Turmeric is a sweet salve for an inflamed, auto-immune, gut-compromised soul, or so say the studies. But a bunch of other studies show it has poor bioavailability and requires pretty good gut health from the get-go to be able to convert the active ingredient (the yellow pigment, curcurmin) into a form that kicks into gear all the good guff. Sad sigh.

My fermented turmeric tonic
My fermented turmeric tonic

ALL OF THAT SAID, a study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology found the bioavailability increased when it was fermented.

It works like this: Curcumin is transformed through digestion into different forms known as metabolites. And it’s these metabolites that are the anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing agent. And the bit that I find interesting: According to a Japanese study, fermentation prior to eating can replicate this transformation, ie create metabolites.

Music. To my witchy ears.

I decided to play around with turmeric fermentation myself this week. My wonderful friend David grows the stuff and brought in a boot-load (literally) for me to muck about with. For those of you who don’t know a David With A Bootload of Roots, you’ll be glad to know turmeric is in season right now (in the Southern hemisphere) and pretty easy to get hold of. Buy up big. I’ll be posting a few more recipes to come.

For today, a tonic that’s bound to pacify pain and cool the angry inflammation based on my Ginger-ade recipe.

Fermented Turmeric Tonic

  • 1 cup thinly sliced turmeric, unpeeled (if you come up a little short, a bit of ginger in the mix is fine, too)
  • 3/4 cup rice malt syrup
  • 2 lemons or limes, or a combo of both (zest and juice)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whey (here’s the details for making whey; you can opt to make a turmeric bug instead by converting this ginger recipe)

Bring water, syrup and sliced turmeric to a boil in a medium pot. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool to body temperature then add the zest and juice (tip: if you have a Vitamix: trim the zest and blitz, trim the pith and discard, along with any pips, then add the whole lemon/lime to the Vitamix and blitz again; pour the liquid over the top to combine). Transfer to a large 2 L mason jar (or between two smaller ones). Add whey.

Stir, screw on the lid and sit on the counter for 2-3 days in hot weather, 4-5 in winter, or until slightly bubbly. Stir or shake a little occasionally. Strain the ginger-ade into bottles. Allow to carbonate for another 2-3 days at room temperature, and then put in the fridge. It will last a week in the fridge before it goes vinegary.

Feel free to put in some fermented turmeric requests…I’m in my kitchen a lot at the moment writing my next book. Plus, I have a boot-load of roots to make use of!


Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Becky Norney

    Always add black pepper to your turmeric! Black pepper has a property called “piperine” which increases the bioavailability of tumeric and therefore dramatically increases absorption in the gut 🙂

    • manu

      black pepper is increasing absorption dramatically but in a dramatic way .It makes holes in your guts by injuring it and anything can get in your blood stream a lot easier .

      • where did you hear that?

        • manu

          try to find a research on how ”piperine” works.Also ,keep in mind that most likely all western people face a kind of problem regarding intestinal health .Some not so ”important” and
          some very .

      • Sterling Solomon

        You have a very fundamental misunderstanding of the mechanisms of piperine. Please link some documents relating to this “holes in the gut” theory so i can clarify for you.

    • Janet Lancaster

      In a recent visit to Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove California I learned that all black pepper is cured with formaldehyde. So there’s that. I just

    • elaine

      Fermentation unlocks the full Bio-availability of turmeric so you do not pepper or a good fat to help to absorb it.

  • Liz Hardy

    Thank you Sarah! I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate more turmeric into my diet (I love the Pukka Three Ginger tea with turmeric in it) and this sounds fabulous!

  • Jane

    I wonder if you could grate and lactoferment it for later use in cooking.

  • Vic

    Thanks! will be giving this ago, question how long does whey keep in the fridge, I discoved a container from a while back and wondering if it’s still any good?

    • Jennifer

      Sally Fallon recommends that whey can be stored for up to 6 months.

  • I put a ton of it – fresh grated turmeric, into my raw fermented sauerkraut. FYI

    • Update: for the first time ever, the batch of sauerkraut I made with the fresh turmeric did not ferment (this is the first time I added fresh turmeric.) I wonder if the turmeric works as a enzyme, microbial inhibitor? would love to hear of anyone elses experience with using ‘fresh’ turmeric in their raw fermented sauerkraut and how it worked out. Thanks.

