The first time I ever saw powdered turmeric was in 1980 in the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal. I was a student living with a host family and studying with The School for International Training. Walking through the open markets became a regular ritual for me. As a budding herbalist, the colors, aromas, and vast array of herbs and foods intrigued me, especially the bright orange-yellow color of freshly ground turmeric powder.
It has been interesting for me to observe the different herbs and spices over the last 25+ years that have found their way to the United States and become popularized by the media, chefs, and herbalists. Turmeric is certainly one of those herbs. As is ginger. Both share the same family, Zingiberaceae, and thrive in sun-filled, tropical environments. A growing number of organic farmers in New England are successfully cultivating turmeric and ginger as annual crops in their hoop houses.
The warming and pungent qualities of these two herbs make for a perfect pairing during winter. They both support healthy digestion and are known in the Ayurvedic tradition to enkindle agni (digestive fire) and clear toxins from the gut. Most herbalists worldwide agree that supporting good digestion and elimination is necessary for health and quality of life.
Turmeric supports liver function, aids detoxification, stimulates bile (which aids in the digestion of fats and oils), soothes the gut lining, and enhances healthy gut flora. Much modern research has pointed out how magnificent turmeric is for its anti-inflammatory properties. A half-teaspoon of good, organic turmeric powder mixed into a cup of warm miso, taken daily, is rejuvenating and supports digestive health. South River Miso Company (located in western Massachusetts) is my favorite source for organic, high quality, traditionally-crafted miso.
For a nourishing and warming tonic, I like to place a half to a full dropper of Ginger Turmeric Elixir on my tongue before eating, especially during the colder months. Both herbs support healthy immune function, clear congestion in the head and chest, warm the body when chilled, and stimulate good digestion.
Ginger in the ancient Ayurvedic system from India is considered to be one of the most sattvic (promotes higher consciousness) spices. Fresh ginger is a rejuvenating herb, enhancing energy, stimulating immunity and respiratory health, improving digestion and elimination, and easing nausea and menstrual cramps.
1-2 tsp of freshly grated or chopped organic ginger placed in a cup of water and simmered for 3-4 minutes is one of the most beneficial herbal teas with which to begin your morning, year-round. Fresh ginger (not dried, as it can be too overheating) warms and wakes up the digestive tract, preparing one’s digestive system for food. Hand and foot baths made with ginger root tea or by adding 1 drop of pure ginger essential oil and soaking for 8-10 minutes daily, improve circulation to cold hands and feet, especially during the cold season.
From Avena’s herbal apothecary, near the coast of Maine, we wish each of you a cozy, health-filled, and peaceful winter!
Safety considerations: If you are using pharmaceuticals, please consult with your health care provider before taking herbs. If you are pregnant or nursing, please consult with your midwife or doctor around appropriate dosing of ginger and avoid therapeutic use of turmeric during pregnancy. Avoid turmeric if gallstones are present or in acute jaundice and hepatitis.