What You Don't Know About This Trendy Health Drink (But Should)

Sip a steaming cup of this overlooked spice for a tasty health kick.

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If you’ve ever smothered a ball-game hot dog with bright yellow mustard or enjoyed a good curry, you have turmeric to thank for the color and some of the tang. But the behind-the-scenes spice is taking center stage in turmeric tea, which is becoming increasingly popular as a natural health remedy—and for good reason.

An antioxidant and anti-inflammatory historically used in Eastern herbal remedies, turmeric may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, prevent Alzheimer’s and cancer, help with intestinal issues such as digestion and heartburn, and boost your immune system, among other things. “These benefits are likely a result of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, which functions as both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant,” says Joy Bauer, health and nutrition expert for NBC’s TODAY show and author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures.

“You can sprinkle the powder into curries, yogurts, hummus, egg dishes, on chicken or even in tuna salad for a nice, earthy flavor,” says Bauer, who adds that you should aim to include ¼ teaspoon per day in your diet. Nutritionist Rochelle Sirota of Roc Nutrition uses turmeric to flavor brown rice and quinoa, but it can also be consumed as a delicious, warm winter drink. She loves to mix the spice with almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, freshly-ground black pepper, and honey, but you can experiment to create your own personal favorite. (The sweetness and the other spices help temper turmeric’s strong, bitter kick.)

Turmeric is most effective when combined with black pepper or a teaspoon of coconut butter, since the piperine in pepper and the fat in coconut butter help your body absorb the spice, says Sirota. But keep in mind that turmeric can thin the blood, so consult a doctor if you are currently on blood thinners. It can also lower blood sugar levels and may cause indigestion in some. And don’t forget: everything in moderation, even the good stuff. “Don't let its purported anti-inflammatory properties misguide you into consuming large amounts,” says nutritionist Cheryl Forberg, RD. “Enjoy it as nature intended, as a seasoning.”

If you want to make your own turmeric tea, try this basic recipe. Replace the water with coconut or almond milk if you prefer, and modify according to taste, adding spices such as cinnamon, ginger or cayenne and natural sweeteners.

  • 1-2 cups of boiling water
  • Add 1-2 teaspoon of ground or freshly-grated turmeric (preferably USDA certified organic to avoid contaminants and pesticides) to the boiling water. If too strong, use less turmeric. Simmer for about 10 minutes along with any additional spices. If using freshly-grated turmeric, simmer for a few minutes longer.
  • Strain the tea into a cup and add lemon, milk or honey to taste.