Ask Jean: How Healthy Is Turmeric?

Ask Jean

We want to answer your most pressing questions—or, you know, just the things that you’re curious about. Please keep them coming to: [email protected] Below, a q for our beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.

Dear Jean, What’s the deal with turmeric? Is it as healthy as people say it is? And if so, how should I incorporate it into my life?—Leila P.

Dear Leila, I’ve always liked turmeric, but I fell deeply in love with it when I had the turmeric tonic—ice-cold, not-sweet, faintly fizzy, citrusy, turmeric-intensive—at the light, bright, tiny-but-chic, Indonesian-by-way-of Van-Leeuwen Selamat Pagi in Williamsburg. When our food editor Thea designed me the perfect turmeric latte—ginger, pink Himalayan sea salt, frothed almond milk—my life was kind of complete.

Turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory in Ayurvedic and Chinese medical traditions for centuries; beyond its deliciousness, it’s also used in skincare (famously in pre-wedding face masks in India) for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, astringent, wound-healing, and scar-reducing properties.

While not definitive, there is promising research on the wide array of potential health benefits of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, which could have potential as a therapeutic agent in everything from inflammatory bowel disease to pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis. It’s thought to reduce inflammation; for instance, in this randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, curcuminoids were found to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. (And interestingly, an animal study found that, taken orally, curcumin was as effective as cortisone for treating minor inflammation).

Sipping a cool, bracing Selamat Pagi tonic along with your perfectly-prepared sambal-scrambled eggs and toasted-coconut kale salad is easy enough, but when you’re the one preparing said tonic on a regular basis, your fingers—unless you’re more fastidious than I—end up stained a neon yellowish-orange from chopping and peeling turmeric (for one who already lags in the manicure-maintenance department, this is a particularly grim look). The alternative, powdered turmeric, is irksomely grainy unless heated and sautéed into submission—say, in a curry.

So while I could not love a turmeric more, and I would love to have some every day, the reality is, I hadn’t been having it every day. My apple-cider-vinegar-loving boyfriend (who, not incidentally, introduced me to Selamat Pagi) was drinking it with his morning, inedible-to-me concoction; now, along with apple-cider-vinegar pills, I now take turmeric pills, also from the brilliant Tonik.

It’s 100 percent curcumin, as it turns out—a special curcumin called BCM-95, potentially more bioavailable than normal curcumin.

So for deliciousness, I’ve got my hopefully-forever-frequent trips to Selamat Pagi, Chef Thea’s kitchen, and the fantastic (and fantastically easy) chicken curry in Sophie Dahl’s brilliant cookbook (Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights). For feeling and looking good for as long as humanly possible, I’ve got my two capsules of Tonik’s supercharged turmeric, once a day.

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