In Chinese medicine, all foods have a particular energy and effect on our individual constitutions or energetic balance. The most basic breakdown of these is hot and cold. In fact, in Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, determining the temperature of an individual is a very important part of diagnosis and how practitioners then decide which herbs and acupuncture points are appropriate.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, however: a food or herb doesn’t automatically have a hot energy if it is usually served hot temperature-wise. Certain teas, for example, are considered cool because they generate cool energy in your body. Consult an acupuncturist or an herbalist if you are unsure which foods and drinks to be consuming for your unique constitution. Another fantastic cooling food is turmeric, also called Yu Jin in Chinese medicine. Turmeric is an herb with cold properties that is used to move blood and qi stagnation and is especially good for pain and inflammation, particularly joint pain.
Turmeric is related to ginger and is used widely in the cuisines of India and many other Asian countries. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, there is growing evidence to suggest that curcumin, the most active constituent of turmeric, can treat or prevent everything from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s. A Swinburne University of Technology study actually confirmed that curcumin improves brain function. Weil tells us that turmeric may also protect against heart attack and stroke by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. In addition, it can be used topically for a variety of skin disorders: ringworm, leech bites, skin inflammation and bruising. Turmeric is also a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.
So how can you reap all the miraculous benefits of turmeric?
Well, it’s not as simple as slicing some up and putting it in your salad. The liver, just doing its job, inhibits much of turmeric’s absorption into the body, meaning that we only receive a small portion of all these amazing benefits. But, luckily, there are ways you can get around this! such as mixing turmeric with fat! *Many plants have constituents that only become bioavailable when extracted through fats. Indeed, curcumin is fat soluble, which means that it can only be absorbed properly by the body when in combination with fats. This is why, in Indian cooking, you will often find turmeric mixed with Ghee (clarified butter) a delicious and healthy substitution for butter.
Mix Turmeric with Pepper!
Piperine, the active ingredient in pepper, increases the absorption of curcumin in the body by 2,000%! When shopping for turmeric supplements, make sure that the one you choose contains black pepper extract or piperine—otherwise, your body is just going to flush out all the healing and nutrients! I recommend INNATE Response Formulas – Inflama-Complete. Another easy way to consume turmeric is by drinking turmeric tea. I personally like to always have a box of Numi Organic Turmeric Tea, Three Roots, Blended w/ Ginger, Licorice & Rose at home and in the office. It’s delicious and easy and if you brew it with a bit of black pepper, you’ll make sure you’re sopping up all the fantastic benefits of turmeric. I also recently discovered Numi Organic Tea Turmeric Golden Latte packets that you simply mix with hot water or your favorite milk. I mix mine with half hot water and half steamed almond milk when in need of a quick, delicious golden milk latte.
In American cooking, we are becoming more open to the amazing spices and herbs that have been used for thousands of years in Eastern cuisines. So I have been so excited to hear more and more people raving about Golden Milk, a drink that mixes turmeric with hot milk and is generally drunk at bedtime, because of its calming, soothing properties. I personally love relaxing before bed with a golden milk latte, especially in the winter months! The Great Kosmic Kitchen has a simple Golden Milk recipe using adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha. You can make this recipe vegan by using nut milk instead of whole milk–I personally prefer almond milk. Beth Kirby at Local Milk also has a beautiful recipe that I love. She recommends drinking this in the morning because of its energizing jolt.
Overall, there are many ways to sneak turmeric into your diet to reap all the amazing benefits– start adding it into your everyday cooking, drinking teas, taking daily supplements, and sipping golden milk lattes or cocoa. And if you’re experiencing chronic inflammation such as arthritis or pain, reach out to your acupuncturist and/or herbalist for help; they can create a special herbal formula and acupuncture treatment plan for your unique constitution and needs.