Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is commonly used in Asian food. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine. It contains a yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is often used to color foods and cosmetics.
Turmeric is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammation -- both inside and out. Uses include cancer prevention and treatment as well as treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and infections.
Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, is being researched for cancer prevention and treatment, and has shown promise in animal studies. Stick to fresh or dried and powdered versions until more research is conducted and we better understand the use of supplements.
In the Western world, turmeric was first embraced as a fabric dye. Late to adopt, we are just now studying turmeric for its role in prevention, management and treatment of cystic fibrosis and various cardiovascular and neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's). Pass the curry, puh-lease.