Spices are pretty incredible – not only do they add flavor to a dish, but they often come with a host of health benefits, and turmeric is no exception. In fact, it ranks right up there as one of the best. This bright golden-hued spice often used in Indian dishes like curry has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, and in more recent years, its benefits have been well-documented in scientific studies.
Just a few of its beneficial effects include offering powerful anti-inflammatory compounds to help battle excess inflammation. Experts believe that chronic, low-level inflammation is rooted in nearly every chronic disease, including arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome and many others, which means that consuming turmeric regularly can help lower your risk of many different conditions
The spice also boosts the body’s antioxidant capacity to help it to fight against damaging free radicals, that can lead to premature aging, inside and out, and it can also help treat depression and improve brain functioning too. Plus, turmeric’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties even make it useful for cleaning and treating wounds.
Given the near-magical abilities of this popular spice, why not grow it at home so that you can easily take advantage of its many benefits and uses, and save money in the process?
How To Grow Turmeric:
Turmeric is different from most herbs in that you won’t be harvesting its leaves, but the roots instead. It grows an underground tuber, or rhizome, similar to ginger. The plant doesn’t produce seeds for propagation either, which means you’ll use the roots for planting too. You can usually buy fresh turmeric roots from a local nursery or online store, or you may have a market nearby that sells them. When you locate a good source, purchase a few as they usually don’t all sprout.
Turmeric is really one of the easy things to grow – it can handle just about any challenge it faces, from drought to floods.
Soil, sun, and moisture. Turmeric is said to do best in moist, well-drained soil, but it’s also known to thrive in drier, clay-based soils. While it can tolerate full sun, it’s best to plant it somewhere that it will get midday shade.
Climate. In warmer regions of the country, turmeric can be in the ground over winter through its dormancy period, otherwise, dig up the roots in the fall and store them in a cool place through the chillier months of the year. The main thing is that your roots don’t freeze.
Planting. Planting should be done in the spring, once all danger of frost has passed, or, you can also start your turmeric indoors in a container. Once you’ve picked your spot to plant and have a few fresh roots, all you need to do is plant them. If you have a large root, meaning one with several fingers or branches, you can cut them apart and start more than one plant. The easiest way to encourage it to sprout is to place the root under two inches of loose soil. If the root has any knobs or buds, turn it so that they’re facing upwards. Keep it damp but not sopping wet or the root may rot. In a month or so, you should see sprouts come up.
The pleated leaves will eventually grow to four feet tall in ideal conditions, which is followed by green and white cones of flowers, that tend to emerge between the leaves in the summertime. Once a stem has stopped flowering, you should cut it to encourage new growth.
Maintaining established plants. Once your plants are established and growing well, you won’t need to do much at all. During the winter, turmeric doesn’t need much water, but when the growing season begins, it’s important to water frequently to keep the soil moist. Bi-monthly or weekly feedings with a liquid fertilizer are ideal. The plants are seldom bothered by insects or disease – while mites or aphids may cluster on the leaves, they can be easily washed off using a spritz of water.
Harvesting and storing. As we mentioned earlier, turmeric isn’t harvested throughout the season as you’d do with leafy herbs. Instead, you’ll have to maintain your plants for about eight to ten months before it’s time to harvest. When you start to notice that the leaves are yellowing and beginning to dry out, it’s time to dig it up. All you have to do is dig up the plant and cut the roots away from the stems and then wash off the dirt. To start another plant in its place, simply use one or two pieces of the root.
Using it. In order to use your turmeric, you’ll need to peel the roots – be sure to use gloves as you’ll end up with a yellow stain on your hands that won’t go away for several days. To store it, keep your unpeeled roots in a lidded, airtight container and place it in a cool, dark place. The roots will keep for up to six months. Instead of turning it into a powder, it’s best for home-growers to use it sliced or minced, just keep in mind that it will be a lot stronger than store-bought ground turmeric, so you’ll only need a small amount.
10 Ways To Use Turmeric
There are so many ways to use turmeric, the list is practically endless, but this will give you a good head start.
1. Relieve the pain of arthritis.
Research has shown that turmeric may be even better for fighting the pain of arthritis than drugs, thanks to its active compound, curcumin. A 2012 study published in Phytotherapy Research, found that it was more effective for alleviating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in particular, including swelling and tenderness of joints than a common RA medication. The beneficial effects may be due to turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants which work to reduce inflammation as well as neutralize harmful free radicals. In this study, the patients who were treated with curcumin exhibited the highest percentage of improvement overall, compared to those that received conventional treatments. The experts concluded that curcumin was not only more effective in relieving RA symptoms, but that there were no side effects experienced either.
