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What Is Turmeric?

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  • Written By: Jane Harmon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
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Turmeric is a spice made from grinding the roots of the Curcuma longa plant, also called curcumin. It is a prime ingredient in curry powder and figures heavily in Asian cuisines. Because it imparts a vivid yellow color to the food it is cooked with, it is often used to color as well as flavor condiments, rice dishes and sauces.

The active ingredient in tumeric is curcumin. It is thought to be an anti-inflammatory, as well as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that are thought to help prevent aging by inhibiting the breakdown of cells by oxidation.

Recently, turmeric is gaining a lot of attention for its potential medicinal properties. Traditionally it has been considered a good digestive aid, and some cultures use the spice as a dietary supplement for this reason. Since those cultures also traditionally have a lower incident of certain cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, turmeric is now being actively studied as a cancer treatment and/or preventative, particularly for environmental cancers.

Recent studies indicate that turmeric slows the growth and spread of existing cancerous tumors. Because the populations that consume this spice in large quantities have traditionally had a lower incidence of Alzheimer's, turmeric is also being investigated as an anti-Alzheimer's medicine. Early animal studies are very encouraging.

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While the results of the ongoing studies aren't conclusive yet, it certainly couldn't hurt for people to start incorporating more turmeric into their diet. It is often used as a substitute for the very expensive saffron, because of its similar flavor and the very strong yellow color it dyes the foods it is cooked with. Cooks can add a turmeric-rice side dish to the menu by using a recipe for saffron rice and substituting the spice. Because it is more strongly flavored than saffron, the cook will have to cut down on quantities, and some experimentation to get the spice just right will no doubt be required. It can also be added to stews, meat dishes, couscous and other dishes that would benefit from a bit of a curry flavor.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 14

@anon260655-- You can but since turmeric itself has antibacterial benefits, you can just use turmeric and water to make a paste to apply to boils.

In India, those with oily and acne prone skin usually make a face mask with turmeric and plain yogurt.

Turmeric is mixed with water and applied to the bride and groom and washed before weddings to give skin a bright, healthy shine.

I think turmeric chai tea is also made in some parts of India.

stoneMason
Post 13
@feruze-- I don't use turmeric for health, I use it for the color, but it's great to know it has health benefits a well. I usually put a pinch or two in meals and it doesn't change the flavor.

It also helps to add it in the beginning of the cooking session rather than the end. For example, if I have to saute onions for a recipe, I add two pinches of turmeric at that time. Then I add all the other ingredients.

No one would even know that there is turmeric in it if it weren't for the yellow color it imparts. I sauteed onions with it again the other day to put in potato salad. Everyone loved it, especially the color.

bear78
Post 12

I read that turmeric prevents cancer and wanted to incorporate it in my diet. I put it in a stew but I must have put too much because it completely changed the flavor of the stew. The color was a lovely yellow but I just couldn't eat it.

anon264862
Post 11

My Dad is 73 and in the late stages of Alzheimer's. I started giving him turmeric mixed in with his food about a month ago, and within two weeks, we've noticed an improvement such as more movement, more alert and trying to communicate, awake for longer periods of time, etc. The amount we're giving him is one full teaspoon a day split up in three meals.

anon260655
Post 10

Can you mix turmeric with Neosporin to make a paste to apply to a boil?

arymal09
Post 7

Turmeric and saffron could be considered as similar as chalk to cheese. A search for these terms will elucidate on this fact. The medicinal value of turmeric has been acknowledged and is already being used in traditional Indian medicine.

A search for the turmeric patent issue will show how the intellectual property rights for its use have been fought over. Please consider this a request to date your articles so those of us who've followed a link from another article (eg turmeric from oyster crackers)would know that it could be relevant up to that particular day and may have remained to be updated.

anon37774
Post 6

where can you get the plants

anon34473
Post 5

Can I loose weight with turmeric?

Gabi
Post 2

Indeed turmeric is very powerful spice.

It heels ulcers, boils if taken internally (1-2 teaspoon in lukewarm water).

Big and painful boil is gone in 2-3 hrs!

But be careful. Try first small amount. There are allergies to turmeric like to peanut products.

I do not get rush, I just feel not well and if I take teaspoon my feet are swollen for weeks and very painful (it feels like gout). In this case you may use it topically. Just sprinkle on a top of boil or acne and tape over it. You may also make a paste with water or few drops of lemon juice.

Similar properties has cinnamon and is more pleasant in taste.

somerset
Post 1

Turmeric sounds like a miracle spice, for all its anti-aging, preventative health, and healing powers.

But Turmeric has other uses too, the yellow color has also been used as a dye for a variety of products, including textiles, paper and food. It is also used as a food preservative. There are topical ointments which contain turmeric, used for a variety of skin disorders such as blemishes and inflammations, and cosmetically it is used for toning and enhancing healthy skin. All in all, a powerful spice.

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