Mentions of Turmeric are bound in Sanskrit writings in India. It spread across the Pacific from Asia by Polynesians from Hawaii and Easter Islands. It is theorized that turmeric was first used for dye and only later incorporated into food. The original form of this rhizome no longer exists in the wild form.
As you can see in the picture the plant looks very similar to ginger. The edible part is the rhizome (root) underground.
Turmeric is sometimes used as antiseptic. It is made into a paste and applied to cuts, boils or wounds. Sometimes turmeric is mixed with milk or water and taken internally to tread intestinal disorders as well as colds and sore throats. The root is rich in iron and can taken for anemia.
Turmeric was used in biblical times as a perfume but now it is most commonly used for both its musky flavor and color. Ground turmeric is widely used in East Indian cooking particularly in curries as well as other soups and stews.
On a familiar note, turmeric is the yellow color you see in commercially prepared mustard.
It is common to use turmeric in the dried, powdered form.