tame what ails you with this golden root
Today I’d like to take a moment to tell you a story.
I’d like to reflect on what inspired my road to nutrition; to what brings me here, writing to you today, with scientific knowledge, insights about functional medicine, and the compassion and dedication that it takes to support someone moving from a state of illness to their optimal health.
As you likely know, this part of my story begins with my husband, Isamu.
The path that lead me to the powers of food as medicine began when Isamu was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in April of 2000. At the time, we had just learned we were pregnant with our first child.
You may know this story well, having heard me tell it one too many times.
It’s hard to forget the consequences that shape our lives. I don’t know that we should.
These consequences are not just meaningless points on the trajectory of our personal timelines, but instead pivotal moments that shape our unique story. They’re represented in the expression of our health ~ psychological, social and physiological.
These moments of our history are part of the web of who we are and what we experience today.
At Replenish, these moments of your history are critical aspects that we value in our specialized and individualized approach to nutrition. To me, health doesn’t happen without an understanding of the context that brought you to your current concerns.
It’s all about you.
Your story is an important part of who you are!
So you may know my story, as I mentioned, or you may have never heard it before.
As we move towards Thanksgiving, I’m inspired to pay tribute to the blessings of life and love, to good food and healing, in honor of the man who brought me to this point in my own timeline, and enabled me to do the work I do with an open heart.
One thing was for sure, Isamu loved good food!
He’d get lost in a scrumptious bowl of homemade ice cream, a grass-fed burger, and his mom’s fried chicken. The first time his mother came to San Francisco to visit him and to meet me, he spent our introductory dinner immersed in the deliciousness of the fine meal we were eating without saying a word.
Literally. Not a word!
It was as if he was lost in communication with his new love – the T-bone on his plate.
What about me? I asked him later, having wanted more of a bridge during my first connection with my mother-in-law to-be. He told me I seemed to be doing fine.
And I was.
Like Isamu, I too became entranced with food during this time in our lives.
I not only loved the sight, smells and tastes, but I savored the new ways in which I could touch and communicate with the person I cared about most.
I’d oscillate between the great culinary choices available to us in the Bay Area farmer’s and specialty markets, and the intrigue of nutrition that was suddenly begging for my attention. Ingredients that were new to me like some of the spices we’re exploring in the next few weeks, piqued my curiosity and my tastebuds.
What was this brilliant cross-section between good-tasting and good-for-you?
When Isamu’s diagnosis came to light, I quickly and effectively learned to marry my foodie fancies. Savory nutrient-dense food is imminently possible despite whatever seemingly restrictive parameters might be thrown our way.
I worked within these self-defined parameters like an artist works with the limitations of a canvas. The possibilities within that frame were endless. And though the size and shape of the canvas has changed many times throughout the years, I still find that the landscape within is consistently ripe with potential.
Fourteen years later, this marriage (the one between food and nutrition), is such an ingrained part of my life that I sometimes find it difficult to believe that anyone could think otherwise. Why not use the yummiest and most potent medicine we have to heal ourselves, stave off illness, transform our health, and strive for longevity?
Where is the intersection between the bounty of the food and its purpose (or lack thereof) in your body?
Where do sustenance and story meet and become uniquely yours?
Isamu outlived his prognosis, but it was still a life that was too short. He died in July of 2002, when our first, and only child, was 19-months old. (He’s turning 15 in less than a month!)
He was a love, a joy, and a pure blessing.
I imagine I’m not the only one who thanks him for the food and healing journey that culminated during his illness.
I aim to spread as broadly as I can the gifts that I learned during the years I shared with him, during his health, throughout his illness, after his death, and in my never-ending pursuit to understand not just the healing powers of food but the intersection between food and physiology ~ where the rubber meets the road.
And today, we continue the exploration we began last week of those colorful spices and their culinary and medicinal uses.
With today’s appreciation of Isamu, it’s fitting that we also pay tribute to a spice that’s bold in color and potent in power. It’s well-known for reducing inflammation, supporting the liver, and helping to prevent cancer.
what’s in my spice cupboard today?
You’ve likely seen turmeric appearing more at your local health food store. Turmeric teas, smoothie powders, elixirs and more.
This gnarly little orange root is all the rage these days and for very good reason!
