I’m glad I was born Indian. I’d be very upset if the cuisine of my foremothers wasn’t the best cuisine in the world, which it is. Thai and Italian are close contenders, but the robust, flavorful and almost effervescent personality that Indian food exudes makes it the best in my books. I can’t eat it every day or my arteries will be clogged up more than Ganges River, but you know... it’s pretty damn good.
Turmeric, as you may already know, is one of the most commonly used spices in Indian cooking. In fact, it goes beyond cooking: turmeric is often used in Hindu rites and rituals and as a dye for holy robes.
The American Cancer Society says that laboratory studies have shown that curcumin, which is an active ingredient in turmeric, interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread. Researchers have reported that it can kill cancer cells in laboratory dishes and also slows the growth of the surviving cells. Human studies of curcumin in cancer prevention and treatment are in the early stages.
It is also commonly used in bridal beautification ceremonies in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which is obviously what we’re concerned about here.
So, for your own beautifying purposes, here are four things you can do with a cheap bag of ground turmeric:
My mother’s occasional eczema happens solely on her scalp and often leads to dandruff. When that happens, she creates a paste with 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric with 2 teaspoons of jojoba oil (you can use coconut oil, too, you coconut oil worshippers) and massages it into her scalp.
She leaves in on for 15 minutes and shampoos and styles as usual. A daily routine of this scalp detox will banish her dandruff in about five days or less, depending on the severity.
This face mask gives me great, glowy skin, and it’s something I reach for when I’ve ran out of my single-serving masks. All you need are equal portions of turmeric powder and gram flour, or chickpea flour and add about 3 to 5 tablespoons of milk, depending on how thick you want the consistency of your face pack to be.
Spread it all over your face and leave it on for about half an hour before washing it off. You can substitute the milk with plain yogurt if you’ve got dry skin and want to combat that at the same time.
Remember to wash your fingers immediately after you’ve put on the mask or you might risk staining them (which is no big deal, it goes away after a while). You can put on rubber gloves if you have a fresh manicure you don’t want to ruin.
Acne & Scar Treatment
Turmeric helps in reducing excessive oil secretion and the formation of nasty zits. Make a paste with turmeric, equal drops of lemon juice and water, and apply it on your face. Leave it on for 15 minutes before scrubbing gently while washing your face with water. You can do this daily.
I have also done this paste and left it overnight on one of those zits big enough people could mistake it as another face. Use an old pillowcase when you do this overnight because you will possibly stain it. Plonk the paste on your “second face” and cover it with a bandaid if you can and sleep with it. Wash it off when you wake up.
Immunity isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind with beauty, but remember, what you feed your body will be reflected on your skin. Your usual sexy-beast vibe goes away when you have the flu doesn’t it? Build your immunity with warm, spiced milk that can be comforting when it’s cold out.
Here’s what you need: 2 cups of whole milk (you can substitute with soy, rice or almond variety if you want, but whole milk is what my Mum uses); 1 teaspoon turmeric powder; 2 cardamom pods, cracked; 3 whole cloves; 1 cinnamon stick.
Start by adding the milk and whole spices in a saucepan and heat the mixture on medium-low heat until it begins to gently simmer. Remove the milk from heat and let it steep for five minutes. Sprinkle turmeric powder and stir before straining into mugs and polishing it off. You can add some sweetener if you want it a bit sweeter, too.
Word of caution: turmeric can temporarily stain skin because of its highly pigmented yellow color. I’ve used it repeatedly on my skin, and I haven’t seen a stain, but if you’re fair or you have light-colored hair, look specifically for kasturi tumeric, or wild turmeric, which cannot be consumed and is only used for beauty and medicinal purposes.