 years 4 months ago

In Ref to my previous post:

the ginger root and turmeric root in sour lemon juice, with store several weeks without spoiling a refrigerator.

Luke M-Davies
6 years 4 months ago

It’s great that yougive Turmeric another mention Mark because it deserves it!

I have written about the health benefits of the super spice myself on my blog http://www.lmdfitness.com/nutrition/terrific-turmeric/

Thanks for the cooking suggestions in your post – very useful ideas!

Luke

Richard Huntley
6 years 4 months ago

Turmeric has some real great health benefits and i love to incorparate it into my cooking.

Also used in traditional chinese medicine too.

Thanks great post!

Richard

hannah
hannah
6 years 4 months ago

For those of you who want a non toxic kitchen, there is a great way to keep pests away without chemicals. In India I discovered that a line of turmeric around the entry point of bugs (especially ants), deterred them from coming inside. (Note, turmeric can stain, so be careful on light, porous surfaces).

Melissa
Melissa
6 years 4 months ago

Hi Mark –
I received my autographed copy of the Primal Cookbook yesterday, but there was no poster in the package. The packing slip listed one as having been included. I don’t need the poster, but just wanted to let you know they may not be making it into the packaging. Hopefully it was just mine.

SuperMike
SuperMike
6 years 4 months ago

mark,

I received my Cookbook yesterday and much to my dismay, it wasn’t autographed.

(Super book, by the way.)

SuperMike

Steve-O
Steve-O
6 years 4 months ago

Just last night we made an awesome wild salmon dish using turmeric. Came from a local cookbook:

1. Sprinkle the following over the salmon before cooking:

Saffron
Turmeric
Garlic powder
salt
pepper

2. Pour some orange soda over each fillet.

3. Bake at 400 degrees for 14 minutes

I know the orange soda kind of kills the primal aspect, but the amount used is relatively little–no more than an ounce or two and most runs off the fish.

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[…] or refer to my site on this one. Just go directly to Mark Sisson’s site and check out “Smart Spice: Tumeric” where he outlines the many benefits of incorporating this spice into your […]

maba
maba
6 years 4 months ago

When I have a sore throat or see a cold coming, I drink a cup of warm milk with turmeric and ground black pepper steeped in it. It provides relief.

MommaBear
MommaBear
6 years 4 months ago

Stir a .5 tsp of turmeric and a .5 tsp of cayenne pepper into some cold cold tomato juice, squeeze in some fresh lemon! Yum!! That’ll wake you up!! 🙂 If you are feeling a cold/illness coming on, mash a clove of fresh garlic through a garlic press, and then stir it into the above mixture and enjoy! (You won’t get many kisses that day, unless you can talk your partner into some fresh garlic, too, but you’ll feel great!! 🙂

KD
KD
6 years 4 months ago

Tumeric is also an excellent spice in a taco seasoning for some ground beef or carnitas. That and cumin is what makes up the most spice in my taco seasoning.

Cherie
Cherie
6 years 4 months ago

I have been taking Turmeric capsules (6) every day for the last 3 yrs. I fill my own gel caps with turmeric, so its very cost effective.

I was diagnosed with 2ndary Br Cancer 3 yrs ago (bone mets) and have not had a recurrence since I began taking turmeric regularly by capsule. My cancer is classed as ‘stable’. My bloods are in the normal range.

Sharon
Sharon
4 years 9 months ago

I have a friend who is doing exactly what you are doing with Turmeric except she is doing it to get rid of psoriasis.

It works for her.

Debbie
Debbie
4 months 24 days ago

I am interested in doing this with turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Can you give more info on where to order empty capsules and how you know how many capsules to take daily? Do you take 6 due to your cancer or is that the amount for everyone. I have some mild inflammation so wondering if I should start taking more than normal and then cut back. Thanks!

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[…] a try. More aromatic than spicy, his blend of salt, pepper, sweet paprika, chili powder, garlic and turmeric brings deep color and flavor to the bird. The skin on this grilled chicken, layered with flavors […]

Maria S Boyd
Maria S Boyd
6 years 3 months ago
I’ve had this recipe for over 20 years. I love the heavy vinegar flavor (the initial attraction). Also it’s easy/simple and relatively quick. These are my notes from my original making, but I know I shift the ratios now quite a bit, so feel free to play with it. Pungent Chicken: 4-8 lg onions chopped large and/or into fat rings 3-6 lg garlic cloves, halved 2T olive oil onions (I use olive) 2.5 lb whole chicken pieces, 1-1.5 c chicken broth 1c distilled white vinegar 2 T sugar 1 T shredded fresh ginger 1/2 tsp ea tumeric, grnd coriander, hot… Read more »
Luke M-Davies
6 years 3 months ago

Sounds very tasty. I’d probably try and sub in sweet potato or extra veggies for the rice though.

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6 years 3 months ago

[…] Smart Spice: Turmeric (marksdailyapple.com) […]

StayFitNutrition
6 years 1 month ago
I tried to add turmeric to my diet because of all the wonderful health benefits I have been reading about lately, so I went down to the local Mothers Market and bought a small jar of grounded Turmeric. I got home and tried to add it to my protein and veggies like you would pepper to season your food. Big mistake! Turmeric does not taste very good. It was hard to get down. Since then, I have heard from a lot of people that you have to cook with it and then it has a much better flavor, but I… Read more »
Luke M-Davies
6 years 1 month ago

I have to admint that I wouldn’t go the raw route with it either as it has a very unique taste but sprinkled into any soup or on top of my veggies and I don’t really notice it.

