Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a relative to the ginger plant. In India, turmeric is used in many traditional dishes for its color and flavor. The root of the turmeric plant is ground into a golden yellow powder and used in medicinal preparations and in cooking. Modern medical studies are evaluating the benefit of turmeric in treating many diseases.
Turmeric is a medium-size perennial plant related to the ginger family. The plants grow to five or six feet tall and produce dark yellow flowers. Most turmeric is grown in Southeast Asia in tropical zones. In India, the ground turmeric root is an important part of the traditional, cooking giving many Indian curries their deep yellow color. The taste of ground turmeric can be slightly bitter and sharp; the scent is dusky and fragrant. Turmeric contains antioxidant-rich curcumin making it a healthy addition to many dishes.
Turmeric can be used in many recipes to add a touch of color, enhance the nutritional value of the meal and add the fragrant scent of this important herb. You can add turmeric to rice, soups, stews, curries and stir-fries. Added to rice, it will create a deep yellow color and a fragrant, exotic scent with a mild taste. In soups, stews, curries and stir-fries, the yellow power will add a rich color and mild flavor.
When making butter, cheese and other dairy products, turmeric can be used to impart a rich yellow color. Mustards are often supplemented with turmeric powder to enhance the color of the product. Not restricted to food coloring, turmeric can be used to dye fabric. White fabric, submerged in a mixture of turmeric and hot water, will take on a deep yellow to gold color. In addition, turmeric can be used to dye the shells of hollowed-out eggs.
Used for more than 4000 years, turmeric has a long history in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. The turmeric root is first dried and then powdered and stored for use. For external use, the powder can be mixed with a few drops of water and reconstituted into a thick paste. The paste is used for the treatment of cuts, wounds, skin irritations and rashes. In traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, the juice is pressed from the root and taken internally to stimulate the liver, increase the movement of bile in the system, improve digestion and soothe inflammatory diseases.
The high antioxidant content of turmeric’s active constituent, curcumin, can help prevent free-radical damage in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that oxidize in the body, causing cell damage and cell death. Antioxidants combat these unstable molecules by stabilizing them. Modern alternative medicine uses turmeric in the treatment of cancers, stomach ulcers, diabetes, osteoarthritis, indigestion and viral or bacterial infection. Turmeric is currently being studied for its medicinal value for many illnesses.