Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Curcuma
Species: C. longa
Binomial name
Curcuma longa

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.[2] It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C 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.

In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron, since it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.[4]

Erode, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is the world's largest producer and most important trading center of turmeric in Asia. For these reasons, Erode in history is also known as "Yellow City"[citation needed] or "Turmeric City".[citation needed] Sangli, a town in the southern part of the Indian western state of Maharashtra, is the second largest and most important trading center for turmeric in Asia. Turmeric is commonly called Manjal (மஞ்சள் ) in Tamil [5] and haridra, haldar or haldi in Hindi.[6]

Attempts to patent turmeric have been defeated. [7]



Culinary uses

Turmeric powder is used extensively in South Asian cuisine.

Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It has become the key ingredient for many Indian, Persian and Thai dishes such as in curry and many more.

In Indonesia, the turmeric leaves are used for Minangese or Padangese curry base of Sumatra, such as rendang, sate padang and many other varieties.

Although most usage of turmeric is in the form of root powder, in some regions (especially in Maharashtra), leaves of turmeric are used to wrap and cook food. This usually takes place in areas where turmeric is grown locally, since the leaves used are freshly picked. This imparts a distinct flavor.

In recipes outside South Asia, turmeric is sometimes used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow color. It is used in canned beverages and baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, sweets, cake icings, cereals, sauces, gelatins, etc.[citation needed] It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders. Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, as well as some sweet dishes, such as the cake sfouf.

Although usually used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric is also used fresh, much like ginger. It has numerous uses in Far Eastern recipes, such as fresh turmeric pickle, which contains large chunks of soft turmeric.

Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive), indicating how it is used as a food colouring (it normally gives food slightly yellow colour) [8] is used to protect food products from sunlight. The oleoresin is used for oil-containing products. The curcumin/polysorbate solution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcohol is used for water-containing products. Over-coloring, such as in pickles, relishes, and mustard, is sometimes used to compensate for fading.

In combination with annatto (E160b), turmeric has been used to color cheeses, yogurt, dry mixes, salad dressings, winter butter and margarine. Turmeric is also used to give a yellow color to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broths and other foods (often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron).

Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient for almost all Iranian fry ups (which typically consist of oil, onions and turmeric followed by any other ingredients that are to be included). In Nepal, turmeric is widely grown and is extensively used in almost every vegetable and meat dish in the country for its color, as well as for its medicinal value. In South Africa, turmeric is traditionally used to give boiled white rice a golden color.

In Goa and Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka state, India), turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering on the leaf — rice flour, and coconut-jaggery mixture, and then closing and steaming in a special copper steamer (goa). In Tamil Nadu, an Indian State, it is called "Manjal", which is extensively used for its aroma, color and as a disinfectant.

Preliminary medical research

Turmeric is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer's disease,[9] cancer,[10][11] arthritis, and other clinical disorders.[12][13] As an example of preliminary laboratory research, turmeric ameliorated the severity of pancreatitis-associated lung injury in mice.[14]

According to a 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal, research activity into curcumin and turmeric is increasing.[15] The U.S. National Institutes of Health currently has registered 61 clinical trials completed or underway to study use of dietary curcumin for a variety of clinical disorders (dated June 2011).[16]

Turmeric rhizome

Some research shows compounds in turmeric to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, however, curcumin is not one of them.[17]


Turmeric paste is traditionally used by Indian women to keep them free of superfluous hair and as an antimicrobial. Turmeric paste, as part of both home remedies and Ayurveda, is also said to improve the skin and is touted as an anti-aging agent. Turmeric figures prominently in the bridal beautification ceremonies of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Staining oneself with turmeric is believed to improve the skin tone and tan. Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of some sunscreens.[citation needed]

The government of Thailand is funding a project to extract and isolate tetrahydrocurcuminoids (THC) from turmeric. THCs are colorless compounds that might have antioxidant and skin-lightening properties, and might be used to treat skin inflammations, making these compounds useful in cosmetics formulations.


Inflorescence in Goa, India.

Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast (it fades with exposure to sunlight). However, turmeric is commonly used in Indian clothing, such as saris.


Turmeric can also be used to deter ants. The exact reasons why turmeric repels ants is unknown, but anecdotal evidence suggests it works.[citation needed]

Ceremonial uses

Turmeric is considered highly auspicious in India and has been used extensively in various Indian ceremonies for millennia. Even today it is used in every part of India during wedding ceremonies and religious ceremonies.

It is used in Pujas to make a form of Hindu god Ganesha. Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, is invoked at the beginning of almost any ceremony and a form of Ganesha for this purpose is made by mixing turmeric with water and forming it into a cone-like shape.

During the south Indian festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with fresh rhizomes is offered as a thanksgiving offering to Surya, the Sun god. Also, the fresh plant sometimes is tied around the sacred Pongal pot in which an offering of pongal is prepared.

In southern India, as a part of the marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to replace the Mangalsutra temporarily or permanently. The Hindu Marriage act recognizes this custom. Thali necklace is the equivalent of marriage rings of west.

Modern Neopagans list it with the quality of fire, and it is used for power and purification rites.

Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind reported in 1896 that in Micronesia the preparation of turmeric powder for embellishment of body, clothing and utensils had a highly ceremonial character.[18] He quotes an example of the roots being ground by four to six women in special public buildings and then allowed to stand in water. The following morning, three young coconuts and three old soma nuts are offered by a priestess with prayer, after which the dye which has settled down in the water is collected, baked into cakes in coconut molds, wrapped in banana leaves, and hung up in the huts till required for use.

Turmeric Flower Maharashtra India


Curcumin keto form
Curcumin enol form

Turmeric contains up to 5% essential oils and up to 5% curcumin, a polyphenol. Curcumin is the active substance of turmeric and curcumin is known as C.I. 75300, or Natural Yellow 3. The systematic chemical name is (1E,6E)-1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione.

