Sunday, September 24, 2023

How To Test For Turmeric Adulteration?

There are many ways to test turmeric purity at home and in laboratories.

Adulterated turmeric powder is a common problem, especially in the developing world. It is a serious health hazard, too. In this article, I will discuss how to detect contaminated turmeric.

Turmeric Powder Adulteration

  • Powdered turmeric is often mixed with chalk powder, sawdust, rice powder, or starch to bulk up the quantity.
  • Bright synthetic colours such as metanil yellow, lead chromate, acid orange, or Sudan red are added to make the powder look more vibrant yellow.
  • Even raw or wild turmeric is added to the powder.

These make turmeric hazardous and unfit for consumption.

It is difficult to tell the contamination just by looking at the powder. However, you can perform a few tests to detect the problem.

Simple Home Tests

Here are the ones you can do at home:

Palm Test

  • Rub a little turmeric powder on your palm for fifteen seconds. Turn the palm upside down.
  • Pass: Pure turmeric will stick to the palm and give a yellow stain.
  • Fail: If most of the powder falls, it is adulterated.

Water Test

  • Take a glass of warm water and put a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  • Pass: After fifteen minutes, if the powder settles down at the bottom and stays pale yellow, it is genuine.
  • Fail: If the powder does not settle down and the water turns dark yellow, the powder is adulterated.

Lead Chromate Test

  • Mix a teaspoon of turmeric in water.
  • Fail: Lead chromate is a water-soluble colour and will instantly release a yellow tinge into the water.

Turmeric Root Test

  • If you want to test a turmeric rhizome (the root, not its powder), put it on paper and sprinkle some water on it.
  • Fail: If it is coated with some artificial colour, you will notice colour coming off.

Laboratory Tests

The following tests are harder to do at home as they need some equipment not commonly available in the houses. They are best done in a laboratory:

Starch Test

  • View the powder under a microscope.
  • Pass: Turmeric particles are large and yellow, with sharp edges.
  • Fail: Adultarant starch particles are small, white, and round.

Metanil Yellow Test

  • Put a teaspoon of turmeric in hydrochloric acid and shake the mix carefully.
  • Fail: The mixture will turn pink if metanil yellow is present.

Chalk Powder Test

  • Put a teaspoon of turmeric in hydrochloric acid and shake the mix carefully, as above.
  • Fail: If bubbles are formed in the mix, it indicates the presence of chalk powder.


  • One can minimise the possibility of adulterated turmeric by buying turmeric roots and grinding them at home. As the turmeric root test above explains, you still have a contamination risk but the chances are much less.
  • If that is too cumbersome, look for a reliable brand of turmeric powder.
  • Please don’t buy loose powder from the market.
  • Unfortunately, you have no control over the turmeric used in the food you eat outside your house. Avoid eating food cooked in low-end, cheap food joints.

Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

To Read More

First Published on: 6th July 2023
Image Credit: Nikin from Pixabay


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