Why is Turmeric Good for You?
Turmeric has been known by many names over thousands of years. Perhaps most fittingly, however, is its prestigious title, ‘The Spice of Life’. This is because of Turmeric absolutely astounding ability to improve our everyday way of life through frequent consumption of Turmeric Tea.
Turmeric Tea captures all of the incredible health promoting properties found within the herb, which can be savoured and enjoyed while boosting the immune system, lowering cholesterol, easing symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis, and even stimulating cognitive function. Yet, this is just the beginning for this wonder brew. Not only can Turmeric Tea provide countless health benefits, but it can also offer mouthwatering flavours reminiscent of the beautiful landscapes in which it is grown.
It is arguably one of the healthiest herbal tea you could possibly consume; biting at the heels of many other nourishing and beneficial teas such as peppermint and camomile. In just the last few years, Turmeric Tea has been rapidly increasing in popularity as modern science continues to uncover its remarkable capabilities.
Between November 2015 and January 2016 alone, internet searches for turmeric rose by a total of 56%. It likewise appeared on Google’s ‘2016 Food Trends Report’ earning the “rising star” designation. Here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, we believe this new accolade is more than justified. It has been earned over centuries of consumption, with this seemingly insignificant herb now taking the world by storm once more.
What is the Turmeric?
The rhizomatous, herbaceous, perennial, Turmeric plant actually belongs to the ginger family (botanically known as Zingiberaceae). Turmeric is also known as Curcuma longa and is native to much of Southeast Asia, including the Indian subcontinent. Its cultivation has since spread to as far as Queensland, Australia, and even a number of far-reaching Pacific Islands such as Fiji and Hawaii.
Turmeric grows in warm, humid climates and thrives in temperatures near 30C (86F). India, however, is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of this delicious herb. The Curcuma longa plant can grow up to 1 metre (3 feet) in height. It consists of long, aromatic, oval leaves that can grow up to 60 centimetres (23 inches) in length, as well as yellow or white flowers on a single stem.
The ‘root’, meanwhile, is actually a rhizome. It grows below the soil and has a pale-brown exterior appearance and a notably rough texture. In stark contrast, the inside is either a bright orange or yellow colour. These rhizomes average at 2.5 to 7.5 centimetres (1 to 3 inches) and 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) in diameter.
Providing the right conditions are adopted, turmeric can be grown both indoors and outdoors, thus making it an especially versatile plant! Harvesting turmeric usually occurs in late summer / early autumn. Only the turmeric rhizome, mostly when cured commercially, has the aroma and colour necessary for cooking. The leaves, on the other hand, can be used for flavouring, and may be picked throughout the growing season.
Allegedly, there are a total of 55 names for ‘Turmeric’ in the Indian Sanskrit language. Other names for this herb include ‘Indian Saffron’ (a name originating from the British colonisation of India), ‘Haldi’, ‘Haridra’ and, perhaps more informally, ‘The Golden Spice’. The colours and extracts obtained from turmeric root are largely considered sacred and auspicious. It is an integral part of many Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies, and is often associated with fertility and prosperity.
It is also said to bring good luck when applied to a bride’s face and body as part of the ‘purification’ ritual before a wedding. Turmeric may also be given as a gift at special occasions, such as visiting a pregnant woman. However, tradition has it that the root is prohibited in a house of mourning. Dyes, confectionery, paints, varnishes, silk, cotton, and herbal medicines have all utilised the components that make up turmeric.
Most famously, its sharp, earthy, bitter taste is often incorporated into countless culinary dishes and beverages, including Indian curry, soups, and even believe it or not milk.
Yet, as a resurgence takes place in our modern society, and as more and more health conscious individuals experiment with many different nourishing ingredients, turmeric in herbal tea form has suddenly become immensely popular around the world.
What is Turmeric Tea?
Often referred to as ‘liquid gold’, Turmeric Tea is a truly special beverage. It does not contain any leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant (or ‘tea plant’) and subsequently, it is not technically a ‘tea’. Instead, these brews are predominantly known as ‘tisanes’. Turmeric Tea is actually a ‘herbal tisane’, accounting for the herbal ingredient used to make it.
