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Curcuma longa (turmeric)

Turmeric is the source of a bright yellow-orange culinary spice and dye and has important medicinal and cultural uses.
Illustration of Curcuma longa

Illustration of Curcuma longa by Franz Eugen Kohler, from Kohler's Medicinal Plants, 1887.

Species information

Scientific name: 

Curcuma longa L.

Common name: 

turmeric, Indian saffron (English); haridra (Sanskrit); haldi, halada (Hindi, Bengali, Gujurati, Marathi); manjal (Tamil); pasapu (Telugu); arishina (Kannada).

Conservation status: 

Not known in the wild; known only as a cultivated plant.

Habitat: 

Not known in the wild.

Key Uses: 

Food, dye, medicine, cultural/spiritual, cosmetics.

Known hazards: 

Contact may cause an allergic skin reaction in some people.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Zingiberales
Family: 
Zingiberaceae
Genus: Curcuma

About this species

Curcuma longa is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Its rhizomes (underground stems) are the source of a bright yellow spice and dye.

Turmeric is sterile (does not produce seed, but it does grow vigorously from the rhizomes). It is thought to have arisen by selection and vegetative propagation of a hybrid between wild turmeric (Curcuma aromatica), native to India, Sri Lanka and the eastern Himalayas, and some other closely related species.

The genus Curcuma includes many other economically important species, including C. amada (mango ginger), C. angustifolia (wild arrowroot, narrow-leaved turmeric), C. aromatica (Cochin turmeric, wild turmeric) and C. zedoaria (zedoary).

Synonym: 

Kua domestica Medik., Stissera curcuma Giseke, Amomum curcuma Jacq. Full list available from World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Genus: 
Curcuma

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