As I explain in my article – I think turemeric should be in all of our diets, the health benefits are just too strong not to include it http://www.lmdfitness.com/nutrition/terrific-turmeric/

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[…] turmeric: Turmeric, specifically curcumin, its active ingredient, appears to protect […]

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[…] Turmeric Health Benefits!  A must read! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/health-benefits-turmeric/ […]

Harold
Harold
5 years 10 months ago

Thank you for a really informative and useful article.

I’ve researched nearly 100 sites and only one, yours, is specific about how much turmeric is being used in research.

Having said that, I would like to point out that the latest research discovered that mixing turmeric and black pepper increases its efficacy 2000%.

I wonder is this changes the amount being used in the latest research?

trackback

[…] The Health Benefits of Turmeric | Mark's Daily Apple May 25, 2010 … It may not share cinnamon's universal applicability to consumables, but turmeric is another spice … […]

Bill
Bill
5 years 4 months ago

I have a heaped tsp of this on my breakfast cereal and love it!
1 stick cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom seeds
pinch saffron
small piece of dried ginger
10 g whole black pepper
Grind to a fine powder and mix well with 100g of Turmeric

Colin
5 years 3 months ago
Everyone, Here’s a recipe for a turmeric tonic, which supposedly helps to detoxify the liver. I. Nonprimal Version INGREDIENTS: 250 mL raw milk 1 T raw local honey 1/2 t to 1 t turmeric powder Heat the raw milk in a small pot with the turmeric powder well-mixed in until the milk steams and bubbles appear on the sides where the milk meets the pot. Add the honey to the bottom of your mug, then the beverage. Stir well and enjoy! I also add a little cinnamon at times, but the tonic tastes great without it. II. Primal version 250… Read more »
Sayer Ji
5 years 18 days ago

Thank you for this informative article! We have collected 1511 studies from the National Library of Medicine and have posted them to view without restriction, as part of our open source project GreenMedInfo.com. We hope this will contribute to spreading the word about its great medicinal potential http://www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/turmeric

Kimmy
Kimmy
4 years 11 months ago

Here’s how you can make some awesome scrambled eggs: Chop 1 onion, 1green chilly, 1 ripe red tomato. Heat oil in a frying pan and add green chilly. It will let off some vapors guaranteed to make you cough, so be careful :)Then add onions, till pink and add chopped tomatoes. Next, add salt, turmeric and cayenne powder accd to taste and some fresh black pepper. Let the tomatoes become nice and squishy. If you want, you can add cheese, mushrooms, chopped garic leaves (forget what they’re called) and enjoy with toast/rotis/parathas 🙂

Kimmy
Kimmy
4 years 11 months ago

OOh! forgot to add the eggs 😀 Add eggs after the tomatoes are done. You can make the scrambled eggs super dry or a little moist.

Harry Mossman
4 years 10 months ago

An interesting side note is that President Obama’s chili recipe calls for turmeric, perhaps because of the years he spent in Indonesia. The recipe itself is meh, but the turmeric does add to chili. I’m sure Texans would not agree. I made the dish for a potluck the day the president was inaugurated. The fact that it was very non-Texan was a bonus. Hehe. (Don’t get all riled up. Just having a little fun.)

Deborah B
Deborah B
4 years 9 months ago

A precautionary note: CHEMOTHERAPY + TURMERIC Turmeric was brought to our attention in a search for cancer therapy – it is not recommended for patients under chemotherapy (immuno-suppression).

One reference comes from

http://www.cancer.org/TreatmentTreatmentsandSideEffectsComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/turmeric

The blog is on such a positive note, so I must apologize if this appears as a bit of a downer, but it seemed worth mentioning.

Lycan
Lycan
6 months 1 day ago

You’re saying that immune suppression is a good thing? Because studies are showing that tumeric actually helps rebuild and strengthen weakened immune systems.

I can’t quite see how wrecking a healthy immune system is a positive side-effect.

Lycan
Lycan
6 months 1 day ago

Especially since the major problem with cancer is the fact that the immune system isn’t functioning properly in the first place, and as a result, isn’t killing the tumor cells like it should be.

Boosting the immune system seems like a better idea than destroying it.

But, y’know, that’s just logic.

trackback

[…] it up. Okay, while our ancestors probably weren’t stir-frying their brain in garam masala and turmeric, they were eating it. Brain is a rich source of omega-3s, especially pastured brain, and it’s […]

cynthia clark-bulger
cynthia clark-bulger
4 years 8 months ago

just wondered if anyone had some knowledge of a spice or mineral or herb that would aid in taking away hot=flashes. I would greatly appreciate it..besides black cohosh. Thank you much appreciated. Love all the comments. copied most of the recipes with turmeric. My voice teacher recommended 2 tsp of turmeric and honey for my sinus and throat.

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[…] you haven’t developed a taste for turmeric, I suggest you get on it. It is a potent anti-inflammatory spice, which protects against oxidation […]

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