Turmeric – characteristics, cultivation and use

Turmeric - by J.M.Garg

The turmeric plant plays an important role in the Ayurvedic diet, for example the powder is an essential part of the curry powder and can be found in almost every dish. The yellow dye of the rhizome is also used to dye paper, textiles and ointments. The spice came to Europe in the 13th century via the Silk Road. Its herbal active ingredients have been scientifically investigated here in recent years. Scientists demonstrated that the yellow powder, which is extracted from the root, with its ingredient curcumin protects the body cells, has an anti-inflammatory and antiviral effect.

Profile of turmeric:

Scientific name: Symphytumfficinale

Plant family: ginger family (Zingiberaceae)

Other names: yellow ginger, Indian saffron

Sowing time / Planting time: propagation by root division

Flowering period: July – August

Harvest time: as soon as the plant is about one meter high (3 ft) and the upper leaves have withered

Useful plant parts: roots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: fresh to moderately moist, sandy to loamy, moderately nutritious, humus-rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cancer, digestion, appetizing

Use as aromatic herb: tea; powder is added to cooked vegetables, soups and salad dressings

Plant characteristics and classification of turmeric

Origin and occurrence of turmeric

The plant originally comes from China and India, where it has been grown and used for food and healing purposes for at least 5,000 years. The South Asian spice is mentioned in the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of Hinduism.

Plant order of turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), also known as yellow ginger or Indian saffron, is a plant from the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). The botanical name is derived from the Arabic word “al-krukum”. It means “saffron” and indicates the coloring properties of the plant. Their color is almost the same shade as the saffron, but the plants are not botanically related.

Characteristics of the turmeric


Turmeric is a perennial and herbaceous plant that can grow up to one meter high (3 ft.). It forms fleshy rhizomes, which are very similar to those of ginger and as they form bulbous rootstocks. The main root is 2 to 5 centimeters (0.8 to 1 in) thick. In contrast to the pale yellow ginger, the bulbous rhizomes of the turmeric plant are strikingly orange-yellow in color.


The leaves are alternate and bare. The leaf blades are 20 to 40 centimeters (8 to 16 in) long and about 15 centimeters (6 in) wide.


In its region of origin, the turmeric plant forms a cylindrical and spike-shaped inflorescence with numerous flowers in white or violet on a cone-like pseudostem. The flowers are threefold.


The fruits are capsule fruits that have three compartments.

Turmeric – cultivation and care


Turmeric plant needs a warm, partially shaded location with high humidity. It grows optimally in the winter garden or greenhouse at temperatures between 18 and 22 °C (64 and 71 °F). The temperature should not drop below 12 °C (54 °F), otherwise the leaves will die.


The soil should be rich in nutrients and humus. A mixture of two thirds of conventional potting soil and one third of coarse sand has proven itself as a substrate.


As we only grow turmeric in a warm location all year round, it is best to cultivate the plant in a flat pot with a large diameter on the windowsill. You can place an approximately 5 centimeter (2 in) long section of a rhizome in a plant pot with potting soil and only lightly cover it with soil. You can get turmeric rhizomes from the health food store. Moisten the substrate and cover the pot with foil to increase the humidity. Place the potted turmeric plant in a partially shaded place at a temperature of 20 °C (68 °F) and always keep the soil moist. After a few weeks, the rhizome is rooted and sprouts above ground.


The turmeric plant can be propagated vegetatively very simply by dividing the rhizomes. They are placed on the growing soil so flat that they protrude by about half.


Keep the substrate well moist with lime-free water and avoid waterlogging. A drainage layer made of expanded clay helps here. Every four weeks you should also provide the turmeric plant with liquid fertilizer. You should continuously remove dead leaves.

Harvesting and conservation

The rootstock of turmeric can be harvested as soon as the plant is about one meter high (40 in) and the upper leaves have withered. This is usually the case in winter. Dig out the rhizomes and free them from the earth with water. Then dry them with a towel and remove the outer skin as thinly as possible with a peeler. It is best to wear a kitchen apron and disposable gloves, as the root tissue stains strongly. Cut the rhizome into 3 to 5 millimeter (0.12 to 0.2 in) thick slices and place them in the oven on baking paper or put them in a dehydrator. At 80 °C (176 °F) in the oven, the turmeric slices are dried with the door slightly open (put a cooking spoonin between) until they are no longer flexible and can be easily broken. Now put the dried slices in a blender and chop them into fine powder. It can easily be kept in a sealed jar in the dark and cool temperatures for a year.

Diseases and pests

The turmeric plant is relatively robust against diseases and pests.


Turmeric is sensitive to frost.

Use of the turmeric

Turmeric in the kitchen

As a spice, turmeric powder is added to cooked vegetables, soups and salad dressings.

Turmeric as a medicinal herb

The turmeric plant contains curcumin, polysaccharides and essential oils. It has been scientifically proven that curcumin has an anti-inflammatory effect and that daily consumption of turmeric can lower the inflammatory molecules in the blood. For this reason, the root is sometimes referred to as a “magic bulb”. Powder is also used to prevent cancer. The active ingredient must be dissolved in oil so that it can be absorbed by the organism. And: Black pepper significantly increases the absorption capacity of turmeric, as studies have shown.

The bitter curcuma longa also stimulates the digestive juices and thus also the appetite. In addition, liver and biliary function are promoted.

Preparation of a turmeric tea

For a tea made from the turmeric root, pour half a teaspoon of the powder with a cup of boiling water and let it steep for five minutes. You can also cut the fresh root into thin slices and pour hot milk over it.

Turmeric can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • appetizing
  • biliary promoting
  • cancer
  • digestion
  • liver promoting

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiviral effect

Side effects

Despite its digestive effects, turmeric can have a negative effect on our stomach: High doses of turmeric can also cause gastrointestinal problems, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. In some cases, a high intake of turmeric can also cause anemia and slow blood clotting. However, if you consume less than 1000 mg (0,035 oz) of turmeric per day, you do not need to worry about these side effects.

If you enjoy the benefits of turmeric in the form of a nutritional supplement capsule and also take an aspirin, this combination can lead to increased bleeding: During the period, for example, if you are prone to nosebleeds or have just cut yourself. The same can occur in combination with blood thinners.

Avoid turmeric (or make sure to consult your doctor about it) if you have gallstones, take anti-inflammatory drugs, have diabetes, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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