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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Curcuma domestica Zingiberaceae South East Asia

Bright yellow turmeric has been used for thousands of years in religious rituals, as a dye stuff and as a culinary spice. Giving clothing and food a similar color to saffron, turmeric is a much cheaper alternative. It is yellow like the sun, and was used by Hindus to represent just that and still plays a role in their religion today.

Related to ginger, turmeric is a rhizome with a warm, slightly spicy flavor with a touch of bitterness that becomes more medicinal once dry. It looks and smells similar to ginger, is brown on the outside and bright yellow-orange on the inside. An essential ingredient to curry and curry powder, turmeric can reach heights of up to three feet. Turmeric is sometimes referred to as Indian saffron because of their similarities in color, however they should never be substituted for one another.

Aside from curry, most turmeric is cultivated for its dyeing properties. A cheap spice to harvest, most turmeric is cultivated in India and over eighty percent is used domestically.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Turmeric and more importantly curcumin, its active ingredient, has been the subject of much research lately. Curcumin is said to protect against heat failure, high cholesterol, many types of cancer and maybe even Alzheimer's. Curmin may be able to reach cells at the nuclear level, attacking problems at the cellular level.

Historically, turmeric has been used to:

  • powerful anti-inflammatory
  • antiseptic
  • digestive aid
  • lowers cholesterol
  • prevents hypertrophy
  • may aid weight loss
  • as a carminative
  • relieves cramps

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Most turmeric can be found in curry powders or paste. It is also used as a food coloring or dye and can make an excellent condiment when added to vegetables, mayonnaise or plain yogurt to be used as a dip. Turmeric is one spice where it is only used as a ground powder. Food for thought:

  • sprinkle turmeric overtop of sauteed vegetables
  • add to egg salad
  • use it to make fresh curry powder
  • add a dash to stews or hearty soups
  • add to any dish containing lentils
  • add to homemade chutney
  • mix with olive oil or melted butter and use as a spread or add it to potatoes or pasta

view other A-Z Spices