It can exist at least in two tautomeric forms, keto and enol. The keto form is preferred in solid phase and the enol form in solution. Curcumin is a pH indicator. In acidic solutions (pH <7.4) it turns yellow, whereas in basic (pH > 8.6) solutions it turns bright red.

See also


  1. ^ "Curcuma longa information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?12676. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  2. ^ Chan, E.W.C. et al.; Lim, Y; Wong, S; Lim, K; Tan, S; Lianto, F; Yong, M (2009). "Effects of different drying methods on the antioxidant properties of leaves and tea of ginger species". Food Chemistry 113 (1): 166–172. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.07.090. 
  3. ^ Materia Indica, 1826, Whitelaw Ainslie, M.D. M.R.A.S., via Google Books
  4. ^ Is it Turmeric or Saffron?
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Termeric called haridra or haldi in India
  7. ^ "Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Farmers' Rights". http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmenvaud/45/45ap08.htm. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  8. ^ UK food guide
  9. ^ "Curry 'may slow Alzheimer's'". BBC News. 21 November 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1668932.stm. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  10. ^ Lin JK, Chen YC, et al. "Suppression of protein kinase C and nuclear oncogene expression as possible molecular mechanism of cancer chemoprevention by apigenin and curcumin", J Cell Biochem (Suppl) 28-29; 39-48, 1997
  11. ^ Lin LI, Ke YF, et al. "Curcumin inhibits SK-Hep-1 hepatocellular carcinoma cell invasion in vitro and suppresses matrix metalloproteinase-9 secretion", Oncology 55: 349-353, 1998
  12. ^ Henrotin Y, Clutterbuck AL, Allaway D, et al. (February 2010). "Biological actions of curcumin on articular chondrocytes". Osteoarthr. Cartil. 18 (2): 141–9. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2009.10.002. PMID 19836480. 
  13. ^ Gregory PJ, Sperry M, Wilson AF (January 2008). "Dietary supplements for osteoarthritis". Am Fam Physician 77 (2): 177–84. PMID 18246887. 
  14. ^ Seo SW, Bae GS, Kim SG, Yun SW, Kim MS, Yun KJ, Park RK, Song HJ, Park SJ (Jan 2011). "Protective effects of Curcuma longa against cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis and pancreatitis-associated lung injury". Int J Mol Med 27 (1): 53–61. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2010.548. PMID 21069254. 
  15. ^ Lewis, Christina. Common Indian Spice Stirs Hope. http://www.edenlabs.org/tumeric.htm. 
  16. ^ NIH-listed human clinical trials on curcumin, June, 2011
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Ratzel, Friedrich. The History of Mankind. (London: MacMillan, 1896). URL: www.inquirewithin.biz/history/american_pacific/oceania/oceania-utensils.htm accessed 28 November 2009.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Turmeric — Tur mer*ic, a. (Chem.) Of or pertaining to turmeric; resembling, or obtained from, turmeric; specif., designating an acid obtained by the oxidation of turmerol. [1913 Webster] {Turmeric paper} (Chem.), paper impregnated with turmeric and used as… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Turmeric — Tur mer*ic, n. [F. terre m[ e]rite, NL. terramerita, turmerica; apparently meaning, excellent earth, but perhaps a corruption of Ar. kurkum. Cf. {Curcuma}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Bot.) An East Indian plant of the genus {Curcuma}, of the Ginger… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • turmeric — (n.) pungent powder made from the root of an East Indian plant, 1530s, from Middle English turmeryte (early 15c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from M.Fr. terremérite saffron, from M.L. terra merita, lit. worthy earth, though the reason why it… …   Etymology dictionary

  • turmeric — ► NOUN ▪ a bright yellow powder obtained from a plant of the ginger family, used for flavouring and colouring in Asian cookery. ORIGIN perhaps from French terre mérite deserving earth …   English terms dictionary

  • turmeric — [tʉr′mər ik] n. [earlier also tormerik < MFr terre mérite < ML terra merita, lit., deserved (or deserving) earth < ?] 1. a) an East Indian plant (Curcuma longa) of the ginger family, whose rhizome in powdered form is used as a yellow dye …   English World dictionary

  • turmeric — /terr meuhr ik/, n. 1. the aromatic rhizome of an Asian plant, Curcuma domestica (or C. longa), of the ginger family. 2. a powder prepared from it, used as a condiment, as in curry powder, or as a yellow dye, a medicine, etc. 3. the plant itself …   Universalium

  • turmeric — dažinė ciberžolė statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Imbierinių šeimos prieskoninis, vaistinis augalas (Curcuma longa), paplitęs atogrąžų Azijoje (Indijoje). Naudojamas maisto priedams (dažikliams, kvėpikliams) gaminti, iš jo gaunamas eterinis… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • turmeric — noun Etymology: Middle English turmeryte Date: 15th century 1. an Indian perennial herb (Curcuma longa syn. C. domestica) of the ginger family with a large aromatic yellow rhizome 2. the boiled, dried, and usually ground rhizome of the turmeric… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • turmeric — Curcuma. * * * tur·mer·ic tər mə rik also tu·mer·ic t(y)ü mə n 1) an Indian perennial herb (Curcuma longa) of the ginger family with a large aromatic yellow rhizome 2) the cleaned, boiled, dried, and usu. ground rhizome of the turmeric plant used …   Medical dictionary

  • turmeric — Bloodroot Blood root , n. (Bot.) A plant ({Sanguinaria Canadensis}), with a red root and red sap, and bearing a pretty, white flower in early spring; called also {puccoon}, {redroot}, {bloodwort}, {tetterwort}, {turmeric}, and {Indian paint}. It… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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