This is as opposed to ‘fruit tisanes’ which, unsurprisingly, are made up of fruit! Despite this technicality, the global tea industry has long since nurtured this beverage, earning itself the title of a honorary tea. This herbal tea can be made using the spice as an exclusive ingredient, or can also be blended with other herbs and spices, such as ginger, chilli, or mace. It is likewise a favoured ingredient in many Chai Tea recipes.
Chai Teas originate from the Indian subcontinent, and greatly differ from region to region; village to village; and even household to household. Unlike Turmeric herbal tea, Chai Teas contain tea leaves, mostly from the Indian Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica variant of the tea plant.
Turmeric is a particularly potent spice, and can be easily recognised, even when infused with other ingredients! Its distinctive taste and aroma will almost always shine through in any blended infusion in a very similar way to its amazing health benefits, which have been known for thousands of years.
The History and Uses of Turmeric
Archeological findings have indicated that this wonderful spice may have been first utilised around 4,000 years ago. Pots containing turmeric residue were only recently discovered in New Delhi, allowing historians a new insight into its early usage.
However, compared with its much loved cousin, the Ginger plant, turmeric has had a somewhat understated existence. In fact, according to the American writer, Michael Castleman, turmeric has had a relatively modest history in much of the western hemisphere until recently. In 1991, he wrote:
“The ancient Greeks were well aware of turmeric, but unlike its close botanical relative, ginger, it never caught on in the West as either a culinary or medicinal herb.”
This, however, does not mean it has gone completely unappreciated, especially in the areas and regions in which it was - and remains to be grown.
Still, the herb has greatly and most unfortunately suffered from little documentation over centuries, with many historians instead relying on speculation. Though there is no known date when the Curcuma longa plant was discovered, it would have likely taken place before the Vedic period that encapsulated India between c. 1500 - c. 600 BCE.
Evidence likewise indicates that during this period, turmeric would have been used as a culinary spice and may also have had some religious significance. It is plausible to suggest that turmeric reached China by c. 700 CE, East Africa by 800 CE, and West Africa by 1200 CE. In 1280, the world-famous Marco Polo described the similarities between turmeric and that of saffron, noting its use for dying cloth.
Right up until the early 20th Century, many western countries expressed little interest in turmeric, instead focusing their studies on the likes of ginger, cardamom, and saffron. Mr. Castleman also wrote in 1991:
“American chemists used turmeric paper, but not even the botanically oriented 19th Century Eclectic physicians had much use for turmeric itself, except to add color to medicinal ointments”.
Today, much has changed since turmeric has been extensively researched by countless scientific institutes around the world. While it has been used in Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, it has now been proven as a truly beneficial herb to consume (and enjoy) for its amazing health promoting properties.
Since these discoveries were made in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many professional herbalists and herbal enthusiasts have realised the almost endless possibilities of turmeric through frequent consumption. Once a largely ‘ignored’ herb, turmeric has finally received the fame it so sorely deserved!
Turmeric in Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine
Many Historians believe that the age-old practice of Ayurveda - broadly translated to mean ‘knowledge / science of life’ - could date back over 6,000 years. However, to this day it remains an integral part of Indian society with an estimated 80% of the rural population in India continuing to practice its teachings. It is an ancient belief system associated with holistic healing and medicine.
This type of healing considers the whole person - the mind, body, spirit, and emotions - in the quest for optimal health and wellness. Ayurveda, in particular, embraces this philosophy through two main principles. Firstly, one must understand that the mind and body are inextricably connected, and secondly, that the mind has the most powerful capability to heal and transform the body.
The concept of preventing diseases before manifestation in Ayurvedic Medicine depends on expanding one’s own awareness. This is followed by bringing the mind into a state of balance, and ultimately, extending that same balance to the body.
Certain foods and lifestyle choices are just two of the main ways to maintain order in the body, according to Ayurveda. A variety of herbs, spices, and essential oils are used to balance the three ‘Doshas’, specifically known as the ‘Vata’ Dosha, the ‘Pitta’ Dosha and the ‘Kapha’ Dosha. The Vata Dosha is the energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation and breathing. The Pitta Dosha, meanwhile, is the energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion and absorption. Finally, the Kapha Dosha is the energy that controls growth in the body. It also supplies water to all parts of the body, moisturises the skin, and maintains the immune system.
