Turmeric and golden paste can be used so interchangeably that it’s easy to get confused. Which one will suit me better? What is even the difference? Whether you make golden paste regularly or you are just starting your turmeric journey, it’s always good to know more about the phytotherapeutics you’re using.
Simply put, turmeric is the common name for the rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa. It belongs to the botanical family Zingiberaceae, which also includes ginger and galangal among its members. Turmeric plants grow to a height of approximately 1m, and have large oblong leaves. It’s natural growing climate is tropical to sub-tropical, as it requires temperatures of between 20-30 degrees Celsius and large amount of rainfall to thrive. Turmeric rhizomes are tuberous, and can have a rough and slightly branched exterior, the interior of the rhizome is usually a pale yellow to rich orange colour. This orange colour is given by curcumin, which is one of the most researched medicinal actives found in turmeric.
Turmeric is used medicinally in various forms, such as powdered, juiced, freshly grated or dehydrated. It’s benefits are numerous, but scientific research supports its use as a liver restorative, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycaemic, antioxidant and antimicrobial phytotherapeutic.
About Golden Paste
Golden paste is a product made from turmeric. Golden paste was popularised by the Australian vet Doug English, who has used it with great success for a variety of animals as well as discovering its amazing benefits for humans. His method combines turmeric powder with coconut oil and black pepper, a combination which has grounding in both traditional medicine and scientific research.
The reason why coconut oil is useful in golden paste is because certain compounds in turmeric are lipophilic, meaning that they have an affinity for fat molecules. This is thought to have a beneficial impact on its absorbability, and although this is not supported by modern research per se, there is a significant body of traditional use that supports the idea that combining turmeric with an outside source of fat may be beneficial. The fat content in golden paste is also largely what makes it a paste instead of just powder, as the water is mostly evaporated off during the cooking process. The texture of golden paste, largely given by the fat content, is what makes it ideal for external applications. If taken internally, it’s also probable that golden paste made with coconut oil will be better absorbed.
Black pepper has been traditionally combined with turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine from India for thousands of years, most often in a spice combination called trikatu and a drink called Haldi doodh (turmeric latte to you and I) and with modern research we are starting to understand that this ancient wisdom has a grounding in scientific fact. Piperine, an active constituent of black pepper, has been found to increase the absorption of a large number of drugs and phytotherapeutic constituents (including curcumin) by inhibiting the function of CYP enzymes and P-glycoprotein in the liver. One early study demonstrated that combining curcumin and piperine could increase blood levels of curcumin by up to 2000% (check it out here). But the story isn’t quite that simple – curcumin is only one of hundreds of active medicinal compounds in turmeric, and newer research shows that combining curcumin with other compounds in turmeric, such as its volatile oils, can actually be more effective than combining it with piperine.
So what does it all mean? Well for starters, if you’re using golden paste externally, you probably don’t need to include the black pepper, especially if it causes any burning or irritation to your skin. Turmeric has a different mode of action when used externally and isn’t processed by the liver, so black pepper/piperine isn’t needed to help the curcumin absorb into the bloodstream.
Another thing to note is that piperine can actually have an effect on the metabolism of certain medications, so it’s worth checking with your doctor before adding it to your golden paste if you are regularly taking any medication. (Print out this to help explain to your health professional what you are asking). Although the concentration of piperine in black pepper is lower than if you are using straight bioperine or another extract, it’s still safer to check that there are no interactions with piperine if you’re going to use golden paste internally. Golden paste with coconut oil and black pepper is an awesome combination which has great therapeutic benefits, but it definitely pays to know a little bit more about the medicine you’re taking. If you decide to make golden paste without black pepper, just leave it out of the recipe, it’s as simple as that.
So What’s Really Important?
Golden paste has helped thousands of people in Australia and around the world, and it’s an amazing tool to help on your healing journey. It is good to note though, that turmeric as a whole food, not a curcumin extract, absorbs really well by itself. So even though the coconut oil and black pepper definitely help, you don’t need them to get the health benefits of turmeric. If golden paste doesn’t work for you, then feel free to take turmeric powder in a different format – it’s still highly therapeutically active.
What we are obsessed about however, is using certified organic turmeric products. The 1kg bags of turmeric powder that you can pick up very cheaply from anywhere are not tested for quality and in some cases are mostly flour with a little bit of turmeric added for colour. They are also stored for years, making them stale by the time they arrive in your home. Certified organic turmeric products are less likely to be contaminated or adulturated and are tested for quality regularly. We also suggest finding a brand that does their own, independent testing on each batch. We recommend Therapeia Australia’s turmeric products as they are Australian Certified Organic and are independently tested. Buy their turmeric powder to make golden paste here.