Self Doctoring Food Fads: Turmeric

Self Doctoring Food Fads: Turmeric

Seki Lynch 19th September 2017

As health consciousness spreads across London like benign cancer, it seems impossible to imbibe or ingest anything without thinking about exactly what’s in what we’re wolfing down, and what effects it may have on us.

However, many of the superfoods being promoted are often only as miraculous as people claim when active compounds are taken in supplement form, or in conjunction with other substances which aid absorption of the wonder compound.

Beaming like sun rays from lampshade-less cocoons and warm-wood-kitch cafe’s alike, the turmeric latte (levy or not) has fast become a *must* chalk up on you blackboard offering.

A quick Google of the ginger looking root list a plethora of benefits: a powerful anti-inflammatory; anti-oxidant; helps fight brain diseases; stops cancerous growth, and is a key ingredient in helping to create world peace. You’d be forgiven for spending a mortgage deposit in your local hipster spot ordering round after round of these for you and your friends in pursuit of a healthier, happier life.

But, of course, things aren’t ever so simple and the solution is a little more complicated than using fresh turmeric as opposed to the much more widely available dried powder. The active compound in turmeric that does have the potential to bring about these effects is curcumin. Now, though curcumin’s effects have been tested by the people in white coats (whose opinions often differ tremendously), the substance only makes up about 3%-7% of turmeric’s composition.

The Problem

Which means if you take 3g of turmeric, roughly 3 teaspoons of the powder, (a generous amount in most cookbooks) you’re only getting some 90-210 milligrams of curcumin. Usually, this is divided by a few hungry mouths making the amount you’re intaking fairly minuscule. Nutritionists would advise a medicinal dose of curcumin to be around 3g (3000mg), so unless you’re eating turmeric in large amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’re probably not going to get any results.

To make matters worse the body is actually pretty poor at absorbing curcumin. Even a large dose would pass through the digestive tract without the body actually taking in very much at all, rendering the exercise pretty redundant, aside of course from the wonderful flavour. However, there is an easy way to encourage absorption in the form of black pepper, which contains piperine, increasing the body’s capacity for absorption by about 2000%.

But clearly, without the proper dosage, you’re very unlikely to see any alleviation of symptoms.

"Unless you’re eating turmeric in large amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’re probably not going to get any results"

Hardly a Solution

The best way forward then would be to drink your buttercup coloured beverage for the absolute pleasure and take a supplement of curcumin and piperine tablets at a dose which would be effective. Don’t get me wrong, studies have shown encouraging results for the benefits of curcumin but the truth is you’re just not going to get them from your choice cafe or spiced dish.

On an aside, it has been claimed that turmeric can whiten teeth. Given that after peeling the skin of the root everything it comes into contact with is dyed the firebird yellow of a mid-life crisis convertible, this really seems hard to believe. There is some evidence that turmeric can help teeth whitening, however, your white porcelain sink will probably thank you for using baking soda instead, which has a similar effect. Not only that, but both baking soda and turmeric are abrasive to teeth and gums and therefore shouldn’t be used more than once every couple of weeks to avoid excessive abrasion which could lead to decay or disease.

If you’re really concerned about your teeth colour, visit a hygienist or, if cash-strapped, read the poem below and perhaps change your body conscious opinion about your gnashers. Though healthy teeth are important, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we weren’t so worried about having a Hollywood smile?

In Conclusion

Turmeric, tasty and enjoyable in a myriad of ways, probably won’t change your world for the better on its own. With all said and done, I leave you with ‘Teeth’.


I want someone who has lived through their teeth.
Give me years of red wine, late nights, laughter.
Nut brown crema, coffee invaded crags.
Yellow staining, turmeric on light palms
The wilt of magnolia in Autumn-
Evidence of tobacco smoke inhaled.
From baby bright milk squares to gold capped decay,
Show me your life: that you know how to live.
Tell me of trouble with rich fatty meat
Steak stuck between maxillary molars.
That they left their mark in many lovers
I’m not jealous- allow them adventure.
Give me the bloodstained teeth of a huntress,
The teeth of a revolutionary.

Seki Lynch hosts Spilt Milk Poetry on the last Saturday of every month at Craving Coffee.

Follow him on Twitter. Really. Do. It’s worth it.