Turmeric is the rhizome or underground stem of a ginger-like plant, Curcuma longa L. belonging to the Zingiberaceae family. It is usually available ground, as a fine, bright yellow powder. Turmeric has always been considered an auspicious material in the Indian sub-continent, both amongst the Aryan cultures (mostly northern) and the Dravidian cultures (mostly southern) and its value extends far in history to the beliefs of ancient Indian population.
Indian cooking employs turmeric liberally. It is added to nearly every dish, be it meat or vegetables. Its principal place is in curries and curry powders. When used in curry powders, it is usually one of the main ingredients, providing the associated yellow color. In current day practice, turmeric has found application in canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurts, yellow cakes, biscuits, popcorn-color, sweets, cake icings, cereals, sauces, gelatins, direct compression tablets, etc. In combination with annatto, it has been used to color cheeses, dry mixes, salad dressings, winter butter and margarine.
Turmeric also is a highly valued cosmetic ingredient. The Friday oil bath routines with the application of Haldi are almost sacrosanct with the South Indian women, resulting in beautiful skin, and hairless bodies! Pieces of the rhizomes are added to water to make an infusion that is used in baths. It is reported that washing in turmeric improves skin tone and reduces hair growth. Turmeric is currently used in the formulation of some sun screens.