How Hip and Trendy is Turmeric? Ask Google.
By John Day Barnett
Turmeric is having its moment in the sun – at least the sun outside the Indian culture. While many cultures throughout Asia have used it for thousands of years to treat a large array of medical conditions, the fad-driven Western culture seems to have recently discovered its benefits.
The Google Food & Beverage Analytics team published the Google Food Trends 2016 U.S. Report, and proclaimed that “Americans are turning to food to fill needs beyond hunger or cravings. They want to be educated on the impact or each ingredient on one’s body, and how to optimize their diet in order to look and feel their best.” The report ranks turmeric at the top of the Food With a Function list, and with a 56% jump in searches in only a few months in late 2015 / early 2016.
For some context, here are the next few Top Trending List: apple cider vinegar, jackfruit, Manuka honey, kefir, coconut oil, erythritol, bone broth, cauliflower rice, and avocado oil. Notice a pattern? Picture the health food craze sweeping the country these days; perplexed people standing in grocery store aisles scratching their heads, trying to figure out what bone broth is compared to regular broth – not to mention why it costs more than their shoes.
What is on the other end of the spectrum, labeled as “Falling Stars?” These include the rainbow bagel, vanilla bean paste, Dutch baby pancake, mulligan stew, buffalo chicken fries, and chocolate slices. It seems the era of carbs, funky deserts, and interesting takes on sweets are on their way out. Also, what the heck is a rainbow bagel?
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old natural healing system of India . It comes from the Zingiberaceae family (same as ginger) and in Sanskrit is called “Haridra”(“The Yellow One”), “Gauri” (“The One Whose Face is Light and Shining”),“Kanchani” (“Golden Goddess”) , and Aushadhi (“Herb”). In Ayurveda, turmeric is believed to balance the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). It has been used by Ayurvedic healers as medicine taken internally in the form of fresh juice, boiled tea, tinctures, or powder, and topically as creams, lotions, pastes, and ointments.
While there is some debate in the medical community on the exact health benefits of turmeric, studies have shown it to help fight infections, cancers, reduce inflammation, ulcers, heart disease, and help with digestion. The top 5 videos on YouTube (with a combined 3.9 million views) list additional benefits such as chronic joint pain, acne, blood sugar, sleep and skin disorders, and weight loss.
Interestingly the geographic breakdown of the searches shows that those in major U.S. cities search for turmeric much more than other areas. Hotspots include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta. However, when comparing turmeric to another trend – Traveling Through Taste – Indian food is nowhere to be found.
Those searching for the ingredient don’t seem to be looking for it to add to dishes themselves, like pho, bibimbap, or tostadas. The key is the health benefits of turmeric, not the use of it as an ingredient in a certain recipe or dish for flavor.
What does this mean for turmeric, diets, and eating itself? The report shows that people (at least who use Google as a source) are increasingly finding new ways to eat healthier and smarter. Through a confluence of tradition, availability of information, and proliferation of high quality products with turmeric, many are discovering benefits already known inherently to Indian grandmothers, who at the sign of a cold or cough would serve up turmeric-ginger tea with great speed and love.