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Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria [Christm.] Rosc.)


pharmaceuticalRhizoma Zedoariae
莪朮 [ngoh seuht], 鬱金 [wāt gām]
Ngoh seuht, Wat gam
莪朮 [é zhú], 鬱金 [yù jīn]
E zhu, Yu jin ???
CroatianBijeli isiot, Sekvar
CzechZedoár, Kurkumovník zedoárový, Zedoárie, Zedoárové koření
DutchMaagwortel, Zedoarwortel
EnglishWhite turmeric
FrenchZédoaire, Rhizome de Zédoaire
Amb halad, Gandhmul, Kachur
HungarianFehér kurkuma, Zedoária-gyökér, Citvor
IndonesianKunir putih, Temu putih
Korean아출, 봉출, 가쥬츠, 커큐머 제도
Achul, Pongchul, Kajyuchu, Keokyumeo jedo, Kokyumo jedo
LaoKhi min khay
Kachuram, Kacchuram
हलु बूं, कचूर
Halu bun, Kachur
Thaiขมิ้นหัวขึ้น, ขมิ้นขึ้น, ขมิ้นอ้อย, ขมิ้นขาว
Khamin hua khuen, Khamin khun, Khamin oi, Khamin khao
UkrainianКуркума зедоарская
Kurkuma zedoarskaya
VietnameseNga truật, Nghệ đen
Nga truat, Nghe den
Used plant part


Curcuma zedoaria: Ornamental flower
Ornamental zedoary flower

Plant family

Zingiberaceae (ginger family).

Sensory quality

Strongly aromatic, medical and not very pleasant. The taste is rather bitter (see below).

Main constituents

Like the closely related turmeric, zedoary contains several specific sesquiterpenes; among the components yet identified, there are germacrone-4,5-epoxide, germacrone, furanodienone, curzerenone, zederone, dehydrocurdione, curcumenol, isocurcumenol, curcumenone, curmanolide A and curmanolide B. (Phytochemistry, 24, 2629, 1985)


The plant seems to stem from North-Eastern India, but is today widely cultivated in India, South East Asia and China.


The European names originate from Arabic and Farsi jadwaar or zedwar [جدوار]

For the Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian name isiot [исиот], which applies to several spices, see ginger.

Selected Links

The Epicentre: Zedoary Sorting Curcuma names (

Curcuma zedoaria: Zedoary flower
Zedoary flower (ornamental breed)

Zedoary is much used as a medicine in China and Japan; the essential oil has some importance for perfume and even more liquor industry. It is not, however, an important spice plant.

In Thailand, the young rhizomes are often eaten as a very aromatic vegetable, and it might be used in the preparation of curry pastes (see coconut). In India, zedoary is occasionally used to flavour the pickles (achar [अचार]) Indian cuisine is so famous for. For that purpose, the fresh rhizome is grated and added to the pickling mixture.

Due to its bitter taste, the dried rhizome is seldom used as a spice alone, but sometimes appears in spice mixtures (curry powder, see curry leaves for a discussion of that mixture); used in minute amounts, it might be worth trying. Medieval European sources, up to the century, often speak of dried zedoary as a spice. Unless this is by confusion with another fragrant rhizome, it may be taken as a token of how radically the peoples’ taste may change within a few centuries.

Even if bitter zedoary has fallen into disuse in most modern cuisines, other bitter spices have kept their position as important flavourings. Popular in Europe is orange peel (e. g., for British marmalade), mugwort and its close relative, southernwood; the old Romans loved a bitter celery cultivar and rue. Another distinctly bitter spice, fenugreek, is a popular flavouring from the Eastern Mediterranean to India. Furthermore, bitter alcoholics (e. g., Angostura) are sometimes suggested to spice up vegetables or even fruit salads. It is worth noting that bitter taste is strongly appetizing and, thus, has indeed true culinary merit.

Several aromatic leaves exhibit significant bitter overtones: Here, bay leaves and myrtle must be named besides several herbs of the mint family (Lamiaceae): hyssop, sage, lavender and rosemary. Nonetheless, bitter herbs are valuable for cooking and do enhance the food’s quality; most noteworthy, they stimulate bile secretion and thereby aid digestion, which is especially advantageous for fat meat.

Bitter taste is also typical for spices containing glycosides. As I have explained elsewhere, it’s not the glycosides which are responsible for the culinary value of a plant, but their easily formed, yet frequently unstable aglyca. So, the bitter taste of bitter almonds gives way to the well-known bitter almond fragrance of benzaldehyde only after some chewing; very similar remarks hold for mahaleb cherry stones. Lastly, if wasabi powder is mixed with water, the paste tastes unpleasant and bitter in the first minutes, but then develops an intensive horseradish-like pungency.

Besides zedoary, there are also other bitter tropic spices, all of which tend to be not very popular in the West. The astringent cassia (Chinese cinnamon), the bitter and pungent negro pepper and the simultaneously bitter, pungent and fragrant cubeb pepper are today considered inferior surrogates of cinnamon and black pepper, respectively, although their importance in Europe was far greater in past centuries.

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