Turmeric, derives its name from the Latin term terra merita, meaning ‘meritorious earth’, referring to the colour of ground turmeric, which resembles a mineral pigment. In many languages, turmeric is named simply as ‘yellow root’.
Turmeric is one of the most popular traditionally used herb and also known as “golden spice”. It is grown in various parts of India and other Asian countries and has been held sacred since ancient times. The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance where people regarded it as “herb of the sun”.
It probably reached China by 700 AD, East Africa by 800 AD, West Africa by 1200 AD, and Jamaica in the eighteenth century. In 1280, Marco Polo—an Italian merchant traveller described this spice “marvelling” at a vegetable that exhibited qualities so similar to that of saffron.
According to Sanskrit medical treatises and Ayurvedic and Unani systems, turmeric has been used as traditional medicine in the treatment of various diseases like asthma, cough, allergic conditions, jaundice, diarrhea, biliary disorders, anorexia, diabetic wounds, sprains and swellings caused by injury. The dried turmeric powder has been used topically for insect stings, chickenpox and smallpox.