What's all the fuss about Turmeric milk?
Turmeric is a root related to ginger which comes from Southeast Asia. While it has been used for millenia in Asia it was only used as a dye in Europe until the 20th century when suddenly its medicinal uses exploded. Now it is best known as an anti-inflammatory for the gut and joints.
It helps those who suffer with arthritis to move a little better and enables those with inflammatory digestive disorders like gastritis to feel more comfortable. Most recently it was discovered that turmeric is absorbed better when combined with black pepper (Shoba, 1998). Ever since, we've all been on the search for products offering the two together. But it's nearly impossible to find specific doses of each which have been shown as the most efficient way to bring this synergy about. Upon discussion with many of my herbalist colleagues I've found there is a lot of differences as to what ratio they feel works best. It's safe to say that it's up for debate for now.
When you do find a black pepper and turmeric capsule you'll probably realise immediately that it's a pretty expensive way to take your turmeric. Which leads most of my patients to wonder why they can't just have turmeric powder. Because of research looking at the anti-oxidant properties of curcuminoids (used to treat cancer) we currently believe that the more of those there are inside a sample of turmeric the more medicinally active it will be (Nita Chainani-Wu., 2004). Of course, this is a reductionist way of looking at things but lets follow this thought through for a second.
Turmeric contains approximately 3% curcumin (a type of curcuminoid) by weight, so a tablespoon of turmeric, which weighs 5 grams, contains about 0.15 gram curcumin, or 150 milligrams (Reema, 2009). But it has been seen by the well respected herbalist Thomas Easley that you don't have to have curminoids in turmeric for it to have it's anti-inflammatory properties (2016). So it seems that the weight put behind curcuminoid-rich supplements may be a bit of a red herring.
Never the less, the curcuminoids are embedded in a fat soluble matrix which means that if you want to extract them you must prepare the powder in a fat of some sort. That could be in ghee when making a curry or in full-fat dairy milk or nut milk when making turmeric milk. Perhaps the curcuminoids are not the only constituent in Tumeric which are fat soluble.
It's no coincidence that tumeric has traditionally been combined with ghee and black pepper it's just interesting how important those ingredients are to its absorption by the body. It has even been shown that fresh turmeric is higher in those curcuminoids so when I saw that fresh turmeric root is now available in my local store, I went all out and made fresh turmeric milk by juicing it! If you want the recipe just click below. You don't even need a juicer!
Easley, T. (2016) Facebook discussion.
Nita Chainani-Wu. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2004, 9(1): 161-168. https://doi.org/10.1089/107555303321223035
Reema F. Tayyem , Dennis D. Heath , Wael K. Al-Delaimy & Cheryl L. Rock. The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. November 2009, 55(2): 126-131. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327914nc5502_2
Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, et al (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Medica, 64, 353-6.