Ancient Herbs, Modern Uses: Turmeric

Why this herb deserves to be in the Bible.


| December/January 2009


Curcuma longa
—Song of Solomon 4:14–15
Used for: Inflammation, flatulence, arthritis, bronchitis, diuretic, dyspepsia, expectorant, laryngitis, lymphoma, rheumatism

Three plants vie for the honor of being the biblical saffron: the saffron crocus, safflower and turmeric. Since saffron is mentioned only once in the Bible, this plant presents a conundrum for botanists. Linguistically, the issue is the proper translation and interpretation of the Hebrew kakom and the Arabic kurkum, or saferam.

Okay. I confess: I want turmeric to be the saffron mentioned in the Bible. It’s such a good herb that it deserves to be in the Bible. I am sure that humans have used it for thousands of years.

Dried turmeric rhizomes are used as a spice, whole or ground, to flavor meat and egg dishes, and to flavor or color pickles, relishes, prepared mustard, butter and cheese; turmeric is an indispensable constituent of curry powder. It provides a natural dye to color cloth, leather, silk, palm fiber, wool and cotton. Its rhizomes yield an orange-yellow essential oil used in flavoring spice products and in perfumery. Powdered turmeric is an antioxidant. The essential oil of turmeric has shown anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory activity in rats. And I believe that turmeric’s use as a pain reliever preceded aspirin’s by at least 2,000 years.




Click here for the original article, Ancient Herbs, Modern Uses.  

James A. Duke, Ph.D. , is one of the world’s foremost authorities on botanical medicine. He is author of   The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997) and Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary (CRC, 1994). 

Adapted with permission from Herbs of the Bible: 2,000 Years of Plant Medicine by James A. Duke, Ph.D. 








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