Sometimes called Indian saffron, turmeric is an ancient ayurvedic medicine that has been used for centuries throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with a long history of use both medicinally and in cuisine. A perennial plant native to South Asia, turmeric is a member of the ginger family. Some regions use the leaves or eat the root raw, but usually the root is harvested, boiled, then dried in hot ovens and ground into powder. The yellow-orange colored powder is used as a spice, a food additive for coloring, and as a dye. It is the main ingredient in curry powder, an earthy, peppery spice used prevalently in many types of cuisine, from Thai to Indian. Also used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), turmeric is a symbol of prosperity and considered to be a cleansing herb for the whole body.
Long used in food for its medicinal value, the main component in turmeric is the phytochemical curcumin, which is a strong anti-inflammatory that helps fight viral infection, cancer, and arthritis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22921746). Its antioxidant properties help to neutralize free radicals, stimulate the gall bladder, and protect the liver. Turmeric has been shown to reduce the cellular inflammation and oxidative stress that causes degenerative disease. It improves blood flow, which improves cognitive function and speeds wound healing.