Photo © Steven Foster
Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron or “yellow ginger”, is a perennial with yellow flowers that is native to Southeastern Asia.1 Currently, turmeric is cultivated in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Africa, and other tropical countries,2 with India being responsible for the majority of turmeric production.1 The rhizomes (lateral fleshy roots) are dried and ground into a golden yellow powder used in cooking and medicine.1,2
History and Cultural Significance
Traditional medicinal practices in India and China tout the benefits of this bitter tasting and slightly fragrant root as a digestive aid,3 but many Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) healers also integrate the powder into a paste or lotion for the treatment of dry and flaking skin, skin sores and wounds, and external inflammations.1,2,4 Other traditional internal uses of turmeric include relief of menstrual pain and treatment of urinary tract problems.1,4
Turmeric is incorporated into teas and is a base component in many culinary spice blends, specifically curry.1,2 Due to its brilliant color, turmeric has also been traditionally employed as a dye to color not only foods but cosmetics, paper, wood, and fabrics, specifically the golden robes worn by Thai Buddhist monks.4
The German Commission E approved turmeric for the internal treatment of indigestion.1
Studies show that turmeric has antioxidant properties that may be useful in a variety of diseases and conditions.5,6,7
As of 2000, India had 145,000 hectares (358,302 acres) committed to turmeric cultivation for a total of 600,000 metric tons of product.8 Only 32,000 metric tons were exported in 2003. In 2002, only 2,383 metric tons were imported from India to the U.S.8 The state of Andhra Pradesh is responsible for 40% to 50% of the turmeric production in India.9 While most sources indicate that the turmeric market it stable, a new 4% tax imposed on turmeric traders in Andhra Pradesh effective March 2005 may have a negative effect on the turmeric market there.9
1 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
2 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA, eds. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, 2002.
3 Wichtl M, Brinckmann J. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers; 2004.
4 McCaleb RS, Leigh E, Morien K, eds. The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing; 2000.
5 Cheng AL, Hsu CH, Lin JK, et al. Phase I clinical trials of curcumin, a chemopreventative agent in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions. Anticancer Res. 2001;21:2895-2900.
6 Lal B, Kapoor AK, Agrawal PK, Asthana OP, Srimal RC. Role of curcumin in idiopathic inflammatory orbital pseudotumours. Phytother Res. 2000;14:443-447.
7 Badria F, El-Farahaty T, Shabana A, Hawas S, El-Batoty M. Boswellia-curcumin preparation for treating knee osteoarthritis. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 2002 December:341-8.
8 Plotto A, author. Mazaud F, Röttger A, Steffel K, D'Aquilio L, eds. Turmeric: Post-Production Management for Improved Market Access for Herbs and Spices. Compendium on Post-harvest Operations. Available at: http://www.fao.org/inpho/compend/text/ch29/ch29.htm#1. Accessed March 30, 2005.
9 Export cess hits the turmeric trade in Guntar. The Hindu Business Line Internet Edition. Available at: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2005/03/16/stories/2005031602311700.htm. Accessed March 30, 2005.