What Is Turmeric Powder?

Glyn Sinclair

Turmeric is an herbaceous plant native to India and South Asia and is considered to be part of the ginger family. Herbaceous refers to plants that have stems and leaves that are primarily green and have very little bark or wood surface. Turmeric powder is ground from the stems of the plant and used as a spice in food as well as to flavor and give color to mustard. The powder has a somewhat bitter taste with a peppery overtone. Turmeric has a long history and many interesting uses, from deterring ants to being used in Indian spiritual ceremonies.

Turmeric powder.
Turmeric powder.

One of the main uses for turmeric powder is in curry; however, it's found in many other foods as well. Cereals, ice cream, yogurt and some sauces all may include turmeric in their recipes. It can also be used to color butter and certain cheeses. Nepal uses turmeric powder to color meat and vegetable dishes. South African cuisine often adds this spice to boiled white rice to give it a golden brown hue.

Turmeric can be taken in pill form as a dietary supplement.
Turmeric can be taken in pill form as a dietary supplement.

Drinking turmeric tea apparently has many health benefits. These can include anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. A tablespoon of ground turmeric powder is added to boiling water and the tea is allowed to sit for a few minutes. The water is then strained of any residual powder and a dash of lemon and honey are added for flavor.

Turmeric is a common ingredient in aromatic spice blends used to make Indian and South Asian curries.
Turmeric is a common ingredient in aromatic spice blends used to make Indian and South Asian curries.

Curcumin is one of the active ingredients in turmeric and can be used as an anti-inflammatory to help with pain associated with arthritis. It is known to have anti-bacterial properties and is thought to improve the body’s immune system as well as to treat various allergic conditions. Turmeric powder can be purchased as a loose powder but it is usually purchased in capsule form when used for medicinal purposes. Studies have found that curcumin may stimulate the gallbladder and has similar antioxidant benefits to vitamin E and C. It can also be sprinkled over food to keep it fresh due to its strong preservative properties.

There are several studies looking into the possibility of using turmeric as an aid to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Animal studies have shown that turmeric may protect the liver from drugs such as acetaminophen. Turmeric powder is an ancient spice that has special significance in India, especially when used in Ayurvedic medicine. Not only is it a traditional remedy, it has an important place in Indian cooking. Tumeric is a natural antibiotic, and it is thought to be a symbol of prosperity in India.

Turmeric tea is closely related to ginger tea, and may offer many of the same health benefits.
Turmeric tea is closely related to ginger tea, and may offer many of the same health benefits.

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