Similar to the ginger root, the history of turmeric is long and rich.
Humans have been using turmeric for literally thousands of years to treat all sorts of health issues.
Turmeric is starting to be taken seriously by modern science; over 3000 publications addressing its medicinal uses have been published in the past 25 years. This article will give you some background on the history of turmeric!
Just like ginger, turmeric is a perennial plant belonging to the same family. The turmeric plant grows up to 1 meter tall with cylindrical yellow, pink or orange flowers.
Turmeric is harvested from the roots of this plant. Once harvested, the roots are boiled, dried in hot ovens, then grinded into the recognizable orange/yellow powder. Ginger and turmeric share many of the same health benefits.
The origins of using turmeric can be traced back to ancient cultures in India. People had always used turmeric as a culinary spice, but it also had some religious significance. Turmeric has a strong place in the history of Ayuvedic herbal medicine, which is a line of medicine developed by the ancient Indians.
Ayuvedic medicine is a cornerstone in the history of turmeric as it was one of the first lines of medicine to fully acknowledge and take advantage of what turmeric can do.
Turmeric was well known for its warming effects on the body. It was used to relieve gas, eliminate worms and to provide cleanses. The ancient Ayurvedic text Compendium, released in 250 BC, even talks about using a turmeric paste as a counter agent to poisoned food. This text was one of the earliest acknowledgments of the many benefits of turmeric.
Marco Polo is credited for introducing the western world to turmeric. Apparently he “found a plant which has all the qualities of saffron, but is a root”. This contributed to turmeric being colloquially known as “Indian Saffron”.
Over time, turmeric’s popularity increased as it was found to work extremely well as a dye, both for clothes and food. Once people discovered turmeric to be cheaper and work better as a dye than saffron, its popularity began to take off.
As far as it’s medicinal uses, the American and European cultures lagged behind in taking advantage of turmeric. There was little documented evidence of any interest in turmeric up until the late 20th century. Old herbalism books from the 19th century had no mention of turmeric at all, leading historians to believe the Americans and European’s of this time had no idea of (or doubted) the health benefits of turmeric.
Today, there is a lot of research being done on how to take advantage of the benefits of turmeric. Turmeric is scientifically acknowledged to have powerful effects on the digestive system, bladder and liver. Perhaps the future of modern medicine will find ways to take advantage of turmeric’s benefits.
In the mean time, turmeric is extremely popular in the beauty industry thanks to how well it treats the skin. It’s clear we still have a lot more to learn about turmeric and the many ways we can use it.