The turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant, a perennial herb belonging to the ginger family, is cultivated extensively in south and southeast tropical Asia. The rhizome of this plant is also referred to as the "root" and is the most useful part of the plant for culinary and medicinal purposes. The most active component of turmeric is curcumin, which makes up 2 to 5% of the spice. Curcumin was first isolated in 1815, obtained in crystalline form in 1870 , and identified as 1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione-1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-(1E,6E) or diferuloylmethane. The feruloylmethane skeleton of curcumin was subsequently confirmed in 1910 by the initial work and synthesis by Lampe [2, 3]. Curcumin is a yellow-orange powder
K.G. Ramawat (ed.), Herbal Drugs: Ethnomedicine to Modern Medicine, DOI 10.1007/978-3-540-79116-4.7, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009
that is insoluble in water and ether but soluble in ethanol, dimethylsulfoxide, and acetone. Curcumin has a melting point of 183°C, molecular formula of C21H20O6, and molecular weight of 368.37 g/mol. Turmeric contains curcumin along with other chemical constituents known as the "curcuminoids" .
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