Turmeric – A Golden Ray Of Sunshine Goodness

‘Turmeric’, ‘Curcuma’, ‘Kurkuma’, ‘the golden spice’, ‘the yellow gold’ and ‘golden goddess’ to name but few. This super spice has many names, and just as many, if not more, excuberant healing powers.

Mainly used in Indian cuisine, hailed for its flavour in traditional currys, soups and stews, and due to its amazing deep yellow tone for its great colouring abilities (careful of those food stains); turmeric is but not just a simple spice. Turmeric is a POWERHOUSE, a power-plant with amazing healing and anti-inflammatory abilities, and is one of the most powerful herbs on the planet today to help us humans shield from inflammation, prevent disease, and to keep our bodies strong and healthy.

Curcuma Longa’ which is the Latin name for turmeric, comes from the Arabic name for the plant, ‘Kurkum’ and is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberacea), which includes ginger and galangal.

Turmeric is actually a beautiful tall growing green and flowering plant. The part that is used in cooking as a spice and for supplementation in natural medicine are the fingerlike stalks (Rhizome) that grow beneath
the earth’s surface. Looking similar to the ginger root, when you cut open a turmeric root, you’ll see its blooming yellow, almost orange colour coming out.

If you haven’t cooked with turmeric yet, you might have come across turmeric through the ‘Turmeric (‘Curcuma’) Latte’ trend that has kind of exploded over the past 2 years. Also referred to as ‘Golden Milk‘, plant or animal milk is heatet and then mixed with turmeric powder, honey and other spices such as cardamom and black pepper. Apart from its nourishing and calming taste, a ‘Turmeric Latte’ doesn’t only just taste good, it has many healing benefits for you and your body.

Turmeric has been used as a plant medicine and a healing herb in traditional philosophies such as Ayuveda for over more than 3000 years. Ancient scripts that were written thousand of years ago already talk about the healing power of the golden goddess:

  • ‘Jvaraghna’: relieves fever.
  • ‘Viṣaghna’: destroys toxins and poisons.
  • Kusthagna’: eliminates skin diseases
  • ‘Kaṇḍughna’: anti-itching
  • ‘Vedanāsthāpana’: soothes pain
  • ‘Raktasodhana’: blood purifying
  • ‘Prameha’: helps with diabetes
  • ‘Sirovirecana’: eliminates congestion in the head area
  • and many, many more…

Today modern science has proven turmeric effective through countless studies,
and can confirm what ancient traditions already knew to be the truth for centuries:

Turmeric has proven very effective in treating some of the most intense illnesses that we experience in the world today such as: Cancer, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Atherosclerosis, Indigestion, Inflammation, Acne, Urinary Tract Infections, Kidney Infections, Gallstones, Anemia, Hemorrhoids, Liver Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Hepatitis-C, Genital Herpes) , Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Edema, Bronchitis, Common Cold, Headaches, parasites, diarrhea, poor circulation, lower back and abdominal pain. It can also be used as wound healer, and it helps balance the female reproductive system. In men it purifies and improves the health of semen.

The reason for turmeric being able to treat so many different diseases lies in its incredible anti-inflammatory capacity:
Anti-inflammatory means in a very literal sense, for example, to reduce swelling. Say you have been in an accident and sprained your ankle. Chances are high that you’ll experience a swelling of some sort, maybe some redness, tender pain on touching and a warm sensation in the area of the injury. This is simply a natural reaction of your body to induce healing: a natural state of inflammation to induce a healing response. Inflammation can also occur on the insides of our bodies, where we can’t see it, and more often than not, don’t even feel it.

