Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Turmeric Ginger Herbal Root Decoction

Maybe it's because I'm the redheaded type of ginger, but I really love turmeric. Just gazing at the vibrant orangey-yellow color of it makes me feel more cheerful and alive. So when I see turmeric at the market and it looks fresh, I will buy a handful or two of the root.

Technically it's the rhizome (an upper section of the root) that is the part consumed - either fresh, or dried and powdered.

I bought some raw turmeric root yesterday because my joints have been bothering me - been doing more cardio and yoga lately and the body is adjusting... so I've prescribed myself a decoction twice a day for a month. Since my digestive system tends to get off-kilter, I'm adding ginger root; both ginger and turmeric stoke the digestive fires.


The active ingredient in turmeric is a compound called curcumin, which is responsible for the spice's anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can be used internally, or applied topically to the skin.

Since most disease appears to be induced by inflammatory response, turmeric is potentially good for a huge range of illness. However, it's most commonly used for Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, asthma, certain cancers, colds and fever, cuts and wounds, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems.

In cooking, turmeric is a popular spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, as it is grown in those regions. It's also used worldwide as a natural food dye, the most common being mustard.

Check out my cutting board and stainless steel knife in the photos below. The stains came off the knife, but the cutting board will be glowing orange for a while. Also note my black stone countertops. If you have light-colored counters or any kind of formica you should protect all surfaces that you don't want to be dyed orange.

Powdered turmeric is the most popular, and I prefer it powdered for culinary use. But for medicinal herb applications, I love to start with the raw root and make a turmeric decoction.

The reason I make a decoction instead of an infusion is because turmeric is a root, therefore it needs more coaxing to extract its mojo, i.e. more heat for a longer time. With leaves you can make an infusion, which is basically like preparing a cup of tea. But with dense plant matter like roots, twigs and barks, you need a decoction.

Here's a brief description of how to make an herbal decoction of turmeric and ginger root:

Peel the roots. 

turmeric root for herbal decoction
turmeric and ginger root for herbal decoction

Chop up the pieces and then bruise the roots so the water can more easily absorb. I use a meat mallet, but you could try a mortar and pestle, or a clean hammer wrapped in plastic wrap, or whatever. Just keep in mind that raw fresh turmeric root will seriously stain anything it touches.

When bruising, I am pretty hard on the roots but stop short of pulverizing them. Kind of like bruising garlic, except these roots are more the consistency of soft carrots. 

extracting turmeric and ginger root for herbal decoction

Process enough turmeric and ginger to cover the bottom of a stainless steel saucepan, then dump the plant matter in and cover it almost to the top with water.

Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer uncovered for at least 20 minutes. I usually simmer my decoctions anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour though. It's more bang for your buck and the decoction lasts longer. But cooking time depends on how you'll be using the decoction.

After 30 minutes it'll look something like this:

extracting turmeric and ginger root for herbal decoction

Turn off the heat, let the mixture cool a bit, then strain it through a colander or cheesecloth... you'll end up with a beautiful, intense red-orange liquid.

turmeric and ginger decoction

Bottle and store in the refrigerator for approximately 4-7 days. 

Please keep in mind that herb freshness at time of decoction will vary. And certain herbs will spoil in a decoction faster than others. Just like you would with food in your refrigerator, keep an eye on the freshness of your herbal preparations, and use common sense. Don't consume it if it's been sitting there forever; likewise, you don't have to throw it out after four days if it smells and tastes the same as it did when you first prepared it.

Here's a sexy Wikipedia photo of a turmeric flower:

turmeric flower india

The taste of this decoction is fresh and sweet, slightly astringent but not overly so. It tastes almost flowery due to the turmeric.

When I work with herbs for medicinal purposes I'm usually inspired on a culinary level too. Right now I'm thinking coconut turmeric lemongrass ice cream...

Namaste and xoxoxo


  1. Turmeric is a perennial plant that belongs to the ginger family which provides antioxidant protection of cells from free radical damage & supports a healthy inflammatory response.

  2. Turmeric is really very effective product or ingredient. It would be very beneficial to incorporate the some amount of turmeric in daily diet routine, as it helps so much to our body not only from inside but from outside also. new chapter turmeric

  3. I question boiling it, as far as, it may be diminishing the potency or quality...? I don't know. I use fresh turmeric root(actually I keep it frozen)and put it straight in the power blender for my concoction with lemon juice, cinnamon,honey, and a variety of others