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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.[2] It is native to tropicalSouth Asia and needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C (68°F and 86°F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive.[3]Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.


Culinary uses

Preliminary medical research

Phytochemicals found in turmeric have been investigated in preliminary research for their potential effects on diseases, such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes and other clinical disorders. As an example of such basic research, turmeric reduced the severity of pancreatitis-associated lung injury in mice. According to one report, research activity into curcumin and turmeric is increasing. The U.S. National Institutes of Health currently has registered 71 clinical trials completed or underway to study use of dietary curcumin for a variety of clinical disorders

Some research shows compounds in turmeric to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties; however, curcumin is not one of them.

In another preliminary research example, curcumin is being studied for whether it alters the response to chemotherapy in patients with advanced bowel cancer, as found in a laboratory study.


Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast. However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks' robes.

Health benefits of Turmeric

Aside from the holistic health community, Western medical practitioners have only recently come on board in recognizing the benefits of turmeric.

Turmeric, an orange-colored spice imported from India, is part the ginger family and has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years.

In addition, ayurvedic and Chinese medicines utilize turmeric to clear infections and inflammations on the inside and outside of the body. But beyond the holistic health community, Western medical practitioners have only recently come on board in recognizing the benefits of turmeric.

  • >>   Blocking cancer
    Doctors at UCLA recently found that curcumin, the main component in turmeric, appeared to block an enzyme that promotes the growth of head and neck cancer. In that study, 21 subjects with head and neck cancers chewed two tablets containing 1,000 milligrams of curcumin. An independent lab in Maryland evaluated the results and found that the cancer-promoting enzymes in the patients’ mouths were inhibited by the curcumin and thus prevented from advancing the spread of the malignant cells.
  • >>   Powerful antioxidant
    The University of Maryland’s Medical Center also states that turmeric’s powerful antioxidant properties fight cancer-causing free radicals, reducing or preventing some of the damage they can cause. While more research is necessary, early studies have indicated that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancer including prostate, skin and colon.