A perennial member of the ginger family, turmeric is native to southwest India and grows wild in the forests of south and Southeast Asia.
Today, India remains the top producer of turmeric, but it is now commercially cultivated in Vietnam as well.
Prior to finding popularity and common medicinal and culinary uses, this spice was first used as a dye. Even today, it is valued for its rich and vibrant orange color.
Turmeric Flavor Profile
This spice is mildly aromatic, giving off light scents of both ginger and orange.
Its flavor is earthy, bitter, and pungent. To those with particularly refined palettes or specific sensitivity to the flavor of ginger tend to note gingery undertones to this spice as well.
Overall, the flavor is a subtle one, with this spice used just as much for the beauty of the color it gives to food as for its seasoning properties.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
This spice is vibrant in color, mild in flavor and aroma, and one of the most powerful drugs on the planet. With more and more confirmed medial uses emerging regularly and often, one thing is certain: Turmeric just may be the healthiest spice in the world, and one that will allow you to rid your medicine cabinet of harmful drugs while enjoying the best possible health.
Turmeric plays a major role in Asian Siddha medicine, where it has been used for thousands of years. More recently, the modern medical community has taken a keen interest in studying the medicinal uses of this spice.
The key component that makes this spice so healthy is a chemical called curcumin, high doses of which are found in turmeric. Curcumin is an incredibly powerful antioxidant with effective anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers at renowned institutions throughout the world have proven turmeric to actually be more effective than many medications, in part thanks to the lack of harmful side effects that come along with modern medical treatments.
Turmeric’s benefits have so far proven to outweigh those of the following drugs:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Cholesterol drugs
- Inflammatory bowel disease drugs
- Arthritis medications
- Diabetes drugs
- Pain killers
Other health benefits attributed to turmeric include its ability to:
- Promote a balanced mood
- Speed wound healing
- Protect against ulcers & other digestive ailments
- Relive joint pain, muscle aches, and discomfort
- Sooth tissue irritation/Help maintain balanced blood sugar levels
- Ease stiff joints
- Prevent the buildup of plaque that can lead to heart attacks and strokes
- Optimize cholesterol
- Help prevent the growth and malignancy of certain types of cancer cells
As impressive as all of these health benefits and medicinal uses are, the things listed here are only the tip of the iceberg. Studies are still being conducted into the many benefits turmeric has on human health
Common Uses of Turmeric
In many dishes, this vibrant orange spice is often used as much to liven up the color of a food as for adding flavor.
Turmeric is commonly found in the cuisines of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines. It is a necessary ingredient of curry powder, used extensively in Indian dishes that include lentils and meats as well as vegetables.
In many Persian dishes, turmeric is used as a starter ingredient. In fact, nearly all Iranian khoresh dishes begin using onions caramelized in oil and turmeric.
This spice is used quite extensively in vegetable and meat dishes in both India and Nepal for added color as well as flavor. In addition to its value in Chinese medicine, it is also highly valued for its medicinal properties in these countries.
Turmeric is a prevalent spice in Vietnamese cuisine, in which it provides color and enhances the flavor of many popular traditional dishes including soups and stir-fries. In Cambodia, curry paste known as kroeung is a staple used in many dishes. Most popularly, it is found in amok, which typically contains fresh turmeric.
In Thai cuisine, turmeric is incredibly popular. It is most commonly used in southern Thai cuisine, where it is a staple ingredient of traditional turmeric soup as well as yellow curry
In South African cuisine, turmeric serves a simple purpose; it is used to lend its appealing golden coloring to boiled white rice.
Whether you enjoy any of the ethnic foods in which turmeric is commonly used, this is one spice you should get to know and love, finding ways to incorporate it into your own dishes. Alternatively, it can be taken as a daily dietary supplement or medicinally for any number of health issues.