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What are the Health-Promoting Properties of Turmeric?

By S. N. Smith
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a member of the ginger family, is native to southern Asia. India is the most significant producer of turmeric, but it is also grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka, Vietman, and elsewhere.

A

rhizome

used in both its fresh and dried forms, turmeric has a tradition of use reaching back to antiquity. It is valued as both a culinary and a medicinal spice, with roots in Chinese and

Ayurvedic medicine

.

Culinary Use
Turmeric imparts an aroma reminiscent of ginger, with citrusy, floral undertones. The flavor is warm and gently bitter, with a tart edge. It is typically used to season dishes featuring beans, eggplant, lentils, poultry, rice, and spinach. Turmeric is common in regional cuisines of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and India, where it appears in both sweet and savory dishes.

Dried, ground turmeric is a frequent component of curry powders and masalas. Possessing a brilliant yellow color, turmeric is frequently employed as an effective natural food dye. Its cheerful hue may be seen in Western foods such as relishes, mustards, margarines, and even processed cheeses.

Fresh turmeric has a brighter flavor than dried. In Southeast Asian cuisines, it is often combined with garlic, lemon grass, chilies, tamarind, and other seasonings to create flavoring pastes for stir-fries. It may be grated or minced and added to hot vegetable dishes or stews. The juice pressed from fresh turmeric is used to color rice for dishes in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Fresh turmeric may be found in the produce department of Indian or Asian markets. Look for plump, fresh rhizomes, without wrinkles, blemishes, or soft spots. Store fresh turmeric in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Dried turmeric has an unusually long shelf life for a ground spice. If it is stored in an airtight container in a cool place away from direct light, it will maintain its flavor and color for upwards of two years.

Medicinal Use
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has recently been the object of considerable interest in the medical and scientific community. In studies conducted with animal subjects, curcumin was shown to have a protective effect on the liver, and it accelerated the wound healing. It shown promise as an anti-tumor agent and is the subject of interest as a potential weapon in the battle against multiple forms of cancer. Further studies, on human participants, need to be carried out to refine scientists’ understanding of these promising results.

Traditional alternative medicine offers turmeric as a remedy for gastrointestinal ailments, skin conditions, and arthritis. It is considered useful as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and healing agent, and as such is often used to treat bruises and minor cuts and burns.

As a medicine, turmeric may be taken in the form of tinctures; gelatin capsules filled with dried, ground turmeric; and liquid extracts. For skin ailments, turmeric can be made into a paste that is applied to the affected area.

Taken in conventional amounts, turmeric is considered safe; however, it should not be taken medicinally by pregnant women of by those individuals who have experienced bile-duct or gallbladder problems, unless specifically directed to do so by a physician.

It should be noted that many herbs and spices contain substances that may cause undesirable side effects and/or interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Anyone interested in using turmeric medicinally should do so only with a physician’s consent and under the supervision of a knowledgeable and reputable practitioner of homeopathic medicine.

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Discussion Comments
By anon286959 — On Aug 23, 2012

What's the shelf life of turmeric?

By anon209477 — On Aug 26, 2011

I have a can of Durkee's turmeric that I think is quite old. Can this be harmful if I use it? On the bottom of the can it says 2F14.

By spasiba — On Dec 09, 2008

To protect against colon cancer, make bean soup or lentil soup with a dash of turmeric. The fiber in the legumes, and the protective characteristics of turmeric will work very well for the colon health.

Turmeric also works well in prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

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