Turmeric: history, legends and curiosities of the spice with a thousand uses

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Discover the origins of turmeric, its history and the most curious legends related to one of the most loved and consumed spices

Discover the origins of turmeric, its history and the most curious legends related to one of the most loved and consumed spices

Turmeric is perhaps one of the most appreciated and used spices in the world due to the many benefits that this root is able to give to the body. Whether in the kitchen, in cosmetics or in oriental medicine, this precious powder with an intense yellow color is the undisputed star of many preparations and conquers everyone.





Index

Turmeric history

Like all spices, hers is a very ancient story, made up of travels, flavors, countries and distant scenarios that lead us to the discovery of a primordial India of over 4000 years ago. It would seem, in fact, that turmeric was discovered in the Indian hinterland around the fourth century BC and has since been marketed together with garlic and ginger throughout the country.

Le turmeric plants, belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, and in particular the curcuma longa from which the spice derives, they would then spread to neighboring countries and the eastern world, adapting perfectly to the climate present here. In fact, they prefer warm temperatures, sometimes tropical, and mild winters. This great spice would then come down to us in Europe thanks to the Arabs, although there is no certain dating.

Etymology of turmeric

Its current name derives from the Sanskrit kum-kuma, official language in India and one of the oldest of the family of Indo-European idioms, as well as from the Arabic kour-koum, whose linguistic influences have greatly enriched foreign vocabularies. The translation of both terms is curious, the meaning of which is "saffron". Due to the chromatic similarity, turmeric has almost always been associated, over the course of history, with its sister originally from Greece and Asia, from which, however, it differs in quality, cost and greater peculiarity. In India, turmeric is undoubtedly one of the most used spices by the local population as this is considered to be a drug, constituting one of the pillars of traditional Ayurvedic medicine. The countless properties of turmeric have guaranteed it undisputed fame over the years as well as names such as "Indian saffron" "queen of spices", "miraculous root" or others always of Sanskrit origin such as vishagni, literally "she who kills poison" .



Turmeric legends

There are numerous legends related to yellow gold dust, now more and more easily available even in common supermarkets. In oriental tales it is said that this super spice is a bearer of good luck, giving luck and serenity to those who use it.

In India, on the other hand, this root is considered a emblem of spiritual purity and it should never be lacking in the celebration of religious rites, such as marriage, where it occurs continuously. Brides usually cleanse themselves with turmeric-based products to enhance their beauty, wear brightly colored clothing and receive a cord decorated and dyed with turmeric from the future husband to attract positive influences. The so intense, so radiant color of turmeric is considered a powerful talisman capable of warding off negativity and evil looks and strengthening the marital union, making it stable and long-lived. Yellow is widely used in Hinduism and is the color of one of the gods sette chakra, of the third more precisely also known as the solar plexus chakra. The third chakra, connected to the element of fire, is a symbol of vitality and allows the individual to channel the strength and energy necessary for the realization of their desires. In Asian countries, on the other hand, the monks wear garments of bright orange, yellow or green, made with natural dyes such as turmeric or spinach leaves that symbolize the bond with the earth and the other elements of creation.

Curiosities about turmeric

In Asian cuisine, as well as in Middle Eastern cuisine, the recipes that include turmeric among their ingredients or mixtures with this are truly endless. Turmeric can be consumed in powder or in the form of fresh root to enrich both sweet and savory dishes. Many readily available spice mixes are based on turmeric, although these are known by different names that do not always make us associate the product we have in our hands with Indian saffron.



This is the case of the very famous curry, also known as masala, a mixture of turmeric, chilli, ginger and other spices with a strong and spicy flavor. It is precisely the turmeric that gives the characteristic bright yellow or mustard yellow color that this mix possesses. Less well known is perhaps the "colombo of the Antilles", a variant of Indian curry originally from Sri Lanka, also based on turmeric, which stands out for its aroma.  

How to increase the benefits of turmeric

Although the use of turmeric is almost always recommended and the exceptions remain few - in particular read the contraindications here - the scientific literature has shown that there are food combinations that favor a greater absorption of the properties of this root, whose main ingredient is called curcumin. Curcumin is not only a key constituent of turmeric, but it blends perfectly with some elements of other spices. To take full advantage of the benefits that turmeric possesses, experts suggest in fact to always take it in conjunction with pepper, cayenne pepper or chili powder. These contain an alkaloid known as “piperine” which, when combined with the curcumin of yellow gold, would not only increase the healing abilities of the miracle root, but would allow you to fully benefit from it. L'combined pepper-turmeric intake it would seem to have in particular a greater antioxidant and antitumor action.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the country of origin of turmeric is one of the states with the fewest inhabitants affected by cancer.

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