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Natural Awekining's Article about Turmeric, Jessica and Jahmu

Turmeric, Ginger, and Jahmu PBC

Check out the article about Jahmu and Turmeric that Natural Awakening’s RI published in their March food issue! If you have any questions or comments please ask us using the contact form below.

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Original Draft of Natural Awakening’s Article:

Rhode Island Local Turns Americans onto Turmeric

by Walter Filkins

January, 29, 2016

Type “turmeric” into the search field of the US National Library of Medicine and nearly 3,500 studies appear; type “ginger” in and about 2,400 items are listed. There is mounting evidence that turmeric, ginger and other spices have therapeutic effects. In the US medical claims can only be made if there is a scientifically significant causal relationship where one chemical compound – measurable in the human blood – causes a specific symptom to go away, despite causing other symptoms to appear.

The problem with this “western” approach to medicine is that naturally occurring foods and spices have hundreds of nutrients and chemical compounds, which absorb into everyone’s bodies at varying rates. These compounds are rarely measurable in the blood and it’s almost impossible to attribute a health effect to one specific compound – unless a drug is extracted and dosed in an amount far exceeding what one would get from normal consumption of the food or spice.

At Jahmu PBC, a North Kingstown based turmeric-ginger chai tea startup, founder Jessica Filkins worries that many Americans are being shortchanged by the FDA.

From 2008 until 2013, Jessica suffered from a myriad of health problems brought on by undiagnosed food allergies, overprescribed antibiotics, and unnecessary surgical procedures. As a result, the inner lining of her gut was severely damaged and her gut microbiome fell out of balance. She was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and doctors told her there was nothing they could do. Fortunately, during the winter of 2012-2013, Jessica traveled to South East Asia and Indonesia where turmeric, ginger, various roots, spices and fresh vegetables comprised the majority of her – and everyone else’s – diet. On a daily basis in Indonesia Jessica drank “jamu”, a yellow elixir made from blending turmeric, ginger and other ingredients. “Jamu” is a catch all term that refers to medicine, herbal remedy and elixir.

Jessica made a miraculous recovery. Upon her return to the Rhode Island, she made it her mission to get turmeric and ginger into the everyday diet of Americans. Unfortunately, when consumed alone or in a raw form, these roots taste spicy and bitter. To be palatable, turmeric and ginger require some combination of peeling, grating, pickling, blending or cooking. This posed a challenge because Americans demand fast, easy culinary solutions.

As fortune would have it, during the summer of 2013 Jessica ran out of raw turmeric: the essential ingredient in the beverage “Jamu Juice”, which she was selling at the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield and the Block Island Farmers’ Market. She began substituting in dry powdered turmeric and to her surprise customers liked the beverage even more. After doing some research, Jessica discovered that one ounce of powdered turmeric has the nutrient content of a pound of raw turmeric. In particular, powdered turmeric contains upwards of 5% curcumin – an active constituent that is attributed with  turmeric’s medicinal effects.

Jessica realized she was on to something: she replaced raw ginger with powdered ginger. Jessica had more time on her hands – she was no longer washing, peeling, grating, and blending roots all day! She began to package and sell her spice blend so that customers could prepare their own turmeric-ginger beverages on a daily basis. In order to sell her products to customers over the winter, Jessica launched a website, jahmu.com.

Jahmu Chai™, a rust-orange powder, is about ⅓ turmeric, ⅓ ginger, and 8 other spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg shroud the flavors of turmeric and ginger with a “chai-like” taste that Americans enjoy. To make a replacement for coffee and caffeinated tea, Jessica adds ground yerba mate,  a South American tea leaf, to her mix, yielding Jahmu Chai With Caffeine™. Jessica also developed an instant chai tea called, Golden Milk, which in addition to her original spice blend, has organic non-fat powdered milk and organic coconut sugar. Now there is a turmeric-ginger beverage mix for everyone!

Fast forward to 2016: Jessica’s handcrafted organic tea mix, Jahmu Chai™, is sold at three dozen locations, including Dave’s Marketplace and Belmont. Health-conscious people in all 50 states and eight countries have bought her products. The versatility of Jahmu Chai™ enables Jessica’s customers to casually incorporate a significant amount of turmeric and ginger into their diets.  The spice blend is delicious when added to hot water, milk, coffee, other teas, hot cider, sparkling cider, and smoothies. Customers have also used it in recipes ranging from apple crisp topping to soup. It seems to be a welcomed replacement for cinnamon or curry.

Having produced over 300,000 servings worth of tea mix, Jessica is well on her way to achieving her goal of getting turmeric, ginger, and other healthy spices into the average American’s daily diet! Americans simply can’t afford to wait for drug companies and the FDA to recommend turmeric and ginger; over four millennia of use in Asia is evidence enough of their special therapeutic properties.