By Prashanti De Jager
Learning about a culture, its knowledge, and traditions, while living long-term fully immersed in it is like walking through a mountain forest instead of having a mere paper map of it. And so it has been during the decade that I lived in India; a blessed time when mesmerizing experiences teeming with profound lessons flowed incessantly in streams of seemingly timeless articulation.
Many of these lessons were about herbs, called ‘Aushadhi’ in Sanskrit, literally meaning ‘the carriers of light patterns.’
A Life Lesson In The Use and Greatness of Turmeric
Preparing a lunch in our simple yogin home in North India was where I learned one of many lessons in the use and greatness of Turmeric. Specifically, how this golden root, taken internally or applied externally, is an excellent first aid herb due to its astounding ability to quickly optimize our physiology by supporting a positive inflammatory response.
So there I was, chopping veggies next to one of our ‘Grandmothers’ when a lapse in focus resulted in a bone-exposing slice in my finger. As the blood burst forth I instinctively snatched at the kitchen counter rag, but the seasoned ‘Ma’ was quicker as she nabbed my hand in mid-motion with one hand while gracefully pouring an ounce of Turmeric into a little dish with the other. Then, with zero uncertainty, she plunged my finger into the ‘Haldi,’ as Turmeric is called in North India. With very firm precise pressure she held my damaged digit in the orange powder that was turning increasingly red by the second. After a few minutes I tried to take my finger away from this petite wise one who I towered over, but decided against that plan as she tightened her grasp and gave me a commanding look so stern that it erased any agenda other than hers. We stood there in silence as her focus seemed to dive within and listen for something so close that was too far for me to hear back then: a timeless voice of wise guidance that camps patiently at the frontiers of our awareness ready to tell us anything, including the state of any flux, like the bleeding of a wound.
A few minutes later, as abruptly as if a kitchen timer went off, focus popped back into her eyes. She nonchalantly gave me my finger back and told me to continue chopping and to not clean any Turmeric out of the cut until there was no Turmeric left to clean out. ‘OK!’ I thought to myself. To my amazement the finger was not bleeding anymore, never bled again, and actually healed much faster than it ‘should’ have. Soon after I didn’t even have a scar to commemorate the event. I have successfully employed this ancient trick dozens of times since and always have a packet of turmeric, this spice of life, in my EMT kit.
An Excellent First-reach Herb: 3 Ways
As an Ayurvedic clinician serving the local sangha community in an urban setting, I came to rely on turmeric as an excellent first-reach herb. It naturally supports the body’s innate ability to rapidly heal the ‘road rash’ that seemed to appear every time a freaked out 300-pound kamikaze hog knocked you off your scooter or bike (yes, back then Indian urban streets were full of all sorts of animals typically seen only in the barnyards of other cultures). Sometimes I would cover the wound with Turmeric powder, which worked well, but since the powder has a super-power of imprinting its colorful self upon each and every nearby object, I would often simply soak a cloth in a strong turmeric tea and apply that as a poultice of sorts.
Again, turmeric’s inexorable ability to support a healthy inflammatory response ensured that the body was able to quickly heal itself. Also, turmeric supports skin health from the inside out as much as it does when used topically, so I would have all those who unwillingly bodysurfed across some Indian street drink copious amounts of the same turmeric tea that had been made for the poultice.
The water based turmeric tea did double duty, or actually did triple time, as eventually I would tend to make a diluted turmeric paste by adding the turmeric tea to the powders of turmeric, triphala and neem, and then apply a thin layer of these botanical allies over the skinless wound to create an artificial scab of sorts that served the situation via several potent mechanisms.
Positive Inflammatory Response
Turmeric serves as an herbal First Aid kit in a root. Its ability to support our physiology to generate a positive inflammatory response is central to optimizing the scenario of most any injury. The exact same mechanism is often at work after a rigorous workout that leaves you stiff, sore, and perhaps questioning why you punish this body that truly is a temple to the Spirit that you are.
So whether your ‘temple’ tumbled down a treacherous path twelve feet in front of your twenty-niner, or you simply spent the afternoon helping a friend move, a smart and effective game plan is to ensure that before, during, and after, one way or another, you have copious amounts of turmeric super-charging your blood.
I look around, not at the mere maps of medicine’s contemporary concepts, but at the very real terrain of billions of people all over the Indian sub-continent who have consumed turmeric daily for thousands of years. And though I can’t say that turmeric will cure anything, I do know that an ounce of prevention is worth more than any pound of cure.
So I suggest that you get to know thy turmeric, take it daily in good measure, breathe, love, and simply be well.