Turmeric, the super hero

Golden turmeric lemongrass chicken (Pictured here with real rice)

Golden turmeric lemongrass chicken
(Pictured here with real rice)

Turmeric is the golden spice of life that brings health and happiness. Most of us know it as a dried bright yellow powder, which is the primary ingredient in curry powder, that is slightly bitter. It is related to the ginger plant and is sold fresh as tubers much like ginger. But unlike ginger, the insides of tubers of turmeric are a dark vibrant orange like Buddhist monk robes.

This is appropriate as in many venerable and ancient cultures turmeric is consider a holy spice. In India, where it comes from, it is considered a highly auspicious herb and has been used in ceremonies for thousands and thousands of years. It has also been used as a powerful medicinal for thousands and thousands of years. I think it is interesting that these ancient cultures knew something about this plant so long ago that we are just beginning to prove through science.

What science has found (and India already knew) is that turmeric has super hero powers to combat inflammation, cancer, depression, high blood pressure and fight off a hideous horde of many diseases that plague our health. The active agent in turmeric is curcumin and has been proven to inhibit inflammation as powerfully as ibuprofen. (But without the damage to the kidneys and other organs.)

Turmeric; the super hero!

Turmeric; the super hero!

Curcumin also inhibits growth of cancer cells, particularly in head, chest and neck related cancers. It is excellent for your heart as it helps the body lower cholesterol levels and maintain the blood pressure at a health level. Since it has great anti-inflammatory properties it helps to protect the circulatory system from the ravages of atherosclerosis and blood clots. Curcumin has also been tested on folks that suffer from depression with surprisingly great results and give Prozac a run for its money. And these are just some of its attributes. Yes, turmeric is a super hero in an orange flowing cape.

There are two great ways of getting the perks of turmeric, one is in a capsule and the other to cook with it. Dr Andrew Weil says “To get the full benefit of turmeric it is recommended that you take 200 milligrams, available in capsules, every day. If you have an inflammatory condition like arthritis, tendonitis or bursitis, take it three times a day. Whole turmeric is more effective than isolated curcumin. Be patient when taking turmeric, the full benefit takes two months to develop. Do not use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile ducts dysfunction.”

Turmeric is powerful enough that you can get a good medicinal dose by cooking with it. The fresh turmeric tuber is a shock to cut open and see that bright orange color and more of a shock to see it stain your hands and anything else it comes into contact with! (It even stained my stainless steel grater a little.) Now I know why it is so good for us, it is a vibrant food indeed! I recommend using a designated cutting board and rubber gloves when handling it. (still have a shirt that is stained from the stuff!)

Great ways to cook with fresh turmeric is to finely grate a bit and add to your smoothies, (I add it to our green smoothies everyday) scrambled eggs, rice, soup, stews, curries and marinades. We’ve been added it to everything lately and it adds a playful color and delicate flavor. The fresh turmeric does not have the bitter edge that the dried powder has so have fun with it!

Today’s recipe, featuring turmeric, is certainly an Asian fusion dish. It requires a marinade overnight for the full flavor to develop but I have roasted the chicken before after only a few hours in the marinade and it was still darn good. Make some turmeric cauliflower rice to serve with it by adding 1 tablespoon of finely grated turmeric, 1 tablespoon of coconut aminos to your favorite cauliflower rice recipe. It is the most beautiful delicious and healthy “rice” to enjoy! To your health and happiness!

Turmeric chicken legs

Turmeric chicken legs

Fresh turmeric and lemon grass chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Fresh turmeric and lemon grass are available at health food stores. This dish is amazing grilled, just grill the chicken and heat up the marinade over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes on the stove then serve it with the chicken.
Cuisine: Asian fusian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1¼ cup of canned unsweetened coconut milk (the real stuff)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • OR 1 medium onion minced
  • 2 lemongrass stocks, finely chopped (Bottom third only with tough outer layers removed)
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeded, minced (do you like it hot?)
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 1-2 tablespoon of fresh ginger grated (skin on)
  • 1-2 tablespoon of fresh turmeric, grated (skin on)
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut aminos
  • 3-4 pounds of chicken legs and thighs
  • Lime wedges and chopped cilantro
  1. Combine all the ingredients, except chicken and cilantro, in a blender and whirl away till you have a smooth sauce.
  2. Place the chicken in a large baking dish and pour the coconut mix over the chicken. Cover the chicken up and set in the fridge over night to marinade.
  3. The next day, set the chicken out of the fridge while the oven heats up to 350 degrees.
  4. Remove the cover and tuck in the oven to bake for about 50 minutes till golden brown and the meat is just starting to pull from the bones of the legs.
  5. Take out of the oven and serve with turmeric cauliflower rice, cilantro sprinkles and lime wedges.


  1. says

    Dana: Not only am I loving your yummy recipes but your photos are looking so great! AND I’m so grateful for your integration of all the “food as medicine” parts in new ways.

    BTW, have you read about cilantro and the great anti-cancer properties it has, too? Not only anti-cancer and anti-fungal but it moves heavy metals (lead, mercury, radiation) out of the body too! Reference: http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/herbs-antioxidants-cancer-prevent-cancer.htm

  2. Cindy Hartman says

    Dana, as I sit here with inflamed knees and achy joints…I’m going to jump up and make a big cauliflower Curry…and thanks for your great blog!

  3. Candace says

    This looks amazing! I am trying rilly rilly RILLY hard to eat this way but finding the detox part to be so hard!! But I shall forge on. One question: do you have a recipe for the tumeric cauliflower rice that you mentioned? It sounds delicious as well!! Thanks!!

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