Indian Spices: Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin

Are you confused about the different Indian spices? Don’t know the difference between turmeric, curcumin, cumin, and curry powder? This post should help clear up the confusion and convince you to use them in your own recipes. I add them to many things, including soups, stews, eggs, and even my morning smoothies. 


Let’s start with turmeric.  Also known as Indian saffron, turmeric is a plant in the ginger family, native to southeast Asia and India.  It has a bitter but warm taste and is often used to color and flavor butters, cheeses, mustards, and curry powders. Although the leaves are used to wrap and cook food in areas where it is grown, it is the rhizomes of the turmeric plant that are ground into a powder used around the world to color and flavor food.

The root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine to treat conditions such as heartburn, gallbladder disorders, diabetes, arthritis, stomach pain, headaches, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, lung infections, menstrual problems, depression, water retention, bronchitis, kidney infections, colds, fibromyalgia, skin inflammations, as well as both fungal and bacterial infections.  Current research is hoping to prove that turmeric is also effective against cancer.

Indian spices: turmeric


Curcumin is the main component of turmeric rhizomes (roots) that donates the typical bright yellow color to turmeric and curry powders.  Be careful, it stains everything it touches.  I have stained my countertop and my fingertips many times. Fortunately, I have a non-toxic cleaner from the Melaleuca line of products that cleans the yellow stains up well.


Cumin is the dried seeds of a herb in the parsley family, mainly grown in India as well as other tropical and subtropical, frost-free areas around the world.  The seeds are used ground (as a powder) or whole as a spice to give flavor and aroma to food.

Indian spices: cumin seeds
cumin seeds

Curry Powder, a Blend of Indian Spices

Curry powder is a spice blend containing primarily turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili pepper.  A similar blend of spices is called garam masala in south Asia.  Some commercial blends of curry powder also contain ginger, garlic, fennel seed, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and or cinnamon.

indian spices: curry powder
curry powder


Well, I learned the difference between turmeric, curcumin, cumin, and curry powder while researching this post.  I hope it was helpful for others as well.  Try some of these Indian spices soon to add flavor and color to your cooking while preventing or treating many health issues at the same time. They can be found in your local grocery stores or in specialty shops everywhere.

I learned to love them from a client and friend. Every time I smell their unique aromas, I am reminded of how much I miss her and her wonderful Indian cooking.



10 thoughts on “Indian Spices: Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin

  1. I think that galangal (used a lot in Thai cooking) and also ginger are also rhizomes and, I think, related to turmeric which with ginger is used a lot in some traditional South African cooking.

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