Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family. Its roots, which have a notable orange color, have been used as a natural dye, food additive, and medicinal herb for centuries.
Native to southern India and Indonesia, turmeric has a peppery aroma and strong, slightly bitter flavor. It’s a main ingredient in curry powder mixes, but can be added to numerous other dishes. In some parts of Asia, it’s added to water and applied to the face for glowing skin.
Turmeric can be found in the spice aisle of any grocery store. It’s also available in more concentrated amounts as a supplement. You can even consume it as a tea by steeping the root in hot water. Bagged turmeric tea can also be found at most health food stores.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric — it’s what gives the root its distinctive color. While several studies indicate that there are potential benefits to turmeric and curcumin, further research is needed to confirm the degree of its positive effects.
You can make turmeric tea by steeping ground, freshly sliced, or grated turmeric in hot water and letting it steep for about 10-15 minutes. A single cup of turmeric tea made with one teaspoon of ground turmeric provides:
- Calories: 8
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Turmeric also contains:
The root itself has flavonoids, beta-carotene, and curcumin. These powerful antioxidants may all provide several health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and the prevention of chronic diseases.
Potential Health Benefits of Turmeric Tea
Curcumin is the most potent ingredient in turmeric. That said, it has low bioavailability, meaning that the body doesn’t absorb it well.
Still, research has found that turmeric tea may have several potential health benefits:
The curcumin in turmeric contains antioxidants that can boost your immune system. Curcumin could act as an immune modulator, which means that it may aid in the regulation of immune cells.
One of the most popular applications of turmeric tea is in the treatment of arthritis pain. Curcumin provides powerful anti-inflammatory properties. One study shows that it may be effective in the management of osteoarthritis pain. Some studies show that it may be as effective as some medications, without the side effects.
Curcumin from turmeric tea may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol levels. Taking curcumin before and after coronary artery bypass surgery may help decrease the risk of having a heart attack.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Numerous studies show curcumin’s promise as an anticancer drug. It may slow the growth of cancer cells. It can also help prevent the development of cancer, especially in the digestive system.
Curcumin in turmeric tea may slow or prevent changes in the brain linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. It has the potential to aid in the treatment of depression as well.
Potential Risks of Turmeric Tea
In general, turmeric tea is well-tolerated by most people. However, there are some potential risks to keep in mind:
The curcumin in turmeric may lower your blood sugar or blood pressure. If you take medications for high blood pressure, like Warfarin, or diabetes, you should consult with your doctor before adding turmeric tea to your diet.
While there is little evidence to support this claim, some believe that turmeric may stimulate labor contractions. Pregnant women may want to avoid turmeric tea or speak with their doctor before drinking it.
Bile Duct Blockages
Turmeric can increase bile production, which may cause problems for those who have had bile duct blockages, gallstones, or liver disease. Again, consult with your doctor if you have (or have had) any of these conditions.