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How to Use Fresh Turmeric Root for Joint Pain in a Tea or Tonic

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I have arthritis and PMR, but I don't like to take pills for pain. I use this turmeric ginger tonic instead.

Although it is sometimes white, this is the huge (4" long) orange type of turmeric that I prefer. I recommend always choosing the orange/yellow kind over the white kind.

Although it is sometimes white, this is the huge (4" long) orange type of turmeric that I prefer. I recommend always choosing the orange/yellow kind over the white kind.

A Conversation With My Doctor. . . .

Me: So if I don't want to take prescription meds, what are my options?

My doctor: Many patients control their pain with things like ibuprofen.

Me: Aren't there any dietary changes I can make instead? I'm not a big pill-popper.

Doctor: I suppose things like ginger or turmeric might help.

Me: How much should I eat?

Doctor: I don't know. But I don't think you can overdose on turmeric.

(So I bought some roots, went home, and created this recipe.)

Does Turmeric Help With Inflammation and Joint Pain?

When I was diagnosed with arthritis in my spine and hip, instead of buying into the long list of painkilling, anti-inflammatory prescriptions my doctor offered, I opted to find other natural ways to deal with my aching bones. Since then, I've been diagnosed with PMR. Since I'm still relatively young and unwilling to endure either the expense or the side-effects of big pharma, I knew I had to find other options.

Two Recipes for Fresh Turmeric Root Drinks: One Hot and One Cold

So far, a daily dose of exercise and turmeric has helped with inflammation pain. I drink it two ways: as a cold soda and as a hot tea. I started experimenting with whole turmeric roots a couple of years ago, I drink a little every day and, truth be told, these turmeric drinks give me a little rush. Turmeric is strong stuff and it's not unlike having a stiff nightcap. These whole-root drinks make me feel energized and a bit zingy. (Are you sure there's no alcohol in this stuff?) Below, you'll find instructions for how to prepare the roots for both of the recipes.

For this recipe, you only need 5–6 oz of ginger. I bought twice as much as I needed.

For this recipe, you only need 5–6 oz of ginger. I bought twice as much as I needed.

Ingredients for the Turmeric-Ginger Syrup

  • 5 or 6 oz (a handful) ginger roots, not the powder!
  • 5 or 6 oz (a handful) turmeric roots, not the powder—I prefer the orange/yellow kind
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, yes, the whole inedible thing
  • 1 gallon water, boiling

Tools for Preparing the Roots

  • A gadget to grate the roots (e.g., a food processor or a handheld grater)
  • A tool to blend the mixture (a blender or immersion wand)
  • A means to strain it (a sieve, strainer, or cloth)
  • A bowl that holds about a gallon of liquid with fitted lid, if possible (or just use a dinner plate as a lid)
I use my food processor to grate the roots (or rhizomes, to be precise).

I use my food processor to grate the roots (or rhizomes, to be precise).

How to Prepare the Ginger-Turmeric Syrup

  1. Put a kettle full of water on, so it's boiling when you're ready for it. Or just bring 14 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Thoroughly wash the ginger and turmeric. They say that roots are more susceptible to chemicals and pesticides in the soil, so rinse thoroughly.
  3. Grate the roots into fine bits. I use the grater attachment on my food processor, but you could grate by hand as well. You should end up with about 2 cups of grated roots total.
  4. Scrape all the grated bits into a your bowl, then add a tablespoon of whole black peppercorns, a kettle full (about 7 cups) of boiling water, and cover.
  5. Put another kettle on, and when it's boiling, add that in, then replace the cover. This makes a final ratio of 14 cups of water to two cups of grated roots.
  6. If you want to use honey to sweeten the drink, I recommend adding it now since it will dissolve nicely in the hot liquid. But if you don't plan on drinking it as soon as possible, I recommend adding the sweet stuff later, as needed, to avoid fermentation.
  7. Let this concoction steep for 8–12 hours. I make it at night and let it sit on the counter, unrefrigerated, until morning.
  8. In the morning, I use an immersion blender to macerate the stuff yet again. I think you could use a regular blender, too, but I wonder if that might break up the peppercorns too much and make the stuff too spicy?
  9. Pour the liquid through a sieve to remove all solid matter, then cover and store in the refrigerator. The strainer I use lets some cloudy material through—it seems like a good idea to drink as much of the root as possible. Use the syrup as needed: See instructions below for mixing a cold tonic or soda.

Prep time: 30 minutes — Steep time: up to 12 hours — Yield: about 12 servings

I make giant jarfuls of the stuff that I keep in my refrigerator and use throughout the week. Use this tea to make the tonic soda and golden tea below.

If you choose to use honey, you may want to add it in when the water-root mixture is still hot so it dissolves. Before I strain and refrigerate, I use an immersion blender to get as much good stuff as possible out of those roots.

