Turmeric is a tropical perennial plant in the same family as ginger, native to India, and cultivated throughout the tropics around the world. Growing to a height of about three feet (one meter), it bears pairs of lance-shaped leaves on alternate sides of the stem. At the base of the stem, there is a knobby rhizome somewhat resembling ginger. Many of the healing of benefits of turmeric have been attributed to curcumin, a group of antioxidant compounds found in the rhizome. Although curcumin is available as a standardized extract, the whole herb may be more beneficial for you than the curcumin extract: Only very small amounts of curcumin are absorbed into the bloodstream. Turmeric as a whole herb stays in the digestive tract longer than curcumin, releasing antioxidant curcumin along with other beneficial substances.