The exact origin of turmeric is not known but it is believed to be native to Southern India and Indonesia. In these parts of the world turmeric has been used for thousands of years and has become integral part of their food and traditional medicine.
Turmeric has a special place in Indian tradition and worship too. It is used to worship Sun God. It is also worn by people as a part of purification process.
The usage of turmeric in India is very very old and its usage is documented in various forms. It was used a beauty aid, spice and a medicine – an all in one herb with amazing properties. It is thus not surprising that turmeric has such a place in ancient Indian medical science – Ayurveda.
Turmeric has not only been used by Indians, it was used by Buddhists monks which travelled to various parts of the world to die their robes. There are also evidences that turmeric was used as a part of Chinese medicine around 1,000 years ago.
Turmeric was not part of western world till recently. There have been only a few evidences stating its usage and importance in Europe. One of the key mentions about turmeric in western civilization was by Marco Polo (1280) – he says that he found a plant which has all qualities of saffron but is a root.
While turmeric has always been an important part of Ayurvedic system, western herbalist did not recognize its benefits till late 20th century.
But by mid 20th century, turmeric started gaining popularity in western world too. Today there are numerous research studies and experiments done to identify its benefits.
Big pharma companies want to understand its unique composition so that they can make drugs on same lines or use turmeric in some way.
Another industry which is using (or in many case misusing) the name of turmeric is beauty products. It is not tough to find beauty creams and face wash mentioning that they have turmeric properties in it etc.
Thus in a nutshell from a herb only known to a small part of the world to one of the most sought after spice today, turmeric has come a long way. While we know a lot about this wonder herb right now, but I do believe there is lot more in it which is still unknown and unproved.