Turmeric, or curcuma longa, dates back at least 4000 years and originated in India. It is an orange-gold colored spice that is actually a root from the ginger family. Its flavor is pungent but mostly earthy, with a sharp peppery bite. From India it was transported to China, then Africa, and Jamaica. The Indians used it as a spice with some religious purpose. Today, most of the world's turmeric is still produced in India. Although the country of India consumes approximately 80% of their crops.
Turmeric is highly touted as being rich in potent medicinal qualities. The spice is very high in antioxidants, and thought to protect against free radical damage and protect kidney cells. Current research shows that it has antimicrobial properties, may protect against cancer, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
There have been over 3000 research studies published on the medical effects of turmeric over the past 3 decades. Some animal studies have demonstrated turmeric‘s anti-cancer effect as it prevented tumor growth in mice. It is thought that turmeric is liver protective and helps to prevent heart and kidney disorders. Research shows it may have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood pressure control. Because of its anti-inflammatory qualities, many use it as a dietary supplement to treat arthritis as it helps to prevent joint inflammation. As always, it’s important to consult with your physician prior to beginning a new supplement regimen.
Along with its potent medicinal qualities, turmeric is rich in flavor. Turmeric powder is made by first cooking the root, then dehydrating it, and finally grinding it into a fine powder. It adds a golden color to foods along with an earthy flavor that lends warmth to many dishes. Turmeric powder is an integral ingredient in curries. It pairs well with poultry, seafood, meats, vegetables, legumes, and adds depth to soups and stews.