If you choose to use honey, you may want to add it in when the water-root mixture is still hot so it dissolves. Before I strain and refrigerate, I use an immersion blender to get as much good stuff as possible out of those roots.

After blending again, strain solids from liquids: It helps to fit your strainer inside a funnel, as I do. The resulting syrup should be cloudy with fine particles of root.

After blending again, strain solids from liquids: It helps to fit your strainer inside a funnel, as I do. The resulting syrup should be cloudy with fine particles of root.

Mixing a Lemon, Ginger, and Turmeric Tonic Soda

  1. Squeeze a lemon into your glass.
  2. Fill about 1/3 of the glass with the syrup (see above recipe).
  3. If you have a sweet tooth like me, add something sweet (if you didn't sweeten the syrup already). I use six drops of liquid stevia.
  4. Top off the glass with a little bubbly water (to your taste) and drink to your health!
A turmeric-ginger soda to drink on hot days

A turmeric-ginger soda to drink on hot days

How to Make Turmeric Tea (Golden Tea) From Fresh Roots

On cold days, I prefer to drink something warm, so I make a hot tea out of the roots instead.

Ingredients

  • Turmeric-ginger tonic (see recipe above)
  • Milk (use some almond or coconut milk, a little half and half, a tablespoon of ghee, or any other substitute you prefer)
  • Something sweet (if you like: sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.)

Instructions

Mix it together in whatever ratio you prefer, pour it into a saucepan, heat on medium, and enjoy! I use about a cup of the syrup, a spoonful of honey, and about a half cup of whole milk, and it feels like I'm treating myself to something decadent.

How Long Will Turmeric Root Last?

Dry, whole roots usually last for about a month in the fridge.

How Long Will the Turmeric-Ginger Syrup Last?

It should last several weeks, as long as you don't put sugar in.

What Else Can You Do With Ginger-Turmeric Syrup?

  • Mix it in a cocktail with whisky and simple syrup (or any drink recipe that calls for ginger ale).
  • Freeze it in ice cubes to add to any drink.
  • Drizzle it over ice cream? (Or is that pushing it?)
  • If you have any arthritic friends, family members who take anti-inflammatories, or neighbors who like to try new health kicks or mocktails, consider giving this stuff as a gift.

Where to Buy Whole Turmeric Root

  • Check your local store and you might be pleasantly surprised. It has been growing in popularity in the US, so maybe your grocery has it and you just never noticed before.
  • Health food stores and Indian, Pakistani, Afghan, or halal markets are other good places to look.
  • As a last resort, you can find raw turmeric root on Amazon.

Why Use Whole Black Pepper When Cooking With Turmeric?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the presence of piperine, the stuff in black pepper, makes it easier for your body to digest and absorb the curcumin, the stuff in turmeric. The pepper makes the curcumin more "bioavailable" and beneficial by increasing absorption. I'm not sure that this is true, but the pepper doesn't hurt the flavor, so it can only help.

Curcumin as an Anti-Inflammatory?

Although there is extensive anecdotal evidence that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is an effective treatment for arthritis, one that has been used in Ayurvedic practice for hundreds of years, I could find no specific clinical trials to link to that support the idea that turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory, because this research has not been conducted. But I did find several analyses and comprehensive summaries to support the claim, three of which I cite here.

  • James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, did a comprehensive review of 700 studies and found that curcumin "is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies [...] have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms."
  • Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials, which states that "promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases."
  • Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: a Component of Tumeric (Curcuma Longa), which states that "Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. It may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation."

Ginger to Treat Arthritis?

Ginger has been used for thousands of years in Asian, Indian, and Arabic traditions. Its use as an anti-inflammatory is more widely researched and agreed upon. This article from Healthline contains many references to supporting studies and research on the benefits of ginger.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How long using ginger & turmeric tonic does it take to get relief from joint pain?

Answer: I noticed a difference after I'd been drinking it daily for about a week. I am not entirely consistent about drinking it—I make a new batch every month or so, and I'm not consistent about the "dose" or regularity—but I notice that I feel less achy when I remember to drink it.

Question: Could you explain steps 4 and 5 please, I'm confused. Do I boil half off the required water amount first then the second half? Sorry, I really want to try this but don't want to make a mistake.

Answer: I usually have about 2 cups of grated roots, to which I add two kettles full (about 14 cups) of water. Of course, you could simply boil 14 cups and add it all in at once if you want, too. But the ratio of water to root should be 7:1.

Question: How long will homemade ginger and turmeric tonic stay good in the fridge? Does it spoil quickly since it’s left out on the counter?

Answer: I only leave it overnight once. After that, I keep it in the refrigerator, and it'll last 2 weeks if I don't add any sugar (only sweeten when I pour myself a glass),

© 2016 A Fonté