      • scott

        Yes, it is a natural preservative.

      • Mike New-fbpage

        It works fine for me .. I’ve made many sauerkrauts with tumeric and it always fermented nicely .. same with my friends

      • Erin Banana

        Actually I believe it’s the opposite. Roots like turmeric have enzymes that you can harvest to create cultures. I’ve made ginger bugs w ginger/turmeric mix. So I don’t believe it could have been the turmeric. So many factors in fermentation.

  • Sarahj77newt

    Could you add turmeric to kombucha? Or kifer? Or even into fermented veggies??

    • well, I’m glad you asked. Look out for upcoming post

      • Erica

        perhaps a turmeric/ginger enhanced kimchi?

      • Aimy

        Finally Found some fresh turmeric after reading this article. So excited. I am used to making kombucha or kefir. Have made beet kvass before without whey but adding a lot of sea salt or just a bit of water kefir. So what can I do here to not use whey?

    • elaine

      I always second ferment with ginger and turmeric root.

  • Robin tanner

    I have been making a version with water kefir grains, adding raw (not sure as Sarah cooked hers) turmeric finely grated with a micro planet the ferment tastes great and a beautiful iridescent yellow

    • I don’t cook mine

      • homebody

        “Bring water, syrup and sliced turmeric to a boil in a medium pot.Simmer for 20 minutes.”
        Sounds like cooked to me.

        • Scott

          Lol! Yes, definitely cooked.

  • San

    This soudsn amazing. I am fermenting your gingerade right now. You write the same here: Do you open the jar when you want to stir it?

    • you can. but you also just shake a little

      • San

        Thanks, Sarah. If it turns out well I will give the turmeric version a go.

        • San

          After 3 days it caught mould!! I am not sure what went wrong, but it didn’t even seem to ferment properly as I could hardly see any bubbles (medium/warm weather).

          • Marna Marie’ Strauss

            If I could take a guess I’d say you probably didn’t sterilize your bottle or its lid properly or it was left in a too warm space

          • Kate

            Wash everything you use to ferment with white vinegar. Will kill any bad bacteria but not impede fermentation 🙂

          • San

            Okay, thanks for the advice. I guess I practise a bit more with Sauerkraut, which seems to work for me, and then give the ginger/turmeric drink another try.

  • Ingrid Elkner

    Dang, I can’t eat anything fermented, drives my ears batsh*t crazy (itchy itchy itch itchy). I love when people tell me I need fermented things to get over my allergies – when they themselves create something like an allergic response!

    • Diane

      Have you tried starting to take your ferments very slowly and only a tiny bit at at time? As in a few drops every second day and increasing drop by by drop.

    • Ebs

      You might have histamine issues Ingrid?

      • Ingrid Elkner

        I agree, a total histamine issue. I’ve cut out almost all histamine foods, and adding to that all my other intolerances and OAS (which is pretty much ANYTHING raw these days), my diet is pretty tiny and miserable, and the doc, specialists, and naturopath have been no help!

        • I had histamine issues so I went on a low histamine elimination diet for a few months — that seemed to empty my “histamine bucket” effectively and now I don’t have issues with histamine foods unless I eat them in high quantities. My main symptoms were intense all over body itching at night that made it impossible to fall asleep, dizziness, and air hunger/asthma-like feeling. You probably already saw her blog by now but Yasmina the Low Histamine Chef is absolutely amazing!! She now talks about slowly reintroducing some high histamine foods to heal.

        • Ellie, Raw Dairy Farmer

          Chronic dehydration or improper way of drinking water will cause high histamine levels too. read book written by an M.D.: “Water Cure: You’re not sick, you are thirsty.” Drink of 12-16oz.water with 2 tsp. of Himalayan Pink Salt Sole first thing every morning and 20-30 min before each meal, will guarantee great improvement. We’ve got nearly 100% positive results with this method at our raw dairy farm/store. Over 2000 customers are doing this daily, including everyone in my family. You can slowly add fermented food after 2 weeks of Sole and water with no problem.