2. Treat a cough.
Many people reach for cough medicines to treat a cough, but those come with a multitude of potential side effects, including some that are rather serious – and, they may not even do much for relieving that cough either. So, you could end up suffering from dizziness, nausea or vomiting, drowsiness or even worse, and still be coughing too. Instead, harness the powers of turmeric. It’s not only an anti-inflammatory agent, it possesses strong antibacterial and antiviral action that can treat infections and a cough. It helps to relieve chest congestion that often develops in those who have a chronic cough by getting rid of phlegm.
One of the best recipes for a turmeric cough treatment we’ve seen is this one. The honey not only adds a touch of sweetness, but it also soothes the throat by coating it and acting as a cough suppressant. The anti-inflammatory gingerols and shaogals in ginger root can relieve a sore throat, while the peppercorns can fight bacterial infections.
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 teaspoon raw, organic honey
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Bring water to boiling in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Reduce heat to medium and add ginger, turmeric, and crushed peppercorns.
- Bring mixture to a boil again until the mixture reduces by about half.
- Strain it into a cup and add honey. Mix well and then drink hot. If serving to a small child (over 12 months of age), be sure that it’s not too hot, lukewarm is okay. You may also want to add a bit more honey and lemon to make it more palatable for little ones.
3. A natural antidepressant.
Turmeric may be one of the best natural antidepressants there is. While pharmaceuticals come with scary side effects that can even include suicide, studies have shown turmeric may be just as effective without the serious downside. The active compound in turmeric known as curcumin offers strong antioxidant action that has the ability to fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress which can lead to depression. It can also help modulate neurotransmitters in the brain – these compounds are vital for proper brain functioning, and when there is a low level of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, scientists say that depression can result. Cooking with your homegrown turmeric as often as you can, may, therefore, help lower your risk of depression or even be effective for treating symptoms too.
4. Support heart health.
Curcumin has also been shown to offer characteristics that can support the cardiovascular system and lower cholesterol. This compound is so powerfully rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, that hundreds of studies have found that it protects and improves the health of every organ in the body, including the heart. It helps to prevent oxidation and the resulting chronic, low-grade inflammation that’s been shown to be a root cause of many modern diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
5. Eczema relief.
Turmeric doesn’t just decrease inflammation on the inside, it can help when applied directly to the skin. It’s been known to relieve the itching and reduce the inflammation associated with eczema. Simply mix some turmeric with a little coconut oil, almond oil or olive oil, and then apply it onto affected areas. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing.
6. Give your smoothie a super boost of nutrition.
You can add an inch or two of raw fresh turmeric to your favorite smoothie and you won’t even taste it, but you will get all of those powerful nutrients. Just keep in mind that it may change its normal color since it has such a strong yellow pigment. To increase absorption, be sure to add some healthy fat too, like coconut oil or half of an avocado.
7. Make a turmeric tea to support overall health.
It’s super easy to make this tea, and by sipping it you’ll be drinking to your good health. All you have to do is bring a cup of water to a boil and then stir in about a quarter teaspoon of grated turmeric. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, and then strain just before drinking. If you want to add a little flavor, mix in a teaspoon or fresh lemon juice or raw honey. How about an iced version for the hotter months, get the recipe here.
8. Add turmeric to brighten up boring dishes.
Thanks to turmeric’s brilliant golden hue, you can use it to spice up, and brighten boring dishes like mashed potatoes, plain basmati rice, quinoa or even eggs. Just stir a dash in – while it doesn’t add a lot of flavor, it does add lots of nutrition and it helps change things up a bit too.
9. Make a natural food coloring.
Artificial dyes have been connected with all sorts of health problems, so why would you use them when you can just as easily use turmeric to replace dyes like Yellow #5 and Yellow #6. Simply boil some water and add in just enough turmeric to create the shade you need, then boil for 3 to 5 minutes. You can even use it for dying Easter eggs by adding in a bit of white vinegar.
10. Make Golden Milk.
Golden Milk is an ancient Ayurvedic recipe that can be made a number of ways. The recipe is one of our favorites – it was designed to improve absorption, making it an easy way to tape into turmeric’s amazing healing benefits.
- 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp raw honey, optional
To make it, simply add all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Then pour the liquid into a small pan and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes until hot but not boiling.