My students nicknamed me "Turmeric Doctor" so I might say a few more words about this wonderful herb and help some of you to zero in on important issues in both food preparation and herbal supplementation.

First of all, turmeric is a culinary spice, the one that gives curry its distinctive yellow color. The turmeric you find in powdered form as a spice has been boiled before being ground.  The color may be anything from yellow to almost orange.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family.  Its cousins, ginger and galangal, are also culinary spices but they are more tingly than turmeric.  The part of the plant used is the tuber.  It grows in tropical climates.  In Hawaii, it is called olena and the fresh root is pounded and used as a wash for athlete's foot and other fungal infections.

Energetically, turmeric is spicy but not nearly as hot as ginger or chili.  It is also a little bitter and astringent, making it quite different from hotter spices.  In Ayurvedic medicine, there are six tastes.  I discuss these at great length on doshabalance.com.

There is also a six-hour lecture on this subject on tape, available on kitchendoctor.com.  Those are also my web sites.


Many people are just learning to understand energetics and they may have started through a sort of back door by studying pH.  The Macrobiotic people did quite a bit to heighten awareness of the acid-alkaline balance, but they did not present a complete context.  Still, one has to begin somewhere.

Chinese medicine recognizes five tastes and Ayurveda has six, astringent being the one "missed" by TCM because it is combined with the sour taste.  The taste of a food is a clue to the pharmacology of the food.  We all know that sweet food produces weight gain but did we know that the energetics of the sweet taste are heaviness, moisture, and coldness, the exact opposite of pungent foods?  Spices are light, dry, and warm.  In theory, and it is only a theory, you can take something as sweet as ice cream and balance the energetics so that mucus and weight gain are not consequences of excess consumption of this dessert.

For instance, I make an ice cream with slices of ginger, ground cardamon, carrot juice, and milk plus sweetener.  It is energetically balanced.  It's also delicious.  However, I don't want to digress; I want to try to stay on the subject.  Besides balancing, spices promote metabolism of otherwise hard to digest foods.  For instance, turmeric is great emulsifier and it helps to digest fats; it also keeps oils from turning rancid.  When you separate foods from a vital context, they are harder to understand, but let's try to fit a complex puzzle together.

Heavier foods promote growth.  They are necessary for the replacement of worn out tissues and crucial for fertility and longevity.  In experiments with animals, very heavy supplementation with turmeric resulted in zero negative side effects, i.e., "safe at any dose" but there was also zero reproduction.  Obviously, if at culinary doses, turmeric prevented conception, India would not have a billion people.  Likewise, if it prevented cancer at the level used in curries, India would not have any cases of cancer.  This said, turmeric is still a "food grade dietary supplement" that is remarkably safe at practically any dosage.

Turmeric, however, is such a good emulsifier that it eats through plastic bags.  I have also had many plastic caps on jars melt.  They look like Salvatore Dali paintings.  The precious oils in the spices have this property so they really help with sugar and fat metabolism, weight gain, and raging reproductive hormones.  What is important about this for mold sufferers is that fungi can produce xenoestrogens that throw your body into chaos.  Certain herbs take some of the pressure off while at the same time acting as antifungal agents.  Nearly all these herbs are hot.

Now, the question is what form to take them since the amounts used in cooking may not be sufficient to arrest the havoc.  Many supplements have additives, binders, or production processes that make them unsuitable for people suffering from mold infection.  You want the purest form possible.  In the case of turmeric, you can buy the fresh root, overnighted from Hawaii, or the powder made from organically grown turmeric, but you surely do not want a product that is laced with other "stuff."  You could also use an alcohol extract.  I would argue that whatever the hypothetical risks of alcohol, they are minimal when balanced by a spice.  This said, we use organic, non-GMO grain alcohol in all our formulas and there are a few others following similarly conscious practices.

I sent an email recently about artisan manufacturing practices.  Turmeric is another excellent example of an herb that requires visual inspection before use.  If this important step is skipped, there could be contaminants in the final product.  I am really urging you to take the time to source good quality products because the result could be otherwise be disappointing.


Ingrid Naiman
12 October 2006


Sacred Medicine Sanctuary



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