Imagine little tiny construction sites that you’re body is working on constantly at all times to keep you healthy. This is totally normal and happens all the time without us noticing. Inflammation is really a natural process in which enzymes, prostaglandines and other inflammatory proteins (Cox-2, NF-kB, Lox-5, to name but a few) up and down regulate inflammation as part of the inflammatory response pathway. Modern day living however, mainly trough oxidative stress, can cause the inflammation response to ‘get out of control’:

When inflammation becomes a problem:
Our bodies are bombarded constantly with environmental poisons, toxic foods, stress and so forth: too many coffees, pesticides, rushing to work, an argument with the boss, drinking alcohol at night. Holding tension day in and day out, without giving our body the rest it deserves. And suddenly we find ourselves in a downward spiral of uncontrollable digestive issues, auto-immune-diseases or cancer. Scientists now believe that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, western disease. We have come under so much stress that the standard inflammation pathway can literally not regulate itself anymore efficiently.

Turmeric is hailed as one of the best natural anti-inflammatories in the world today:
Countless studies have shown that turmeric helps to immensily improve the inflammation responses in our bodies, helping us heal quicker from illness and improving the time-span from when inflammation first occurs to its natural conclusion. Thus swellings reduce faster, wounds heal quicker and infections can ease off sooner.

The active compounds in turmeric, one of them being called curcumin, are strongly anti-inflammatory.
In fact, they’re so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects. It blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases.

Furthermore, turmeric and its active compounds dramatically increase the anti-oxidant capacity of the cells in our bodies:
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. It has also been shown to increase the production of Nrf2, a multi-organ protector that helps our bodies fight ROS (reactive oxygen species). Thus curcumin boosts the activity of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

In summary, turmeric and its compounds such as curcumin, have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capacities. With oxidative stress and chronic inflammation being the major causes for modern day health problems, turmeric can be instrumental in helping to fight aging and in preventing degenerative disease.

Read Next:
Turmeric’s therapeutic effects:
standard spice vs. turmeric supplementation

Recipes Featuring Turmeric:


Curcumin upregulates the Nrf2 system by repressing inflammatory signaling-mediated Keap1 expression in insulin-resistant conditions.

Role of Nrf2 in Oxidative Stress and Toxicity

Curcumin Activates the Nrf2 Pathway and Induces Cellular Protection Against Oxidative Injury.

Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research

herbs help balance your dosha in ayurveda

The quick and easy guide to Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that orginated in India. It can be traced back to pre-historic healing scripts (the Vedas) to somwhere between 3,000 – 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda talks about how to care and look after your body and how to maintain balance and great health. Ayurveda is still very widely practised and used today, with an ever growing popularity. Ayurveda is also the medical branch of yoga. It offers profound diet, herb, and lifestyle recommendations based on your individual constitution also called the ‘doshic-type’. 

The beauty of Ayurveda is that it is not difficult to understand. I’m always baffled again and again as to how easily Ayurveda can help us understand most health conditions that modern medicine still struggles to find the answers to most of today. I am amazed how wise men and women clearly understood the energies of food and our bodies so clearly back then, and with so much ease and clarity. And to put it simply: with a good dollop of pure common sense. A common sense that is clearly lacking from our computerized & ‘one pill for every need’ society that we are living in today.

So I hear you, you ask, but how does it work then?

To put it simply: Ayurveda doesn’t look at us humans as one and the same, but recognizes that we are all individuals that have different body types, different needs, different metabolisms, and to put it simply: different kind of energies.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Doshas are the energies that make up every one of us human beings, and are derived from the elements (air, ether, fire, water, earth).

To give you an example:

Imagine a very skinny, slightly bony looking man. Let’s say he has an erratic kind of temperament and a very creative mind. His hair is bolding and he is prone to dry and flaky skin conditions. Let’s call him our ‘mad professor’ type.

Then imagine a sweet middle-aged lady, she looks gorgeous with voluptious hair and full lips. She has nice rounded hips and a very ‘curvy’ body type. She has beautiful thick dark hair, her skin is slightly on the oily side, and she complaints often that she puts on weight so easily but struggles to loose it. We wouldn’t call her overweight but she’s definitely a well rounded, beautiful lady. Let’s call her our ‘earth mama’.

So simply by looking at these two very different body types, I guess you would agree that it seems obvious that both people would need a very different appoach to their diet, with foods to suits their differing body types, right?

