Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Tropical Forests to Twelfth Century >> Turmeric


dye and yellow

TURMERIC, the tuberous rhizomes of a plant (Curcuma Tonga) of the ginger family. It is a perennial, native to southern Asia, and cultivated largely both there and in the Malayan Islands. The ovate, central tubers are known as or around turmeric"; the more cy lindrical, lateral ones, as ((fingers') or along tur meric." They are all hard and tough, brown ish or yellowish-green outside and orange-hued, resinous and aromatic internally. The aro matic taste and odor are due to an oil called turmerol or turmeric-oil. Turmeric, ground into a powder, has been valued for centuries in Asia, and especially in India, as a carmina tive and aromatic-stimulant drug, an infusion of it in milk being a common remedy for colds; it is also applied externally as a cooling lotion for diseases of the skin and eyes. Its chief utility in India, however, is as a condiment and dye, it being the important yellow ingre dient of curries and curry-powder, and yielding a beautiful, hut fugacious yellow dye. White

paper soaked with a tincture of turmeric changes to a reddish-brown color, drying out to violet when an alkali is added to it, so that a test-paper for alkalies is prepared from it called turmeric or curcuma paper. The plant itself has long, narrow sheathing leaves on the flower-stalk, which end in a leafy spike of yel low flowers. A species of Canna, cultivated in Sierra Leone, is the African turmeric, used by the natives there as a dye-plant. Blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis) and the yellow root (Hydrastis canadensis) are also called turmeric and turmeric-root. The turmeric-tree is Acronychia baueri, of southeastern Austra lia, the bright-yellow inner bark of which yields a dye.