Historical note Turmeric is a perennial herb, yielding a rhizome that produces a yellow powder that gives curry its characteristic yellow colour and is used to colour French mustard and the robes of Hindu priests. Turmeric was probably first cultivated as a dye, and then as a condiment and cosmetic. It is often used as an inexpensive substitute for saffron in cooking and in the 13th century Marco Polo marvelled at its similarities to saffron. Both Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines use turmeric for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders and turmeric has also been used in tooth powder or paste. Research has focused on turmeric's antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial properties, in addition to its use in cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders (Anon 2001).
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