Our skinny professor would probably be suited more to a heavier kind of diet, consisting of grounding root vegetables and potatoes, plus some oily foods would be ok here. As the poor guy is complaining about dry skin conditions (think of dry, what do you need: something oily to lubricate), healthy fats and oils such as avocados could be a winner here. We would probably also tell him to eat bigger meals at regular times in the day, as lets face it: he’s a mad professor with his head in the clouds and he probably forgets to eat most days (as he’s so busy coming up with the next ‘big thing’).

This light and airy energy that can get scattered sometimes and that is manifesting here in our ‘mad-professor’, is described in Ayurveda as the ‘Vata’ energy.

Now, to our earth mama, we would probably prescribe foods that are more ‘light’ in nature, slightly drying (opposite to oily), and some more ‘fiery’ foods and warming spices such as cayenne, cinnamon, ginger. The lighter foods will help her balance some of that heaviness, the dry foods will balance out the oily skin, and the spicy foods will help to kick start the digestive fire and get that slightly sluggish metabolism going for longer.

This loving, grounded, earthly mothering nature would be described by Ayurveda as the ‘Kapha’ energy.

Last but not least, there’s the ‘Pitta’ energy. Let’s describe our typical Pitta person like this: do you know that guy from the office that needs to have his lunch at 12 o’clock on the dot every day or they get cranky? The boss that often gets red-headed when he talks himself into a rage? The girl next to you that drinks three coffees in a row and talks really, really fast? Probably a ‘Pitta Person’. Pittas are fast thinkers, born communicators and often work in busy career jobs such as in sales.

Pittas are prone to inflammation, red skin conditions, and often have a fast (sometimes too fast) metabolism. We balance Pitta’s hot, fiery energy with cooling drinks such as Aloe Vera Juice and bitter foods such as lots of leafy greens and legumes.

So this was a VERY SIMPLE introduction to how Ayurveda & the doshas work .

Of course there’s more depths to it, once you start studying Ayurveda further, but the basic pricinple works indeed around looking at the energy of a food (hot, cold,dry, light, etc.) and matching these up with your predominant body type (dosha).

Its important to know that we all carry all three doshas in us, and that we are always a mix of all three, with one or two dosha’s being the most prominent ones. Therefor most people would be classsified as a Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Vata, or Pitta-Kapha etc. type, with the third dosha being the least dominant one.
Note: there’s always an exception to the rule! Some people have all three dosha’s in them in more or less equal proportions, rather than having one dosha as their predominant type. This is called being ‘tri-doshic’.

Here is a short summary of the three doshas and what you can do to balance them.
Can you recognise your type?

Vata is the ether energy in Ayurveda


The Vata energy is that of the Air and the Ether (something that permeates space). Qualities of Vata are therefor: dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, clear. These energies express themselves in the physical, mental and health sphere of a Vata person as follows.

Physical: Usually people with a slender frame, thin build, and often find it difficult to put on weight. They are often prone to dry skin and scalp conditions. Vata’s often have problem sleeping and are ‘light sleepers’. They have energy and like to be energetic, however this energy often comes in bursts and if not managed properly, Vata’s can fluctuate from lots of to very little energy. Overall they are athelctic and enjoy speed, motion and aerobic activity.

Mental: Vata’s types are quick to the mark, but their minds tend to wander.
Fear and anxiety are emotions that can come to often and too easily to Vata and thus they can be often prone to worry and anxiety. They often like to think of themselves as rebels.

Health Concerns: The light and windy energy of Vata tends to express itself in the digestive tract. If out of balance, constipation and bloating can manifest, such as are general aches, pains and inflammation.

General diet guidelines: To combat the cold, dry and airy nature of Vata, stick to freshly prepared cooked and warmed foods, rather than raw, unripe or cold foods. Avoid foods that are too spicy, bitter and astringent tastes, as these tastes can aggravate the light Vata nature even further. Instead favour sweet, sour and salty foods. Opt for hot beverages such as herbal tea rather than cold or aerated drinks.

Tastes to pacify Vata: sweet, sour, salty.

Optimal Balance: wonderfully creative and balanced enthusiasm is a great sign of the Vata dosha being in balance.