Turmeric has long since been used in various ways to balance all three Doshas. It would have likely been adopted some time after the establishment of Ayurveda, but since then, has certainly not been forgotten. Even to this day, it is prescribed by Ayurvedic healers as ‘medicine’ taken internally in the form of brewed tea, fresh juice, tinctures, or powder, and topically as creams, lotions, pastes, and ointments.
Depending on the ailment you may have, a different turmeric product may be chosen for its health benefits. For example, milk boiled with turmeric and sugar was (and still is) a popular cold and flu remedy. turmeric juice, meanwhile, could be applied to wounds, bruises, and leech bites. For sprains and inflamed joints, turmeric paste infused with lime and salt was once a popular choice, while smoke made by sprinkling turmeric over burnt charcoal was used to relieve scorpion stings.
Further to this, inhaling the fumes of burning turmeric was said to release mucous and provide instant relief from congestion. Additionally, hemorrhoids were often treated with an ointment made from turmeric, hemp leaves, onions, and warm mustard oil or linseed. This concoction was then applied externally when the hemorrhoids were painful or protruding. From smallpox to shingles; blemishes to malaria, turmeric has been one of the lasting foundations of Ayurveda.
Turmeric in Traditional Chinese Medicine
At around 3,000 years old, Traditional Chinese Medicine is thought to be the third oldest form of medicine found anywhere in the world. Similar to Ayurveda, TCM practices holistic healing. It largely revolves around the philosophy that the human body operates within the energy of nature, and uses unique diagnostic means such as classical literature, acupuncture and, of course, herbs to heal the mind, body, and soul.
Although the use of turmeric is not quite as widespread as that of Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, TCM still considers this particular spice to be a greatly beneficial ingredient when applied to its fascinating belief systems. A component of the turmeric plant known as the tuber is actually a herb unto itself, according to TCM. It is called ‘Yu Jin’ and is thought to benefit both the stomach and the spleen.
In particular, Yu Jin is said to help circulate blood and ‘qi’ - a TCM belief of a ‘life energy’ that runs through the body. Further to this, it may also be used for menstrual pain, enlarged livers, and heart disorders. It can also be applied topically for pain due to trauma, and allegedly has the ability to speed up the healing process of chronic sores. Despite its age, TCM is still practiced in much of the world today.
Turmeric Tea Benefits
It may have been long overdue, but finally, turmeric has risen through the ranks to become one of the healthiest herbs/spices known to modern science. Almost as if playing a game of ‘catch-up’, countless scientific institutes across the world have, since the turn of our century, endeavoured to uncover turmeric and turmeric tea’s true potential.
Its many beneficial components have since been rigorously studied through a multitude of clinical trials and research projects, and it now seems as if the possibilities are near endless. But what, you may ask, is the magic ‘ingredient’; the reason that turmeric is so important, and is now marvelled for its almost unmatched health-promoting properties? And why, after so many years; after so many centuries, has this humble plant once again inspired millions upon millions of people looking to improve their overall well-being?
Curcumin is the yellow pigment found in turmeric, and to a lesser extent, in a number of other herbs and spices, including ginger. This absolutely remarkable constituent was first isolated in 1815, but would take almost another hundred years before its full chemical structure was accurately mapped in 1911.
Today, it is also recognised as a naturally occurring chemical compound that belongs to the ‘curcominoid’ family. Curcuminoids are polyphenolic compounds which are, in turn, powerful antioxidants. It is known that humans are especially susceptible to oxidation. Oxygen molecules create stress on our organs and tissues by introducing atoms, ions, or molecules that contain an unpaired electron.
These are better known as ‘free radicals’, and they are infamously harmful to the body; ultimately leading to many complications such as heart disease and even cancer. Antioxidants, meanwhile, have the ability to slow down the damaging effects of oxidation through their work in neutralising free radicals.
This brings us back to curcumin, a compound thought to be 5 to 8 times more powerful than Vitamin E. Many laboratory studies have demonstrated that this antioxidant has potent anti-inflammatory properties, as well as Turmeric Tea having many other outstanding benefits.
