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Turmeric Health Benefits: The Golden Goddess

Most of us know turmeric (Curcuma longa) as the vibrant orange powder located in the spice section between thyme and vanilla beans. And many of us use turmeric root powder in our cooking, particularly if we have an affinity for preparing Indian-inspired dishes. Similar to the root-like component of its cousin ginger, turmeric has been a staple of Indian food traditions for millennia and has a long history of healing use (over 4000 years) in Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese, and Siddhic medicinal traditions.

Turmeric’s role in Hindu devotional and sacred ceremonies is alluded to by one of its Sanskrit names: Kanchani, the “Golden Goddess,” perhaps so called because its beautiful golden hue generously bestows healing to a wide range of ailments.

turmeric health benefits

Indeed, traditional Ayurvedic use includes turmeric as healing agent for skin abrasions, GI tract inflammation, aches and pains, and liver disorders, while modern research confirms the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties of turmeric.

turmeric health benefits

The characteristic golden hue is produced by curcumin, the constituent in turmeric most isolated and studied by scientists, but the whole herb is used in herbal traditions and has also been the subject of many favorable studies.

Turmeric’s Herbal Actions

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and help to reduce or prevent damage and inflammation caused by free radicals, and anti-inflammatory agents block enzymes that promote inflammation and pain. Turmeric is often used in an Ayurvedic approach to reduce inflammation of the throat and tonsils, and as an anti-inflammatory herb for many other aches and pains. A randomized 2009 study examined the efficacy and safety of turmeric in patients with knee arthritis (an inflammatory condition), concluding that turmeric was as effective and as safe as ibuprofen. (Kuptniratsaikul, et al, 2009) You will find that a number of culinary herbs also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including sage, ginger, and garlic.

Antimicrobial herbs inhibit the growth of pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. A 2009 study on aqueous extract of turmeric showed good antimicrobial action against such pathogens as E. coli and staph. (Niamsa, et al, 2009)

Cholerectics stimulate production of bile, thereby supporting digestion. In Ayurveda, turmeric is a warming herb that kindles digestive fire, or agni. Like other bitter-flavored herbs that stimulate bile production, turmeric is used to promote digestion and alleviate symptoms in the GI tract. A randomized, double-blind crossover study in 1999 used ultrasound to examine the gallbladder after administration of curcumin, leading researchers to conclude that “curcumin induces contraction of the human gall-bladder” (Raysid, et al, 1999).

In a double-blind, placebo controlled study in Thailand, curcumin was compared to placebo and an over-the-counter remedy for indigestion. Eighty-seven percent of the curcumin group had full or partial relief from indigestion after 7 days, compared to 53% of the placebo group. (Thamlikitkul, et al, 1989)

turmeric powder

Turmeric offers such a dynamic array of health benefits that it’s even being studied in regards to its potential effect on serious diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. Cardiac specific benefits are its effects on cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. While studies do not show that it would be a good substitute for cholesterol and diabetes medications, long-term use may help reduce the amount of other medications used in a treatment level.

How to Use Turmeric

Topical and External Use

Because of its antibacterial properties, when combined with a little salt and mixed together as a paste, turmeric can be applied to the skin in response to abrasions and swelling. This remedy is also used to help resolve bruises. Gargling with salt water is often thought to help relieve a sore throat. But turmeric, when paired with salt, has the potential to be even more effective! You can find turmeric at this link or at your local grocery store.

Gargle With Turmeric and Salt

A pinch or two of turmeric
A pinch or two of salt

Add to warm water and gargle as you would regular salt water.

Internal Use

The medicinal properties of turmeric may not be absorbed well due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestines unless it is consumed with black pepper. In a validating example of the time-tested concept of herbal catalysts (herbs that enhance the activity of other herbs), it turns out that the piperine in black pepper enhances the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric by 2000% (Shoba et al. 1998)! Note: black pepper may inhibit drug metabolism so should be used with caution, if at all, by those taking pharmaceutical medications.

Whether by incorporating it into cooking or taking it as one of several herbs in a tea, turmeric is at the heart of many different remedies and continues to prove its value after thousands of years of use.

One such tried and true recipe is “Golden Milk,” a traditional Ayurvedic concoction. Here is our take on this age-old recipe, with the addition of black pepper for enhanced curcumin bioavailability. This yummy, warming drink is delicious in the winter and can be served room temperature or slightly warmed if desired.

turmeric for health - golden milk

Turmeric Recipes

Traditional instructions recommend making a turmeric paste first, which can be spread on toast or added to other dishes, but you can also simply add turmeric powder into the milk.