Pitta is the fire energy


The Pitta energy is that of the Fire and Water. Qualities of Pitta are therefor: hot, sharp,light, liquid,spreading, and oily. These energies express themselves like this in the physical, mental and health sphere of a Pitta person as follows.

Physical: Pitta types have a strong constitution with an average height and build and develop muscles easily. Their weak spot is their skin, being prone to rashes, sensitive skin, reddening skin, or sometimes also acne, freckles or moles. More senstive to sunlight and heat, these types often grey or bald early. Pittas have very strong appetites, and get easily cranky when missing a meal. They usually don’t have troubles with weight gain but are prone to hyperacidity and heartburn. They sweat easily.

Mental: Pittas are intelligent, perceptive and like to communicate fast, yet they may often end up opinionated and judgmental. Competition is in their nature, and they are usually very goal oriented. Pittas are often found in managerial positions, and can have a tendency to be aggressive and dominating.

Health Concerns: Pittas are often prone to acidity, hypertension, inflammations, skin conditions and hormonal imbalances.

General diet guidelines: To cool down the hot, fiery nature of Pitta, use the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes, and cooling and refreshing foods (such as leafy greens, aloe vera juice, etc.). Avoid spicy and hot foods if possible.

Tastes to pacify Pitta: sweet, bitter, astringent

Optimal State: A self-confident personality without arrogance and an entrepreneurial spirit are a great sign of a balanced Pitta.


The Kapha energy is that of Water and Earth. Qualities of Kapha are therefor: Heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, cloudy (sticky). These energies express themselves in the physical, mental and health sphere of a Kapha person as follows:

Physical: Kapha types are usually strong builds with well-developed muscle and usually normal to short in stature. Kapha types hold onto energy better out of all the dosha’s and therefor usually have a larger, stronger frame and can often struggle with excess weight. Loosing weight is not as easy for Kapha’s as it is for Vata or Pitta and types. Complexion is fair and bright, usually great, radiant skin, small pores and lucious, thick hair that can be abundant and wavy. They sometimes have a slow but constant appetite.

Mental: Kapha’s are usually grounded, with a great capacity for love, devotion and loyalty, sometimes with a little emotional temperament. New things and subjects often stick better after a lot of repetition, but great mastery when they do.
Better at completing things but sometimes slow to start off. Kapha’s can be romantic and sentimental and are slow to change.

Health concerns: Kapha’s are prone to diseases that relate to excess weight and water retention including obesity, asthma, edema and congestive disorders.

General diet guidelines: To combat the heavy, slow and dense nature of Kapha types, favour foods and energies that are pungent, bitter and astringent. Warm freshly prepared foods are best, gently cooked, and a predominantly vegetarian or vegan diet is best suited for Kapah’s. Kapha’s should avoid the sweet, sour and salty tastes as much as possible.

Tastes to pacify Kapha: bitter, pungent, astringent.

Optimal State: A calm and caring nature, being sweet, loving and grounded, are great signs of a balanced Kapha.

Cleansing and Calming Cardamom

Have you ever tried this wonderful green powder, referred to in Ayurveda as ‘the queen of spices‘?
Well if you already have, thumbs up, and if you haven’t read on about the amazing health benefits of cardamom, and hopefully it’ll inspire you to buy some next time you walk past your spice isle.

I dare you adding a teaspoon of yummy cardamom into your morning coffee (I recommend adding a bit of cinnamom too)!
Or try it on sweet stewed fruit (apples, pears, bananas), in baking (cardamom cookie recipe here), or in savoury dishes such as curries.

There are actually two types of cardamom: the one most commonly known and used here in the West are the green pods, but there’s also black cardamom.

Green and black cardamom are actually from the same plant family. Green cardamom is harvested before it reaches maturity and the pods are often used whole. Black cardamom is dried for longer and the seeds are extracted. 

Green cardamom is more often used to flavour sweet dishes and black cardamom is used for a more pungent flavour in savoury dishes.