Curcumin is the primary chemical component that makes turmeric such a powerhouse. Curcumin is highly concentrated in antioxidants. However curcumin removed from the turmeric root (and encapsulated into pills) is not as easily absorbed as the whole food itself, unless combined with other herbs to aid absorption. (As is usually the case, nature knows best!)
Turmeric is likely best known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
In India, turmeric has been used extensively in Ayurvedic healing practices for centuries, especially to quell the fires of inflammation. Their love of turmeric for taste and medicinal properties is evident as it’s the spice that gives the ever-present Indian curry powder its brilliant yellowish-orange hue.
This potent anti-inflammatory property makes it a good choice for addressing any kind of acute, chronic, or silent inflammatory condition–from carpal tunnel, to arthritis, to heart disease. Turmeric powder can even be made into a paste, combined with water, to be used topically on cuts, canker sores and cold sores.
In addition to addressing inflammation, turmeric has been used for centuries to combat indigestion and stomach irritation, and to enhance digestion. Pair it up with our favorite spice from last week (that’s ginger!) for a tonic that’s sure to ease all sorts of digestive woes.
Turmeric also tones the liver and gallbladder–making it a perfect spice to support your detoxification endeavors. The spice increases production of the enzymes needed to digest fat and sugar, and helps to stop the the crystallization of cholesterol that can result in gallstones.
Turmeric has been found to be very effective in promoting the death of cancer cells present in a variety of tissues within the body, particularly in the colon.
And it deactivates the immune cells that cause inflammation without negatively effecting other parts of the immune system needed to fight disease and infection.
It really is high time we pay tribute to turmeric!
I adore adding turmeric powder to teas and elixirs but it’s often in the background behind its other more common cousins like ginger and cinnamon.
This recipes invites turmeric to step to the front and shine boldly in color and flavor. Bring forth turmeric’s medicinal magic in a milk that will surely make you want to go back for more.
This turmeric elixir is delicious whether it’s hot, warm or cold and it will pair perfectly with your favorite homemade cookies for an afternoon treat that packs an anti-inflammatory punch!
for the turmeric paste (makes about 1/2 cup)
- ¼ cup dried turmeric
- ½ cup distilled water
- ½ tspn black pepper
- 1 tspn ground ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tspn dried ground ginger
- 1/2 tspn ground cardamom
for the golden milk
- 8 oz full-fat coconut milk, cashew milk or other nut milk of choice
- 1 tspn turmeric paste (recipe above)
- 1 tspn coconut oil, flaxseed oil, or ghee
- liquid stevia to taste
For the turmeric paste:
In a small sauce-pan over medium-high heat, bring turmeric powder and water to a simmer. Add black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
Turn heat to low. Stir constantly for about 5 to 7 minutes or until a thick paste begins to form. Take care to not burn the spices.
Transfer to an air tight, glass container. Keeps for a week in the fridge.
To make a single-serving of golden milk:
In a small sauce pan, add 1 teaspoon of your turmeric paste to the milk and stir. Add coconut oil or ghee and stevia to taste. Heat just until fragrant, not boiling.
If turmeric doesn’t already have a special place in your spice rack, it’s time to make room and add this golden child to your grocery list. (Move over oregano, there’s a bright orange spice moving in!)
And if you’re lucky enough to find fresh turmeric at the market (look for it near the fresh ginger), grab that gnarly root and start adding it to your afternoon elixirs for a daily dose of anti-inflammatory power.
Print it and pin it on your fridge to remind yourself to shake that yellow spice on most of your meals (even your morning smoothie will work well with a turmeric addition!).
You’ll also see another of my go-to turmeric recipes, a spicy tea latte that’s perfect for these cool autumn days.
Taking turmeric to your kitchen!
- Turmeric has a higher beta carotene
content than any other food.
- You can purchase the root, which looks much like an orange knob of ginger, or powder. The powder is made from grinding the boiled, peeled, & dried root.
- To maximize its healing benefits, you can saute it in a little ghee before adding other ingredients.
- Turmeric turns food a bright mustard color and adds a warming flavor and aroma.
- Besides curries, it’s great in many vegetable and grain dishes as well as breads, where it can lend a golden yellow tint.
- Be careful when using turmeric, as it can stain your counter tops and clothing! In fact it’s used in Asia for dying clothes, particularly the robes of Buddhist monks, and is also a great natural dye for next year’s Easter eggs.