        • Histamine will reduce with l-methionine & choline supplements. Are you awake at night and cannot get to sleep?

          • Ingrid Elkner

            Hey, I wake with a heart attacky feeling, yeah, especially when I re-introduce high hist foods. I didn’t tolerate choline nor l-methionine last times I tried.

    • Jeannie

      I recently discovered a wonderful supplement for helpping with histamine sensitivity. It is diamine oxidase. I got mine from Swanson vitamins, it is called DAOSIN. Give it a try! I too suffer with the itchy ear symptom. Enough to drive a person crazy!

  • Jason

    After taking Turmeric capsules for a few days I got quite a bad dose of reflux. Would this be the “bioavailbility” you speak of, and if so, how do I best prepare my stomach for said capsules?

    • hmmm, no idea. The real food is always better than the capsule…the reaction might be to the casing…I’m not sure.

  • Katie

    Sarah, you are my hero. Thank you for sharing all of your info so generously and keeping the most updated research easily accessible. I’m struggling with a newly diagnosed PCOS and in the midst of changing EVERYTHING about what I put in my body to improve guts, hormones, and everything in between. You are my favorite resource =) I hope I can spread my knowledge as gracefully and hilariously as you to my peeps in my monkey sphere. Can’t wait to mix up this potion. Thank you

  • Alicia Victoria

    Hi Sarah! ty for this post, by “fermented tumeric request” does that mean you are selling it as well?!

  • Anna

    How about adding it into kombucha? Make my own and use to add ginger juice

  • evolve77

    any way to do this recipe dairy free?? i haven’t reintroduced dairy yet, and i know the whey isn’t plain old shop bought milk but don’t want to take any chances after all my hard work.

    • whey doesn’t contain any lactose

    • Thomas Gregory

      fermentation totally changes the body’s response to just about anything. I strongly suspect you would have no dairy reaction at all. If you aren’t up to experimenting, check with an herbalist or naturopath to be sure.

  • Lynda

    Turmeric is my non negotiable. I look forward to trying this tonic. I now grate raw turmeric on my eggs after one of your posts a while back. I look forward to your next book. There is great research behind Turmeric and dementia too so it would be great if you could add this in as a tip to your book. The debate needs to widen from cure to also dementia and wellness (pre + post).

  • Karen

    Does anyone suffer from yellow stain on their teeth from Tumeric? I would drink it brewed more often if this wasn’t a problem.

    • SarahH

      Drink it through a straw?? I use glass or stainless steel ones (the glass look great!)

  • Kate

    LOVE this recipe, thanks Sarah! Have just made it & can’t wait to try. I’m assuming the lids go on after adding the whey? Thank you x

  • Jo

    Hi – would love to try this. We’re on GAPS atm tho, if we substituted honey, would the amount be any different? and do you think there’s any problem using turmeric you’ve had in the freezer? thanks!

  • Jan Storbakken

    Here’s a request for some fermented turmeric tonic I live in Craig AK. Could you ship USPS?

  • Van Love

    How much should we be drinking a day? Thanks…

  • Thomas Gregory

    Finding turmeric root here in the
    mountains of North Carolina (unless you grow your own) is nigh on
    impossible. Would ground tumeric work? How would you go about
    extending the shelf life of this stuff? It sounds like the kind of
    thing to have on hand. Maybe you can make some sort of long lived
    elixir. Hmmm.

  • Marna Marie’ Strauss

    Morning Sarah! I’ve been following your food blog for awhile now, and just want to thank you for broadening my horizons and getting me to love Turmeric…

    Just want to check – I’m making my own Kefir Cheese (Soft cheese…I let my milk-kefir grains stand a few days in milk then I remove the kefir grains and add the thickened milk (dunno whatelse to call it) into a muslin bag to drip-dry in my fridge until it forms a more solid mass. The “liquid” dripping as the mass dries out – what is this? whey? and can I use it in other recipes?

