Turmeric, also known as curcumin, is a deep, golden-orange spice known for adding color, flavor, and nutrition to foods and is commonly used in curries and other South Asian cooking. Other common names include turmeric root and Indian saffron, and its Latin names include Curcuma longa, Curcuma domestica and Curcuma aromatica. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders. A relative of the ginger family, it is native to Southeast Asia. Its rhizome (underground stem) is used as a culinary spice and as a traditional Asian medicine. Turmeric is the major ingredient in curry powder. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and gives turmeric its bright yellow color. Curcumin has a natural compound called polyphenol that has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Historically, turmeric was used in Ayurveda and other traditional Indian medical systems, as well as Eastern Asian medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine. In India, it was traditionally used for disorders of the skin, upper respiratory tract, joints, and the digestive system. Today, turmeric is promoted as a dietary supplement for a variety of conditions, including cancer, arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, liver disease, depression, and even weight loss.
Doctors suggest using caution when taking turmeric supplements as they are usually high in heavy metals. Turmeric may cause intestinal issues for people with gallstones or bile duct issues. Consuming high doses of turmeric extract can also result in kidney stones. Additionally, turmeric should be cooked with black pepper or black pepper extract (piperine) to maximize its benefits and improve the body’s ability to absorb the supplement from the intestines. Turmeric can help supplement your dietary intake, but it is not a substitute for conventional medicine.