Turmeric Paste

¼ cup ground turmeric
½ cup water

  • Combine turmeric powder and water in a saucepan.
  • Simmer until mixture forms a thick paste.
  • Let cool, then store in fridge.

turmeric for health - golden milk

Golden Milk

Serves one


1 cup unsweetened coconut, rice, or almond milk
¼ – 1/2 teaspoon turmeric paste (or just add powder)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Few shakes of ground black pepper
Generous dash of vanilla
Raw local honey or maple syrup to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon

  • Place 1 cup milk with turmeric paste, oil, black pepper, vanilla, and honey/maple syrup into a blender.
  • Blend on high briefly until combined and foamy.
  • Pour into cup, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve.


Turmeric should not be used long term or used medicinally by those with congestive heart failure. Those with prone to kidney stones, gallstones, bile duct obstruction, or GI disorders should not use turmeric. It should not be used medicinally by pregnant women. Stop using turmeric two weeks before surgery.

Learn more about turmeric and other herbs in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, featuring over 100 recipes for health and wellness.



Baum L, Lam CW, Cheung SK, et al. (2008) Six-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot clinical trial of curcumin in patients with Alzheimer disease (letter). J Clin Psychopharmacol; 28:110-3 

Frawley, David and Lad, Vasant. (2001) The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Kuptniratsaikul V, Thanakhumtorn S, Chinswangwatanakul P, Wattanamongkonsil L, Thamlikitkul V. (2009) Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 15(8):891-89

Liu K, Zhang D, Chojnacki J, Du Y, Fu, H, Grant S and Zhang S. (2013) Design and Biological Characterization of Hybrid Compounds of Curcumin and Thalidomide for Multiple Myeloma. Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry 11:4757-4763.

Lad, Vasant. (1984) Ayurveda. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Niamsa, N and Sittiwet C. (2009) Antimicrobial Activity of Curcuma longa Aqueous Extract. Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 4: 173-17

Rasyid A, Lelo A. The effect of curcumin and placebo on human gall-bladder function: an ultrasound study. (1999) Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 13:245-249.

Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 64 (4): 353–6.

Thamlikitkul V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Dechatiwongse T, et al. (1989) Randomized double blind study of Curcuma domestica Val . for dyspepsia. J Med Assoc Thai . 72:613-620.

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  • I love your site! I will definitely be keeping up with all of the wonderful information you share here. Thank you! I shared on FB and twitter. Happy holidays!

    December 23, 2013
  • Amber Meyers

    Thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing our post. Happy Holidays Karen!

    December 23, 2013
  • Jane

    Is there any reason I couldn’t heat this up and drink it like hot chocolate? For some reason, the thought of drinking it cold is a little strange to me.

    January 21, 2014
    • Herbal Academy

      Sure, go ahead and warm it up if that appeals to you! If you’re using raw honey, avoid heating it up too high so that the beneficial properties are not inhibited. A gentle warming (not a boil) should do the trick.

      January 21, 2014
  • […] Turmeric Health Benefits: The Golden Goddess […]

    January 22, 2014
    • Deb

      I would like to know about turmeric and CHF. The article gave a warning not to use it if you have that condition. My dad, 91, has been drinking the golden milk. What is the reason a person who has CHF shouldn’t drink turmeric? I am really interested, because all I’ve read the spice has been “wonderful” and very good for a person. Thanks!!

      March 22, 2014
  • […] effects. It’s antimicrobial, antinflammatory, an antioxidant, a digestive aid and more. It’s even thought to help fight cancer. I try to add it every day into my cooking. Read […]

    January 24, 2014
  • Kristine

    Thank you so much for the recipe. I’m drinking one right now & it’s delicious :)

    January 25, 2014
    • Herbal Academy

      Thank you Kristine – so glad you are enjoying it! :)

      January 25, 2014
  • […] to drinking this warm beverage due to the healing properties of turmeric ( check out this article Ginger is another wonderful gift from God and has it’s own super qualities You can read more […]

    February 2, 2014
  • […] effects. It’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, a digestive aid and more. It’s even thought to help fight cancer. I try to add it every day into my cooking. Read […]

    February 11, 2014
  • […] A great link with much more in-depth info about the healing benefits of turmeric: […]

    February 25, 2014
  • Herbal Academy

    Hi Deb,

    The advice to avoid in CHF was for medicinal amounts because turmeric may affect blood pressure. Many CHF patients are on BP meds. We always advise speaking with one’s physician regarding any potential interactions between the medication and the herb.

    March 24, 2014
  • Caitlin

    Thanks for the informative article! I did not know there were so many benefits to turmeric.

    May 24, 2014
  • This is a very informative article! I only used turmeric as spice in rice and other dishes but now that I know what it can do I will also use for its skin benefits. My grandmother drinks turmeric tea in the morning and loves it. I never got used to the taste but with such benefits, I might give it another go.

    May 24, 2014
  • […] we all know turmeric has a lot of health benefits. so i won’t go into the details. a different recipe and a few ayurvedic properties here. another nice informative post here. […]

    June 25, 2014
  • […] are a few more links with recipes and info on the healing properties of turmeric: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Your turmeric paste will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks, best stored in a glass […]

    June 26, 2014

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