The only issue at this present time, however, is curcumin’s somewhat lacking ability to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Yet, it should be noted that this does not mean it can’t, rather it is a little more difficult to integrate than with some other organic substances. It is thought that consuming turmeric with pepper can help the process along. This is because pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
The frequent consumption of turmeric tea on a daily basis may also potentially improve the chances of absorption. It also contains a vast quantity of other beneficial components such as vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants as well. This includes sulfuric compounds, phytochemicals, and gingerols, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc. These elements combined are truly a match made in heaven.
Turmeric Tea has Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
Proven, peer-reviewed, and published in over 5,600 biomedical study reports, Turmeric Tea is known to help with inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint pain. Its efficiency in combating issues associated with inflammation has even been compared to those of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
While acute (or ‘short-term’) inflammation is considered beneficial, it can often lead to major problems when it becomes chronic (long-term). Chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on many components in the body. It can lead to poor digestion, a weaker immune system, and even heart disease.
Turmeric can fight long-term inflammation on a molecular level. The curcumin found in turmeric tea can block NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. Further to this, the combination of curcumin and gingerols in turmeric tea provide analgesic properties, which essentially means they have the ability to relieve pain caused by inflammation, be it acute or chronic. In fact, a 2011 study showed that patients who added 200 milligrams of curcumin and / or gingerols to their daily treatment experienced less pain and increased mobility.
Turmeric Tea can Improve your Immune System:
While it is traditionally milk mixed with turmeric powder used to combat the common cold, Turmeric Tea can achieve this too - and possibly more so! It has been established to have antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic qualities that, together, make excellent immune system aids. These properties are thought to protect against incoming viruses, as well as reducing symptoms such as nausea in those already feeling unwell.
Specifically, it has been established that turmeric can reduce viral replication by approximately 90% in laboratory cells infected with influenza (flu) varieties, according to a study published in a 2009 edition of “Emerging Infectious Diseases”. However, further studies are likely required for this particular immune system health benefit.
Turmeric Tea can Help with Digestive:
Aside from reducing the risks of chronic disease, the anti-inflammatory properties of this beverage can also ease digestion after large, fatty meals. Turmeric Tea can help to settle the stomach, reduce nausea, and promote healthy digestion of food.
It can also help to stimulate peristaltic motion and eliminate bloating, cramps, and constipation. The frequent consumption of any turmeric tea may also help to treat acid reflux, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is no surprise then, that turmeric beverages are commonly enjoyed before eating in many regions of India and beyond.
Turmeric Tea Aids Cardiovascular Health:
Curcumin helps to relax blood vessels, which in turn helps to lower blood pressure. This is predominantly due to curcumin’s ability to improve the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Several studies have been conducted in recent years specifically catered to this area. One study suggests curcumin’s efficacy in improving endothelial function is as effective as exercise, while another shows it works as well as the drug known as Atorvastatin.
It is likewise believed to lessen the risk of heart attacks and may even reduce tissue damage during an attack. This is according to a study that saw 121 patients all of whom were due to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery, split into two groups. The first group was given 4 grams of curcumin a day while the second was given a placebo. The study was conducted a few days before, and then a few days after the surgery. The results indicated that the curcumin group had a 65% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack in hospital.
Further to this, early research has suggested that the frequent consumption of turmeric tea may lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL may lead to plaque formation in the arteries and blood vessels which, in turn, can increase atherosclerosis, as well as the risks of heart attacks and even strokes. A 2008 study has since indicated that curcumin can reduce these LDL levels.
Turmeric Tea and Cognitive Function:
There are two important statistics to take into account when it comes to Turmeric Tea and its potential ability to enhance cognitive function. First of all, India is the largest consumer of turmeric be it in curries, teas, or as supplements. Second, and perhaps most importantly, India is among the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is likely not just a coincidence.
In fact, extracts of turmeric have been found to contain a vast number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have likewise indicated that turmeric teas can increase brain levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone. Many common brain disorders have been associated with decreased levels of this hormone, and so turmeric tea, although not yet proven, might have a vital part to play in cognitive function in the foreseeable future.
Turmeric Tea Known to Aid Weight Loss:
Obesity has become an increasingly prevalent issue in many societies around the world. A 2009 animal based study at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, found that curcumin actually suppresses fat tissue growth in mice. As humans and animals gain weight, fat tissue expands when new blood vessels form.
