It is important to know what is turmeric composed of as that is what makes it unique. When I started looking for information there was not much written in simple words.
Either there was little information or in very complicated language. Somehow I managed to distil some key points regarding this amazing herb here.
Some of them may sound disjoint as I was not able to relate them well (sorry!) primarily because while describing turmeric texts frequently change from turmeric plant to its roots and then turmeric rhizomes. Thus making it difficult how to segregate them. I have made sure whatever is present is correct and from reliable sources.
Table of Contents
Note: There is a lot of chemistry and related terms here, so just bear with me.
Introduction to Turmeric
Turmeric is one of the species of genus Curcuma and botanically called Curcuma longa Linn. The genus comprises of “stemless” herbs with tuberous root stocks. These tubes are long and stalk-like.
Out of total thirty-five species present, turmeric or halad (Curcuma longa ) is the most famous member of genus Curcuma. The species is native to tropical regions of South East Asia.
The presence of genus Curcuma species varies from region to region, for example, in India on can find up to six of them. While turmeric is most popular, many other species of genus Curcuma are also known for their health benefits.
Botanical Description of Turmeric
Turmeric is a tall annual herb of South East Asia. It needs lots of rainfall and temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees to grow. The herb develops a large ovoid rootstock that bears stalkless cylindrical tubers with distinct orange colour from inside.
Turmeric leaves are also large (close to 2 feet!), its blade is slippery, oblong and lance like as it tapers along the base. In fact, The turmeric plant is identifiable by both its characteristic tuberous root and the leaves that extend upward from erect, thick stems arising from the root.
The parts of turmeric plants which are used are – rhizomes and tubers. Rhizomes can be considered as underground stems, these have roots below them and leaves growing above.
The interior of turmeric root is hard, orange-yellow in colour. When eaten it colours our saliva yellow and has a warm sensation.
Chemical composition of turmeric
The composition of turmeric can vary slightly based on the region it is grown. A typical Indian turmeric has the following composition:
- Moisture – 3.1 %
- Protein – 6.3%
- Fat – 5.1%
- Mineral matter – 3.5%
- Fibre – 2.6%
- Carbohydrates – 69.4%
Key compounds present in Turmeric
The root of turmeric plant is composed of volatile oil (bitter in taste), starch, gum, calcium chloride, fibre and Cucurmin.
Turmeric rhizome contains 5% phenolic curcuminoids (diarylheptanoids), which gives turmeric the yellow colour. The most significant curcuminoid is curcumin (diferuloymethane). It is believed that the phenolic character of curcumin is responsible for its anti-oxidant properties.
It also contains up to 5% essential oil including sesquiterpene (e.g. Zingerberene), sesquiterpene alcohols and ketones, and monoterpenes. Turmeric also contains immune stimulating polysaccharides, including acid glucans known as ukonan A, B and C.
Looking for health benefits of turmeric, please read most comprehensive list of turmeric benefits here>