What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric, a rhizome and part of the ginger family, is most widely recognized as the bright yellow powdered spice that gives many curries their distinct color and flavor. Turmeric is native to southeast India. Though it has been used for many years in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, it is beginning to gain popularity in the United States both as a cooking spice and as a medicinal supplement.

The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin — an antioxidant which is believed to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Some even suggest using a turmeric supplement as a replacement for ibuprofen. Turmeric is believed to be beneficial for a number of other ailments as well including gastrointestinal, skin, and liver disorders.

Dried, ground turmeric also has many culinary uses; it is used to add color and flavor to curries, soups, stews, and rice dishes around the world. Turmeric is even used to make a special kind of cake — called sfouf — in India. In the United States, a popular use for turmeric is to add it to cold-pressed juices, recovery drinks, or teas.

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.