Guest Author - Nandini Tirumala
Turmeric is a plant widely used in India for its benefits in food, health, beauty and also significance in Hindu religion.
Turmeric is grown in farms and also grows wildly in forests as the hot and humid environment of India is suitable for it. People also grow them in their own backyard as it is also easy to grow. The roots of the plant are picked, dried at high temperatures and ground in mills or home grinders to make it in a powdered form. This is the spice that is added to flavor and color the Indian curry.
The yellow hue of turmeric adds an attractive and appetizing look to food when it is cooked and served. Its preservative qualities makes food last longer. Spicy pickles are prepared with fresh cut turmeric, mixed with ginger and peppers and chilled in containers with salt and vinegar. This can be served with rotis(Indian bread) or rice on the side.
In India, turmeric is also valued as a herb that has many health benefits. It is used as a home based remedy for cuts, burns, sore throats and cough. Adding a pinch of turmeric in hot milk with grounded pepper corns to soothe sore throat is commonly practiced in India. Research is being conducted worldwide in discovering its potential for curing infections, inflammations, obesity and cancer therapies.
Turmeric has a special place in the Hindu religion and is considered very holy. In temples and in Hindu homes, turmeric is offered with flowers and fruits in rituals. In South India, women wear dried turmeric tied to a thread around their neck signifying their status as a married woman. Offering fresh turmeric leaves to SUN God is a common ritual in South India during harvest festival, Pongal. Many holy and spiritual leaders wear robes that are often dyed in turmeric as it is a natural dye.
Women in India have always used and continue to use turmeric in many home based beauty remedies for clear complexion, softer skin and also for preventing hair growth on the face, arms and legs. Applying turmeric all over the body is a common bath routine for women in rural India.
As someone who uses turmeric every day in my cooking, I would always caution to use it on a washable surface and away from your clothing as turmeric stains are impossible to remove if not acted fast.