When my mother whipped up a mixture of fresh milk, gram flour and turmeric in her kitchen today, to use as a herbal face pack, my curiosity led me to find out more about this ubiquitious yet medicinal spice. What is turmeric, the bright yellow powder common in Indian spice boxes that gives such a characteristic colour to everything from dhal to aloo to bhajis? What is its provenance and history? Is it simply a spice or a medicine? What happens when you try to patent it? (previously) Turmeric turned out to be far more romantic than you'd imagine - a prosaic kitchen spice immortalized in idiom, song and double entendre - all courtesy of amche Bollywood.
Fed up with foreign companies patenting traditional medicine from India, the country's top scientific body is compiling a giant database of everything from yoga positions to medicinal fruit juice. [more inside]