Turmeric, sometimes called the golden spice, is a spice made from the ground roots of the Curcuma longa plant, which grows in Asia and Central America. This bright orange-yellow spice has attracted quite a bit of interest over the past several decades for its incredible healing properties, but turmeric’s historical use dates back thousands of years. In this article, we’re going to explore the history of turmeric, from its ancient uses to its popularity as a modern-day health supplement. Let’s get started.
The Origin of Turmeric
Historians aren’t certain when and where turmeric was first used by humans, but most evidence suggests that it was originally cultivated in South Asia. The earliest physical evidence of turmeric’s use by humans comes from ancient pots found near New Delhi, India. The analysis of these pots discovered residue that dates back as early as 2500 B.C. Ancient Indian cultures prized turmeric for its use in culinary dishes, as a dye, and, in Hindu religion, as a sacred protector against evil spirits.
The earliest written evidence of turmeric being used by humans is found on an Egyptian papyrus from around 1500 B.C., which mentions turmeric being used as a dye and as a medicine.
Turmeric’s use in Ayurvedic Medicine
Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic healing tradition that originated in ancient India. The golden spice emerged as an important part of Ayurvedic medicine around 500 B.C.
In Ayurvedic practice, turmeric is one of the foods that is believed to restore balance to the doshas—energies that circulate through the body. It was traditionally used to eliminate congestion, heal wounds and bruises, and treat skin conditions, among many other things. Ayurvedic medicine is still practiced in India and around the globe, with many rural Indians relying mostly on Ayurvedic medicine for their health care to this day.
Turmeric Expands across the Globe
As trade routes expanded, turmeric made its way to other parts of the world. It was thought to have reached China by 700 A.D., East Africa by 800 A.D., West Africa by 1200 A.D., and Jamaica in the eighteenth century. The golden spice was well established in Chinese culture by the time Marco Polo visited in the 13th century. In fact, he wrote about an orange root that was similar in color to saffron—undoubtedly turmeric.
How Turmeric entered Western Culture
Around the time that Marco Polo discovered turmeric in China, Arab traders were bringing turmeric and other Eastern spices to Europe. Turmeric started to become more widely known in the West when the British colonized India and discovered curry. Kari, a curry spice blend that largely depends on turmeric for its flavor and color, was first mentioned in a 17th century Portuguese cookbook.
The first English recipe that included turmeric was published in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1747. It wasn’t until 1831 that curry first appeared in an American cookbook, The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph.
While turmeric has long since been revered for its health benefits in Asia, it was primarily known as a kitchen spice in Europe and the U.S. at that point in history.
The Discovery of Curcumin
Around the middle of the twentieth century, holistic medicine practitioners in the U.S. and Europe began exploring the health benefits of the golden spice. One of the main turning points in the American history of turmeric was the discovery of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that is responsible for the plant’s vibrant color and health benefits.
Curcumin was first discovered in 1842 by two German scientists, Vogel and Pelletier, who isolated a yellow substance from the rhizomes of turmeric, naming it curcumin. The yellow substance they isolated was later found to be a combination of resin and turmeric oil, rather than a pure distillation of curcumin. However, the discovery was still a step in the right direction.
In 1910, scientists Milobedzka and Lampe identified the chemical structure of curcumin. The first research paper exploring the medicinal properties of curcumin was published in the journal Nature in 1949. The authors reported that curcumin was effective against several strains of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella paratyphi, Trichophyton gypseum, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Learning more about Curcumin’s Range of Health Benefits
In the 1970s, interest in curcumin grew and many scientific studies were conducted. Researchers discovered a range of health properties of curcumin, including cholesterol-lowering, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
In the 1980s, scientist Kuttan and colleagues demonstrated the anti-cancer activity of curcumin in both in vitro and in vivo models.
Since then, the interest in curcumin has continued to steadily increase, with thousands of studies being conducted on this health-promoting compound.
Today, turmeric is widely available around the globe in spice and supplement form. It’s also found in an array of different products, from beverages to lotions to facial cleansers. It’s popularity isn’t surprising when you learn that the golden spice supports immune health, helps relieve pain, lowers inflammation levels, and aids in digestion, just to name a few of its many benefits.
How you can Reap the Benefits of Turmeric
If you want to experience the health benefits of turmeric, you’ll need to consume more than you’d find in a curry recipe. Thankfully, consuming high quantities of turmeric is easier than ever with the help of supplements.
JointFuel360 is an oral supplement that combines research-backed, anti-inflammatory ingredients, including turmeric root, Boswellia serrata extract, resveratrol, collagen (type II), black pepper extract, and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients work together synergistically to improve joint comfort, mobility, and flexibility, so you can live a healthier, happier life.
The bottom line
In South Asian countries, turmeric has been a diet staple and a remedy for many ailments for thousands of years. In the West, however, turmeric has only come into the spotlight within the past few decades. As research continues to uncover and support the many health benefits of turmeric, more and more people in the West are turning to the golden spice as a natural remedy for pain and other ailments.
We hope that by understanding turmeric’s history, you’ve gained a greater appreciation for its benefits and the fact that it’s so readily available to you today. Whether you use it to cook a delicious curry or take it in supplement form to support a pain-free life, turmeric is something you certainly want to have in your spice rack and in your supplement cabinet.