The scent of a woman, says an old Indian tradition, is the smell of turmeric. The saying is a testament to the ubiquity of this spice in Indian cuisine and culture, where it appears as a prime ingredient in masala (curry powder mix), is used as a dye, and also plays a part in Hindu religious rituals. Its odour masking properties are particularly useful in fish dishes. Its use as a food colouring is universal; it is found in everything from processed cheese to salad dressing to mustard. Turmeric also helps preserve food products from the effects of sunlight.
Turmeric is as versatile in the pharmacy as in the kitchen. It is a useful antiseptic for cuts and bruises, with well-established antibacterial properties, but this is only its most common medical use. In the West, various extracts of turmeric are currently being tested as possible treatments for everything from Alzheimer’s disease to liver disorders and various types of cancer.