Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a rhizome and member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia. The plants are gathered annually and re-seeded with some of the rhizomes the following season. The rhizomes are boiled, then dried in hot ovens and finally ground. Turmeric has an earthy, bitter and peppery flavor.
Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is used for the treatment of arthritis, as well as bone and muscle pain. It also appears to be useful in controlling irritable bowel disease. It has strong antioxidant properties, which combined with its anti-inflammatory abilities, is very effective in helping people with joint diseases. Currently, it is being studied in cancer research trials for its potential anti-cancer properties. It may also help to slow down or protect against Alzheimers. Given its proven medicinal properties, it is a spice worth using regularly in cuisine or taken as a health supplement.
Turmeric is used in garam masalas and curries in India, and is used in other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines as well. It is also used as a dye for clothing and as a food coloring, a substitute for saffron (though its flavor is entirely different from saffron), in cosmetics (especially in sunscreen), and it has a tendency to deter ants, making it a green and safe option to ant poisons.