Although used in the West, cardamom is mainly used in India & Middle Eastern cusines in desserts, tea and coffee for its sweet flavour. People from India often chew on the pods after a meal for its breath freshening properties!

  • Cardamom can clear toxin built up (called Ama in Ayurveda) from the body:
    Toxins can block internal circulation and reduce energy levels, which can cause illness and disease. Cardamom’s warming and detoxifying effects aid in reducing the accumulation of these toxins, and guide them gently out of the body. This is called a diuretic effect (helps the body elimate waste through the kidneys).

  • Cardamom has a very high antioxidant capacity:
    studies have shown that cardamom protects cells from free radical damage that can cause inflammation & premature aging.

  • Supports respiratory health:
    Cardamom can soothe coughs and colds by lubricating the respiratory pathways (drink that warming chai tea when you have a cold!)

  • Aids digestion. Reduces indigestion, gas and bloating:
    Many studies have shown its great benefits in reducing stomach ulcers by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes. Great to drink in a tea (or chew on the seeds) after a meal. It makes heavy and acidic foods much easier to digest. In middle eastern societies coffee is often brewed with some cardamom to offset the negative effects of the acidic coffee (and increases flavours).Try it out! Cardamom also supports healthy cholesterol & tryglyceride levels as well as helping the body to burn fat more effectively.

  • Antibacterial & antimicrobial:
    The essential oils found in cardamom have shown to support good oral health. They fight bad breath and aid in healing mouth ulcers. Furthermore studies have shown that cardamom extracts are very effective against bacterial infections such as strepptococus mutans and candida albicans (a common yeast infection that can cause numerous digestive issues and leaky gut).

  • Supports kidney & bladder health:
    Due to its diuretic effect, cardamom supports cleansing toxins from the urinary tract, kidneys and bladder.

  • Supports healthy blood glucose levels:
    Cardamom is a rich source of manganese, which can play a role in managing blood sugar levels.

  • Gives a good night sleep:
    having trouble sleeping? Try adding half a teaspoon of cardamom to a mug of warm plant milk and maybe some honey before bed-time. Warm milk with cardamom has been shown to support a more restful night sleep.

  • Cancer fighting compounds:
    Many studies have shown that cardamom can increase the activity of enzymes that help to fight certain cancers. Furthermore, it has been found that the body’s natural ability to attack tumours was increased. An interesting study: Researchers exposed 2 groups of mice to a compound that causes skin cancer and fed one group a diet that also consisted of 500mg cardamom per day. 29% of the cardamom group and a whopping 90% of the control group (no cardamom) developed skin cancer!

  • Anti-inflammatory:
    High in antioxidants, cardamom protects cells from damage & stops inflammation from occuring.

  • Anti-anxiety:
    the calming effects of cardamom still haven’t been officially studied, but many ancient traditions such as Ayurvda swear that cardamom has very calmig effects on the nervous system and can therefor be a great healing addition for someone who suffers from depression.

Cooking with cardamom:
Ground cardamom is probably the most used and sugested in recipes: add powdered cardamom directly to recipes that call for cardamom. However, to really get the most cardamom flavour, your best off using cardamom pods.

Simply get some cardamom pods (as in the picture above), and simply open the pods with a small sharp knife and remove the small black seeds.

You can then grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar for best results, or you can use a motorized spice grinder (a coffee grinder works really well).

Hot tipp: toast the green cardamom pods over a dry killet for a few minutes to bring out the flavour, then remove the seeds after.

If adding cardamom seeds to your coffee or other hot drinks, simply grind three to four cardamom seeds and add to a drink of your choice. Alternatively, simply use ground cardamom, between 1/4 tsp and up to a full teaspoon (adjust to your taste!)


In Ayurveda, herbs and spices are classified by their qualities, tastes and actions that they have on the body and the mind.


Tri-doshic. Balances Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Although cardamom is considered tri-doshic (balancing for all 3 doshas) , those with a Pitta imbalance should use it slightly more sparingly as it can also be heating in quality
(i.e. warms up the body which can be too much for a very strong Pitta person).




Mobile, light, clear, dry, warming.