Within the amazing world of medicinal plants, few have as diverse range of qualities and medicinal uses as turmeric. For centuries, many cultures have used this versatile herb to treat many diseases and ailments, and when combined with a few other ingredients it can be made into turmeric nectar (jam) that increases bio-availability and effectiveness in the body.
Turmeric is best known with the medicinal action of being a powerful anti-inflammatory but also acts as an emmenagogue, blood tonic, carminative, antibacterial, cholagogue, alterative, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, hypolipidemic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic.
In Ayurvedic medicine turmeric is believed to effectively treat many ailments including arthritis, cancer, indigestion, stomach ulcers, gallstones, eczema, urticaria, psoriasis, acne, conjunctivitis, fibroids, cysts, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, leucorrhoea, dermatitis, hives, colitis, asthma, gout, fevers, diabetes, anemia, and hemorrhoids. Turmeric additionally helps balance the female reproductive and lactation systems, and in men it purifies and improves the health of semen.
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Turmeric has many uses and applications, most notably in many South Asian spice blends and recipes, in body products, medicated oils and tinctures, and in capsules. A delicious way to include turmeric into your daily diet and practice is with turmeric nectar, which is prepared with pippali (Indian long pepper) which improves its overall bio-availability in the body. A recipe for turmeric nectar will follow below. First let’s talk about turmeric.
The Latin name for turmeric is “Curcuma Longa,” which comes from the Arabic name for the plant, “Kurkum.” It comes from the Zingiberaceae family (same as ginger) and in Sanskrit is called Haridra (The Yellow One,) and is called Jiang Huang in Chinese herbology.
The healing properties of turmeric lie in the fingerlike stalk, or rhizome, the same part that is used to flavor, color, and preserve food. Turmeric is commonly found in Indian curries, giving the food a golden orange color, and is also used in baked products, dairy, ice cream, yogurts, yellow cakes, biscuits, popcorn, sweets, cake icing, cereal, sauces, gelatins and cheese.
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Turmeric is native to South Asia, and India is the largest producer in the world. There are two main varieties. One is harder and is used mostly for dying, and the other one, which is easily found at the supermarket, is softer, larger, and lighter-colored and is used mostly for eating.
Turmeric became valuable when it was discovered that it preserved the freshness and nutritive value of foods and was originally used in curries and other food to improve palatability, as well as preservation.
People of ancient India believed that turmeric contained the energy of the Divine Mother and helped to grant prosperity, cleanse the chakras, and purify the channels of the subtle body.
Even today, Hindus consider turmeric to have auspicious qualities and use it in many sacred ceremonies. It is commonly made into a paste and applied to the forehead (ajna chakra or third eye) during pujas (devotional ceremonies) and weddings.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurveda and is believed to balance the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). It has the tastes of pungent, bitter, and astringent with the qualities of dryness, lightness, and warmth. Ayurvedic practitioners have used it as medicine taken internally in the form of fresh juice, boiled tea, tinctures, or powder, and topically as creams, lotions, pastes, and ointments.
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Turmeric has hundreds of molecular constituents, each with a variety of biological activities. There are at least 20 molecules that are antibiotic, 14 that are known cancer preventatives, 12 that are anti-tumor, 12 are anti-inflammatory, and there are at least 10 different antioxidants. The rhizome is 70 percent carbohydrates, 7 percent protein, 4 percent minerals, and at least 4 percent essential oils.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. In its raw state, curcumin makes up only 2 to 5 percent of turmeric, and has a poor bioavailability, and we excrete most of it in the feces. However, when combined with piperine, a component of pippali (Indian long pepper), and when heated to make turmeric nectar, it draws out the essential oils and the bioavailability of curcumin increases 1,000-fold.
Turmeric should be taken in a 10:1 ratio to the long pepper. Black pepper also has piperine but is very hot and drying and may aggravate Pitta and Vata. Adding fat, in the form of ghee or coconut oil, will help with absorption and digestion as well.
You can also find turmeric capsules on the market that have pippali (Indian long pepper) added to it already which is marketed as turmeric plus. The maximum dosage for a 150 pound human is 10 grams of dry powder per day, which if you are taking 500mg capsules would be 20 capsules. When taking the turmeric nectar, it is recommended to take one teaspoon before each meal.
Servings: three, 8oz jars
1 large pot (min. 4 quart)
1 rubber spatula
1 canning funnel (optional, but makes it easier getting in jars)
1 large spoon or scoop (for transferring nectar into jars)
3 8oz. jars
4 oz. turmeric powder
2 cups water
1 tbsp pippali
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. rock salt
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
½ cup honey
Whisk the turmeric into the room temperature water before heating, and bring to a simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add the pippali, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt, and continue whisking over low heat for about two minutes. Add the coconut oil and whisk until combined. Turn off the heat and remove from the burner. Let cool for three minutes. Add the raw honey and ginger juice. While still warm, pour into jars and refrigerate.
Please Note: Working with turmeric can be very messy, so take care when making turmeric nectar, cleaning as you go so you do not stain kitchen surfaces.
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