Results indicated that mice consuming curcumin were unable to form these blood vessels and thus had less fat gain than those who did not consume the compound. Similar research has not yet been performed on humans, and so it is currently uncertain whether turmeric and turmeric tea will have the same effect. However, this early research is promising nonetheless.
Turmeric Tea and HIV / AIDS:
“Curcumin’s antioxidant properties will protect your DNA from the [HIV / AIDS] virus. It’s also antimicrobial, so it will help prevent the many opportunistic illnesses associated with HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Kowalsky in a 1999 publication titled Nature’s Medicine.
In a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, meanwhile, researchers showed that turmeric prevented the reproduction of HIV by blocking a specific gene that activates the virus and causes it to spread. Another study showed that it can inhibit some of the steps that lead to the reproduction of HIV. It should be noted, however, we very much urge anyone to consult a doctor before consuming Turmeric Tea for the treatment of HIV and / or AIDS.
Turmeric Tea and Depression:
Turmeric contains compounds that are able to effectively stimulate the nervous system while providing positive effects on overall mood. In one study, 60 test subjects were randomised into three groups. The first group was given the drug prozac, the second was given a gram of curcumin, and the third was given both Prozac and cucumin.
After a 6 week period, curcumin had led to similar results as that of Prozac, although the third group that took both curcumin and Prozac fared the best. While further research is needed, this small study suggested curcumin’s - and thus turmeric’s - effectiveness as a potential antidepressant.
Rather than a known fact, it is largely believed that Turmeric Tea can not only improve our everyday way of life, but also extend it. This speculation has arisen after observing the daily lives and routines of the people of Okinawa, an island of Japan. Located approximately 400 miles from the mainland, and boasting beautiful tropical scenery, Okinawans are known to have the world’s longest average lifespan at 81.2 years!
While genetics, environment, and a close-knit community all are essential factors to their longevity, it is clear that their diet is just as important, if not more so. The traditional diets of Okinawans are typically low in fat, salt, and sugar. They largely consist of vegetables, tropical fruits, and grains, which ultimately make up over 70% of their diet by weight.
Similar to mainland Japan, the residents of this 70 miles long and average 7 miles wide island frequently enjoy a cup of tea with their meals. But unlike Japan, these beverages are turmeric teas, rather than Sencha Green teas.
Spices are generally not used in Japanese culture, but even though Okinawa is a part of Japan, the archipelago is a significant distance from the mainland. It reaches far south into what was once the ancient Spice Route between China, Southeast Asia, and India. Owing to this, Curcuma longa plants grow in great abundance across the island.
The frequent consumption of turmeric tea, meanwhile, is now thought to play a key factor in the lives of Okinawans, with many enjoying excellent health well into their 100’s! Alas, Turmeric Tea may not be the answer to a long, fruitful life, but it is almost certainly a deciding factor!
Try our Turmeric Tea Blends
From ‘the sniffles’ to quite literally a longer life, turmeric tea seems to have it all. We have a number of turmeric-based beverages for you to enjoy at your leisure! Examining our herbal tea selections, we, of course, have our Turmeric Root Tea, quite simply the perfect place to start when it comes to first exploring this delicious herb.
We also have Turmeric Herbal Tea, noted for its delightful aroma, almost reminiscent of pumpkin! This particular beverage has a slightly fruity flavour, followed by delicate spiciness, and an indulgently sweet aftertaste to finish off.
Looking for a blended infusion? Turmeric Ginger Tea might just be the one for you. With its strong spicy notes combined with slightly sweet undertones, this brew is a beautiful creation made with two of the healthiest ingredients in the world. Another blend to consider is Ayurveda Turmeric and Mace Tea. This herbal tisane uses only organic ingredients and is produced using bio-cultivation methods. Free of any synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, and pesticides, this tea is lovingly made in a way that benefits you, as well as mother nature!
We also have two new herbal teas which have been lovingly and most exclusively blended here at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company’s Pluckley-based factory. Turmeric Orange Peel Tea is a strong, full-bodied, and refreshing brew boasting sweet undertones and a complex, citrus aftertaste. Turmeric Lemon and Ginger Tea, meanwhile, is easily recognised by its distinct, earthy-spicy flavour and similarly citrusy undertones.