The One Spice Every Hiker Should Use

Before hiking the Appalachian Trail I was fortunate enough to be in great health – no aches, no pains, no pills. Just me and my gummy vitamins.

2,185 trail miles later, my knees are a wreck! After ignoring the problem (because that works, right?), a doctor’s visit and x-ray revealed… not much. He gave me some suggestions, like switching my daily workouts from running to another activity like swimming, and prescribed me Diclofenac – an anti-inflammatory drug taken to reduce inflammation and pain.

I replaced running with cycling for a month, but against doctor’s orders I am now training for a marathon. This means my knee health is even more of a concern. While the anti-inflammatory medicine seems to work, I don’t want to be reliant on it forever so I’ve begun looking for a more natural alternative.

Photo by Bhaskar Peddhapati

The solution?

Turmeric! Yep, the spice. Herbs and spices have long been used throughout history and across the world to treat ailments and improve health. There isn’t a day I don’t get an email from a wellness website boasting the holistic power of cinnamon or sage or some other spice. Turmeric has especially been getting a lot of attention by doctors and health obsessives alike because lately some studies suggest it alleviates joint pain, improves the memory of Alzheimer’s patients, delays diabetes and kills cancer cells.

Known for it’s sunshine yellow color, turmeric can be purchased fresh or dried. It’s flavor profile is earthy and slightly peppery, making it perfect for savory dishes. Its medicinal properties include antioxidants, nutrients, and *wait for it* anti-inflammatory compounds!

Photo by Darya Pino

What does this mean for hikers?

Long distance hiking puts a lot of stress on the body everyday and inflammation is a major reoccurring issue. For hikers specifically, inflammation is caused by a flux of free radicals in the body which stem from diet and exercise.

The main active compound in the turmeric is curcumin – a powerful antioxidant whose main role is to help decrease inflammation (though it’s also been found to cleanse the liver, improve brain health, and much more). While there are a few different foods you can incorporate in your diet to combat inflammation, turmeric is a super simple option with a powerful kick.

Research says that if you start adding turmeric to your diet daily, you’ll notice improvement in stiffness, soreness, and overall well-being. Basically, you’re going to feel great! In hindsight, I should have been carrying turmeric on the trail. It’s small, lightweight, in every grocery store and can even be taken in pill form. As a tasty addition to almost any backpacker meal or ramen concoctions and a sure way to make you feel physically better, turmeric should be an obvious grab at your next re-supply.

Photo by Steven Jackson

Just not willing to try turmeric?

Well, boo. But if that is the case, another great meal supplement for hikers looking to decrease inflammation is olive oil – a nice, lightweight solution to not only help your knees out after a long day but get you those much needed extra calories. Additionally nuts, fruit, and chocolate are great inflammation fighters, so be sure to load up on the trail mix!

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Comments 4

  • SoniaButton : Feb 13th

    Thanks for the tips. I was already thinking about adding tumeric to my spice kit for the trail. You have just convinced me.

    • Bob DuChaine : Sep 3rd

      The spice alone won’t do much. You need a supplement with piperine (bioperine) for bioavailability.

  • John Gillespie : Feb 13th

    Realize that the curcumin is not very bioavailable. To increase bioavailability consume it with black pepper. Cooking and absorption in oil have shown to help as well.


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