Turmeric is praised loud and proud around the world for its incredible addition to both the culinary world and the world of natural medicine.
It’s one of the most studied and well-researched compounds on earth, and it’s easily available in nearly every grocery store, no matter how small your town may be. It’s not even expensive, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a regularly used spice in your cooking and health routine.
The big question, however, is what kind of turmeric should you be using, and what for? There is a lot of debate about whether turmeric oil or powder is more effective and, after a little bit of research and critical thinking, it’s clear that powder is the best choice, at least most of the time.
Keep reading to find out the difference between the two options, and some of the many ways turmeric can start improving your life almost instantly.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a root that looks very similar to ginger on the outside, though slightly smaller. When you cut or break it open, the flesh is a gorgeous, rich orange color. And that color tends to stain everything it touches, so use with care.
Depending on where you live, you may also know it as curcumin, which is the name of the active substance in the root. The look-alike tendency is not surprising, as turmeric is a member of the ginger family, though they taste nothing alike.
In food, you’ll most often find this spice used in Indian curry dishes, as it gives a curry a depth of flavor and the signature orange-yellow glow. In the world of health, it’s one of the most researched plants in terms of medicinal properties.
It has a long history in the world of Ayurveda, but it’s been a favorite compound in natural remedies in almost all cultures around the world as well.
In India, turmeric even has religious significance. The color is associated with the major Hindu deity, Vishnu and the Buddha most closely connected to generosity in Buddhism. In both religions, turmeric is considered a symbol of fertility, the sun and luck and is often used at weddings and for expecting mothers.
What is turmeric powder?
While it’s not uncommon to use the fresh root itself either for flavoring your food and drinks or as a medicinal aid, the powder is much more common.
Turmeric powder is simply made from drying the root and grinding it into a powder. It’s a much more concentrated way to use the spice, and it blends a lot easier into sauces and liquids for easy, delicious consumption.
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What is turmeric oil?
Turmeric can often also be found as an essential oil or extract.
To create an essential oil, the turmeric roots are placed in a still and steamed so that the oil is extracted from the root and separates from the water. It takes a great deal of plant to create a very small amount of oil, so oils tend to be both highly concentrated and rather expensive.
To create an extract, the root is either cold-pressed or macerated and then soaked in a liquid, typically alcohol, in order to isolate and extract the oil from the root.
In an extract, the oil is diluted which actually makes it safer to use for both cooking and medicinal purposes as the extremely concentrated essential oil can be too powerful for anything beyond aromatherapy.
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Which is better – the powder or the oil?
Most scientific studies are conducted using turmeric powder, which uses all the properties of the root and not just the oil. The powder is also much easier to obtain and a fraction of the cost of a small bottle of turmeric essential oil.
Ground turmeric is highly versatile and can be used for everything from cooking and drinking to medicinal pastes and even cosmetic masks and scrubs.
The one space which the essential oil does win is aromatherapy. The scent is thought to boost immune function, increase energy and soothe symptoms of allergies, colds, and fevers.
You can also use the essential oil in your skin and hair care regime, but it must be diluted carefully for safety purposes.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
There is a seemingly never-ending list of potential health benefits linked to turmeric, one of the most well-researched natural remedies on earth.
Notably, it’s considered one of the most anti-inflammatory compounds currently known to medical science. Inflammation is a marker of nearly every chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and many more.
On the more unusual side of natural remedies, turmeric is frequently used in the field of mental health as well, considered very effective at relieving negative emotions and depressive symptoms.
In fact, in controlled studies, turmeric is just as effective at managing depression as the leading pharmaceutical drug, but without any of the side effects.
Turmeric is also used to reduce the risk of blood clots. While it still needs to be studied more in-depth before it would ever become a recommended treatment, it is important to note the potential to interact with or possibly interfere with any blood-thinning or clotting medications.
One final, very interesting benefit of turmeric is its known ability to naturally reduce pain. The best part is, not only does a dose of turmeric help reduce pain symptoms without any risk of long-term addiction or negative side effects, it actually helps heal the wound, burn or inflammatory response causing the pain at the same time.
Turmeric as a Cosmetic
Many people use turmeric for a variety of cosmetic purposes, including skin-lightening, healing skin conditions like psoriasis, and encouraging hair growth and shine. For cosmetic purposes, different applications call for either essential oil or the powder.
For example, a paste of turmeric powder and filtered water or organic coconut oil can be applied to a patch of irritated skin, covered carefully with gauze so as not to stain your entire bed, and left overnight.
This has been shown to soothe psoriasis, eczema, and general dry skin, even out skin tone, reduce the effects of sun damage and help to heal wounds, possibly even reducing the appearance of scars.
A few drops of essential oil can be added to your daily moisturizing routine to protect from sun damage and brighten your own youthful glow.
There are many other similar natural, DIY solutions, but always test a small area of your skin for any reaction before trying something new.
Potential Side Effects of Turmeric
Turmeric is considered to be generally safe for everyone, however, there are individuals who may experience some intolerance to the spice. The most common potential side effects include stomach upset, to varying degrees and in various forms.
Some people with sensitivities may also experience acid reflux or heartburn. If turmeric is new to you, start with a very small dosage, take with a meal, and only increase if no adverse symptoms are felt.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turmeric
Read the questions below to learn more information about turmeric.
What medicines should not be taken with turmeric?
As a safe, general rule, if you’re on any medications at all you should check with your doctor about interactions before making any substantial changes to your diet, including supplementing with natural compounds such as turmeric.
There is some evidence that supplementing with turmeric might affect blood clotting. If you’re on any blood-thinning or blood clotting medications, you might want to avoid high doses of turmeric.
Also, if you have any form of biliary disease, including liver disease or gallstones, be especially careful taking turmeric, as it can increase bile secretion.
Is turmeric bad for your kidneys?
Turmeric isn’t necessarily bad for kidneys, but in individuals prone to kidney stones, it may increase your risk. Turmeric is high in soluble oxalates, which, if bound to calcium, become insoluble oxalates, the cause of approximately 75% of all kidney stones.
In most people, however, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric will actually support kidney and general organ health.
Is turmeric good for your hair?
Many people use turmeric to enhance the health of their scalp and therefore their hair. Turmeric is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, which can help prevent and treat dandruff and dry scalp and increase circulation for healthier hair growth and less hair loss.
If you’d like to try it yourself, you can warm a few tablespoons of olive oil and stir in equal parts turmeric powder. Massage the oil into your scalp and let sit as a mask for half an hour. Wash thoroughly and condition as normal. If you have very light hair, be warned that turmeric might stain your scalp and roots.
Does turmeric stain your teeth?
Despite the fact that turmeric seems to stain everything it comes into contact with, it doesn’t stain teeth. In fact, many believe that it actually can help whiten teeth and reduce your risk of gum disease and inflammation.
If you’d like to give it a try for yourself, once per day simply shake a little high-quality turmeric powder onto your toothpaste and brush your teeth. Instead of rinsing right away, let the foam sit for at least 5 minutes first. If there’s any residue after rinsing, simply give your teeth another brief brush with some water.
What is the best time of day to take turmeric?
There really is no wrong time of day to take turmeric. If you know you don’t have a sensitivity, many people suggest that supplementing at least an hour before eating will bring the best results.
If you’re new to turmeric, however, it’s best to combine with a meal. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can even make yourself lovely golden milk before bed to help soothe you to a nice, deep sleep.
You can also mix it in a smoothie along with your favorite greens powder.