When it comes to health benefits, turmeric is an ingredient that’s as modern and cutting-edge as it is time-honored and traditional. Turmeric has long been held in high regard in Hindu rituals, particularly with Indian women who would add it to their beauty routine as a skin brightening treatment before their wedding, giving them the ultimate glowing look. Newborn babies would also have their foreheads rubbed with turmeric for good luck. And its use as a healing, medicinal food has a storied history as well. Curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow pigment, is mainly responsible for turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory properties. In the skin, cucurmin has been touted for its ability to soothe irritation, combat acne, calm rosacea, and help even out hyperpigmentation. Turmeric is prized for its powerful antioxidants that slow down cell damage, reduce both internal and external inflammation, and brighten and revitalize complexions. Recently turmeric has experienced a renaissance as a trendy supplement and topical ingredient, as well as an antioxidant-rich spice to add to meals.
Turmeric in skincare is a hot topic. The benefits of masking with turmeric have become increasingly popular in the West, though its major drawback is the issue of skin staining. The most effective way to incorporate turmeric in topical skincare without battling skin stains is to dilute this very active—and highly pigmented—spice. The easiest way to dilute turmeric is to use a very small amount relative to the total ingredients in your formula.
For topical use, always mix turmeric with other ingredients like flour, oil, milk, or yogurt to avoid skin irritation. Turmeric powder mixed with warm water, warm milk, or a complimentary oil like sesame, hemp, or jojoba oil can be made into a paste to clean wounds and promote healing. Turmeric and manuka honey paste is known to soothe cuts and wounds and even improve the appearance of scars; and combined with aloe vera, it makes a soothing paste for sunburned skin. As an introduction to masking with turmeric, here’s a simple mask recipe that benefits all skin types:
You may also want to incorporate diluted turmeric into topical treatments as a macerated oil or a glycerite. Both dilutions are simple to make, and have a similar process. If it’s summertime, or if you live in a warm climate year-round, making a macerated oil or glycerite can be made simply in a mason jar. Start with your desired amount of dried turmeric in a mason jar, add enough vegetable glycerine or carrier oil (olive or jojoba are recommended for their shelf-stability) to cover the dried herb by two inches, and then leave the sealed jar in the hot sun for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking every day. After the time has passed, strain out the turmeric, and you’re left with a lovely oil or glycerite which has assumed all the beneficial properties of the turmeric, but is much easier to use as a topical skincare preparation.
If you live in a cooler climate, or the warm summer has passed, you can still make macerated oils or glycerites using a slow cooker on an extra-low setting for 3 to 4 weeks. It is also possible to make a macerated oil or glycerite on the stovetop using a double boiler, but it’s much more difficult to control the temperature, and you run the risk of cooking off the benefits of the turmeric. Once you’ve completed your macerated oil, you can use it as a cleansing oil or moisturizer–and you can use the glycerite as an ingredient in a cleanser, toner, or water-containing moisturizer.
Not to be overlooked are turmeric’s powerful internal benefits, as a strong anti-inflammatory pain reliever, a stomach soother and digestive supporter, and a potent anti-aging spice. Turmeric is commonly used in dried, ground form straight from the spice jar, but interest in growing in fresh turmeric root as well as turmeric supplements in capsule form. Here, NAA co-founder Tisha Jill Palmer shares her personal story of reducing pain with ground turmeric, as well as a nightly turmeric recipe for healing and self-care:
“After a stomach surgery left me unable to take any NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), I was at a loss on how to manage my arthritis pain flare-ups. Certainly, reducing or eliminating inflammatory foods like sugar and dairy from my diet set me up for success—but when I combined my other healthy habits with daily turmeric, I noticed pain relief with the bonus reduction of my rosacea symptoms. While I love cooking with turmeric, as my collection of yellow-stained wooden spoons reveals, my favorite form of turmeric supplementation is a mug of my very own Good Night Golden Milk. My trick to making this drink into a meditative self-care ritual is to never skimp on the ingredient quality or the details. I channel my years as a barista and froth this drink up to its golden glory, complete with pretty sprinkles, and enjoy while I write my nighttime gratitude list.”
With so many forms of turmeric hitting grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and beauty boutiques, there’s truly a way for everyone to experience its powerful benefits for beauty and health. However you use turmeric, we hope you are able to appreciate its healing effects, both inside and out.
Written by the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance co-founders.