    Would appreciate any opinions from anyone.
    Have a great day!
    🙂 Big shout-out from Cape Town

    • SarahH

      If you let the milk kefir separate, you will get curds on top and whey on the bottom – I would use this for this recipe

  • Great recipe, Sarah!! Look forward to try it. 🙂
    I would like to ask you this: Since Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, I add a pinch of a black pepper, so its absorption is enhanced. And because Curcumin is fat soluble, I always add an oil to my Turmeric drink or dish too. Is that not necessary when the Turmeric is fermented?
    Thank you,

  • Millie

    Definitely trying this recipe when the local farmers will have turmeric…in a few weeks!

  • Nena

    I can’t get whole turmeric where I live, North MS. Can I use turmeric spice? If so, how much, etc.?

  • Lisa

    i too would be interested to know if honey would work ?

  • Nancy Holman

    What is a good dosage a day?

  • Julie T.

    I am gluten intolerant, which mans anything malted is a no-no. CanI use honey instead?

  • fezmo

    Hi all, i just made this and it was super tasty. My 3 year old loves it because its the only fizzy drink he gets!

    To those asking about using honey: its very hard to ferment using honey due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties…but i have heard of people succeeding.

    My ferment lasted about 5 days before being polished off…it was definitely tastiest the first few days.

  • Jess

    Can you use honey if you don’t have any rice malt syrup? I know the fructose factor but will is still work?

  • tumeric april

    isnt there a recipe i can use without the rice malt syrup, maybe just do lemon, tumeric, ginger, water, and lime for a sprite like taste. bought a pound of tumeric today and want to ferment. I also add to my green drinks each morning

  • Megan G

    Is this possible to make without the whey? I don’t have a dairy allergy or anything but was wondering if a wild ferment would be possible and effective. Any thoughts?

  • Kenneth

    Thank you Sarah. I have a pound of organic tumeric powder and I’d like to ferment it. How can I use your recipe?

    For over 50 years I’ve heard to stay away from black because it is said to be an irritant, unlike cayenne which is not an irritant.

  • Mike New-fbpage

    Why do you boil the tumeric first?

  • Carlene

    Hi Sarah I’ve made my first batch of turmeric tonic, about to decant into bottles. Wondering how you would suggest consuming? One of your posts for beet kvass (elsewhere), said morning and evening… Before medication ? Eg thyroxine etc or after?

  • ET

    Hi All, I am going to give this recipe a go however I hate the thought of chucking out all that fermented turmeric. Does anybody have any ideas of what to do with it once the tonic is made? I was thinking I could blend it in my morning smoothie. Also has anyone had success using part of the last batch to start a new one? Or do you have to start each lot from scratch? TIA :O)

  • Saffatac

    Can I use the whey left over from making whole milk ricotta (acid whey)? Does it work to ferment in the same way even though it has lemon in it and has been heated? Or do I need to use cream cheese whey (sweet whey)?

  • sophie giesen

    I tried the recipe in the book which uses salt instead of whey (I don’t do animal milk) and whilst it has fermented well its SUPER salty lol. I know, makes sense but it is on the verge of undrinkable for me. Any suggestions about improving this? It is equal parts rice malt syrup and salt so I followed the measures right but am clearly missing something

  • Grant Luisetti

    Hi, how do I combine oil and fermentation ? cheers Grant

  • Tonnia Galyon Williams

    Would powdered turmeric work? I live in a very small town with the closet large city grocery store 85 miles away. I have never seen fresh turmeric in any of those stores either. If not do you know if any site sells and ships fresh turmeric?

  • Natalie Stanecki

    Hi Sarah, I know this is an old post, but to clarify are you replacing turmeric in the ginger bug or using the ginger bug in the turmeric tonic? Cheers!

  • Kazz Sam

    Why boil it? Is that necessary? I am always wary of overheating and the damage it can cause to many constituents in plants, such as terpenes and enzymes etc.

  • Richard Linck

    I could only get Barley malt Syrup in my local health store. I hope its ok to substitute ??

  • judy babcock

    very interested in what u r doing with turmeric did not no bout what it could help with how can i find turmic to grow all i can find in the store is the powder turnmic mu husband stomach problems and we bouth have arthritus