Curcuma longa
Turmeric is also known by a variety of folk names, including, curcuma, Halada and Indian Saffron.  It has its origins in the Indian subcontinent as well as southeast Asia. A perennial plant that reaches approximately three feet tall in height, turmeric has oblong, green leaves and whitish yellow flowers. The most distinctive feature of the turmeric plant is its cylindrical-shaped rhizomes. Yellowish to orange in color, these rhizomes are boiled and dried before being ground into a powder that is popular for flavoring Eastern-style cuisine.
A practical plant, turmeric has been utilized as a source of dye for clothing in Asia for thousands of years. Even in modern times, it is used as a natural food-coloring agent, imparting a warm, yellowish-orange color to products like curry powder, cheese, butter and other foods.  Fresh turmeric leaves may also be used as a vessel for wrapping and cooking food, in a manner similar to aluminum foil. Oftentimes, fish and other proteins are cooked over an open flame in this manner.
Turmeric is a popular herb in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is believed to assist with relieving gastric disorders, such as an upset stomach or heartburn. Ingesting turmeric is said to help cleanse the liver of toxins while boosting the immune system. Turmeric can also assist with lowering cholesterol.  Turmeric extract functions as a powerful anti-oxidant. Interestingly, the anti-oxidant properties of turmeric are enhanced when consumed in combination with black pepper. This same extract has also been shown to help prevent against Alzheimer’s Disease. A paste of powdered turmeric and water can be used topically as an anti-biotic, helping to clean wounds and guard against infection.
 In the Ayurvedic tradition, turmeric is associated with coupled with rice and vermillion as composing the three most sacred offerings made to the Gods. Turmeric is the embodiment of the Divine Mother, and can therefore be utilized in rituals to increase spiritual vibrations. When kept around the home, turmeric can assist with cleansing auras as well as creating a sacred space. Turmeric is also believed to cultivate prosperity and good fortune.  In folklore, a young woman who applies turmeric to her cheeks with not only be blessed with beauty, but wealth and happiness as well. Some Hindu wedding ceremonies incorporate turmeric in a similar manner, using it to anoint the bride and groom as a blessing.
Warnings: While the amount of turmeric present in culinary dishes is generally safe, pregnant women should avoid taking therapeutic doses, as it may stimulate uterine contractions.  Individuals who have problems with their gallbladder should avoid therapeutic consumption of turmeric, as it can exacerbate the issue.