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Turmeric - A Cooking Ingredient In Indian Cuisine

Updated on June 27, 2011


Turmeric is produced from the root of a plant whose scientific name is  Curcuma longa. Raw turmeric has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. It has a very interesting taste and aroma. Its flavor is slightly peppery and a little bitter while its aroma is mild yet slightly resonant of orange and ginger.

Turmeric is native to Indian subcontinent and Indonesia, where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. It plays an important role in many traditional cultures throughout India; it is used as an ingredient in the Indian cuisine as well as it is an important member of the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. It is believed that Arab traders introduced it into Europe in the 13th century; it has only recently become popular in Western cultures. Much of its recent popularity is due to the recent research that has highlighted its therapeutic properties. The leading commercial producers of turmeric are India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti and Jamaica.

Use of turmeric as a cooking ingredient

In almost all the Indian recipes except the dessert turmeric is a must use ingredient. It gives the curry an attractive yellow look and a good taste.  But you have to be careful while using this ingredient; too much of turmeric might destroy the taste!

Turmeric is also used as a marinating agent for fish and meat in all Indian kitchens. Storing raw fish and raw meat in the refrigerator for a long period Indians marinate those with turmeric and salt.

Turmeric Power
Turmeric Power
Turmeric roots and Power
Turmeric roots and Power

Use of turmeric as cosmetic

Turmeric is currently used in the preparation of some sunscreen cream and lotions. Turmeric paste is widely used by Indian women to keep their skin free from bacterial attack. It is also a custom for Indian Hindus to  apply turmeric paste  to bride, groom and their family members before the marriage. Turmeric is also used in religious rituals of Hindus in India.

Use of turmeric as an herbal medicine

Turmeric is well known for its antiseptic property and being used by Indians throughout the history as an antiseptic herbal medicine. Turmeric mixed with a glass of water is used for the rapid recovery of injury. Physical application of turmeric paste on the injury has also been proved to be helpful in curing the injury.

The yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric and responsible for plenty of diseases. Following are a few lists of diseases which could be treated or prevented by using turmeric:

Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin might provide an effective but inexpensive treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

It has been known that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals as well as the chemicals that could damage the healthy cells and cell membranes. As the free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints in case of arthritis, regular use of turmeric might reduce the risk of arthritis.

Cancer Prevention

Curcumin's antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA-a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occurring approximately every three days. Curcumin enhances liver function, inhibited the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.

Use of turmeric as dye

Turmeric is a natural dye and being used as fabric dye in India. It is also used as dye in the traditional paintings where no chemical dye is normally used.

Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer

It is now believed that the combination of cruciferous vegetables (A vegetable of the mustard family especially mustard greens, various cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts) and curcumin could be an effective therapy not only to prevent prostate cancer, but to inhibit the spread of established prostate cancers.

Turmeric is also believed to be responsible for reducing the risk of Childhood Leukemia, improving Liver Function, protection against cardiovascular diseases, lowering Cholesterol and protection against Alzheimer's disease.

Some tips for selecting and storing

Although it is widely available in supermarkets it is advisable to collect it from the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. These products are of superior quality and freshness than those available in supermarkets

Turmeric powder should be kept in a container with a tight lid. Raw and fresh turmeric having a soft flesh must be kept in the refrigerator.


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    • profile image

      P-H 5 years ago

      Thanks for the article,

      I just learned recently that curcuma (turmeric) has many health benefits.

      Any recipe / tip on how to include in our diet?

      I learned that home mad vegetable dip is one good way to introduce turmeric (ideally from organic turmeric powder).



    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 6 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks 2uesday for the comment! Turmeric is a must used spice for Indian cuisine. It is great to hear that you like this spice!

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 6 years ago

      This is an interesting hub I have read that turmeric has many beneficial to health qualities and the other information about the spice was interesting to read too. I always wondered what turmeric looked like before it became the bright colored powdered spice, I use to cook with sometimes.

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 6 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks mythbuster for your interest in this useful ingredient. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Nice hub, cupid51. Very informative. I was unaware of most of the health benefits of Turmeric, as outlined here and am planning to up my use of Turmeric in the kitchen and also look into some topical preparations that contain this item.

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Thank you dreamreachout for reading my hub. I like your Bengali quot! Thanks.

    • profile image

      dreamreachout 7 years ago

      Halud chhara ki hobe!! Wonderful hub highlighting the usefulness of turmeric specially its medicinal essentialities!!

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks katiem2 for stopping by and leaving a lovely comment! I am really happy that you love turmeric; in our place we can not think of any curry without turmeric!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      I love turmeric and cook with it often, love the beautiful color and flavor it adds. :)

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks askjanbrass for stopping by and leaving such an encouraging comment! You may try any simple Indian recipe; turmeric and other ingredients would be available from any supermarket.

    • askjanbrass profile image

      askjanbrass 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Thanks for providing such great and detailed information about Turmeric. I often come across Indian food recipes that sound delicious, but unfortunately the often call for Turmeric and I don't usually have any on hand.

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Thank you very much for visiting my hub and encouraging me as well as providing addition information on the topic!

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 7 years ago from India

      Informative hub!! Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and and antispasmodic properties and is useful in the treatment of arthritis. Rating it up and useful. Nice pictures too!!