Turmeric—a key component of many South and Southeast Asian dishes—may have already earned a prominent place on your spice rack, but this popular ingredient can do more than add depth of flavor (think: warm and bitter with a lemon-pepper zing) and mustard yellow color to your favorite curry. Indeed, this is no ordinary seasoning: Health experts suspect, and preliminary research confirms, that in addition to its well-established culinary uses, turmeric has significant medicinal potential. In other words, there are many reasons why you should be ingesting this spice on the regular—but if you want to get the most bang for your buck in the health department, turmeric tea benefits are hard to beat. Here’s what you need to know about this homeopathic beverage.
What Is Turmeric?
Before we discuss the healing power of turmeric tea, let’s talk about what turmeric actually is. Here’s the long and short of it: Turmeric—the powdery pantry staple you might have sprinkled on your food in the past—is a dried spice derived from the root of the turmeric plant, a close relative of ginger. (In fact, if you chance upon fresh turmeric in the store you could very easily mistake its knobby appearance for a piece of ginger root—at least until you break it open and reveal its pumpkin-orange interior.) The root is boiled, baked and ground into a fine powder to produce the familiar, finger-staining spice. One more thing you should know about turmeric is that it’s really good for you. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, boasts a whole host of health benefits (but more on that later).
And What Is Turmeric Tea?
Though it’s most commonly used as a cooking spice, turmeric can also be consumed as a tea, which is prepared by steeping either the fresh root or pure dried powder in hot water. So why might one want to consume turmeric tea, you ask? Aside from the fact that it’s a warm, soothing beverage, turmeric tea is also an effective way to consume enough curcumin to reap the rewards of its medicinal properties, our friends at Medical News Today tell us. (Note: Curcumin has low bioavailability, which means relatively large amounts of it are needed if you want the health-boosting benefits).
Long used as an Ayurvedic remedy, curcumin has captured the interest of the medical and scientific communities as well—namely because an impressive amount of research supports its health benefits in numerous areas.
1. Boosts the Immune System
Curcumin is a polyphenol with powerful antioxidant properties, which means that, by neutralizing harmful free-radicals, it protects the body from the effects of oxidative stress—a systemic imbalance that has been linked to decreased immune function as well as a host of other diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In other words, an antioxidant-rich cup of turmeric tea can help your immune cells stay healthy so they can do their job. In fact, the positive impact of curcumin on the immune system goes beyond fending off the common cold: Recent studies have pointed to curcumin as a promising cancer-fighting agent.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
In addition to being an antioxidant, curcumin is also a known anti-inflammatory. (In case you missed it, inflammation is bad news for your body.) For this reason, curcumin is believed to have preventive potential when it comes to the myriad conditions associated with inflammation, including allergies, psoriasis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease. Research also shows that curcumin can help relieve symptoms associated with some of these conditions—arthritic pain, in particular.
3. Pain Reliever, Mind Sharpener and Mood Lifter
It turns out that curcumin has benefits for healthy people, too. Research targeting people without a pre-existing condition suggests this powerful substance is effective at alleviating muscle soreness and at least one study showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin might have a positive impact on mood, attention and working memory in the general population as well. (Sounds pretty good, right?)
4. Skin Saver
Good news, friends: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (and did we mention antimicrobial?) cocktail known as curcumin might work wonders for your complexion—or at least that’s what early evidence suggests. Multiple studies have shown that curcumin, as both an oral and topical treatment, has the power to improve overall skin health and effectively target specific skin concerns. (Acne, facial photoaging and psoriasis are just a few of the dermatological issues that curcumin alleviated.) Learn more about the curcumin’s cosmetic potential here or just find out for yourself by enjoying a turmeric mask with your evening cup of turmeric tea.
5. Protects the Liver
As an antioxidant, another benefit of curcumin’s ability to reduce oxidative stress has been seen in relation to liver health. Research conducted on mice suggests that treatment with curcumin has a potential preventative effect with regard to liver injury and can halt or slow the progression of liver disease as well. Considering how vital the liver is, we’ll call this one a major win for turmeric tea. (New rule: One cup of turmeric tea for every hot toddy consumed.)
6. Improves Metabolic Health
The role of curcumin in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation has far-reaching implications when it comes to overall metabolic health. Studies have suggested that these properties in curcumin may have a positive effect on blood sugar and blood pressure and may also promote weight loss and prevent obesity. Bottom line: A lot more research is needed to determine how and to what extent curcumin can treat metabolic issues, but the consensus in the scientific community is that the stuff looks pretty promising on that front, too.
Clearly turmeric tea is not your typical beverage, and while you can easily buy a box of the pre-packaged stuff (we like this one from Pukka, $18), it’s actually even easier to brew up a mug of this health-boosting stuff in your own home. Here’s a recipe for ginger-turmeric tea that goes down easy.
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon honey
How to brew turmeric tea:
Combine the ginger, turmeric and honey in a mug and add hot water. Stir well to combine and enjoy. (Yep, that’s all there is to it.)
Turmeric is a spice with a whole lot going for it. Of course, you should cook with the stuff whenever you can—see below for some of our favorite recipes—but if you sip a cup of tea on the regular, you stand a better chance of consuming enough curcumin to benefit from its impressive health-boosting potential. Cheers.