Zedoary: All About This Plant That’s Also Called “White Turmeric”

The zedoary plant is not an everyday plant that you’ve heard of, I’m pretty sure about that, but what is the zedoary plant? The Curcuma Zedoaria or zedoary is a perennial plant, meaning it will blossom every season without re-planting, and it will bloom from spring to fall. It is a herb and a member of the Zingiberaceae family, containing more than 1,250 species and about 52 genera. Other plants included in this family, which you might be familiar with, are ginger, cardamom, and turmeric.

The Curcuma Zedoaria is often referred to as white turmeric. A little clue that this plant is like turmeric is its name, Curcuma. The plant contains curcumin, and it’s often used in Thai, Indian and Asian cuisine. But the plants’ many benefits won’t end here because zedoary also has many medicinal uses.

Common NameZedoary, White Turmeric
Botanical NameCurcuma Zedoaria
Plant TypeA Perennial
Size (Fully Grown)2 To 3 Feet (About 61 To 91 cm)
Sun ExposureFull Sun Or Partial Shade
Soil TypeSandy Or Some Other Well-draining Soil
Soil pHFrom 6.1 To 6.5
Flower ColorYellow, White, Or Pink
U.S. Hardiness Zones10, 11, And 12
Native AreaSoutheast Asia, South Asia, Indonesia, And India

Different Zedoary Types

India has two different zedoary types. Curcuma zerumbet is long and slender like yellow turmeric, and Curcuma zedoaria is round, fat, and small, like ginger.

Origins And History Of The Zedoary Plant

The zedoary plant is native to Indonesia, India, Southeast, and South Asia. It was an ancient plant used for food by the Austronesian people from Madagascar, Oceania, Maritime, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. We believe that the plant spread there during prehistoric times. After that, it was introduced to Arabs, which, in turn, introduced the plant to Europeans in the sixth century. And as you might guess, the plant was already prevalent in the middle ages.

These days, people in India, Sri Lanka, and China, for example, grow zedoary. Its use in America is rare because yellow turmeric and ginger have taken their place in the culinary world. But, the plant came to Florida years ago and is also grown there.

Zedoary is a demanding plant, so the only U.S. hardiness zones where you can grow it are 10, 11, and 12. As you might already guess, the states where you can grow are Hawaii, Southern California, Arizona, and South Texas, where the soil is dry, and the weather is warm but a little bit humid.

How To Recognize Zedoary?

The zedoary plant’s leaf shoots can grow from two to three feet (about 61 to 91 cm) high, with purplish/brown veins running through the green leaves. Some zedoary varieties might have yellow trumpet-shaped flowers, and others have bright pink or white ones. The showy blooms resemble tulips and are unbelievably long-lasting. You can use them in any of your flower arrangements, thanks for their exquisite color, or you can also plant them on borders and rock gardens.

Zedoary is a quite fragrant plant with a combination of mango and turmeric scent. This might also be why people call the plant “amb halad” in India, where the word “amb” means mango. The plant has a taste that reminds people of ginger or camphor with a little bit of bitterness added to it.

The part of the plant used in cooking and medicines is the root or rhizome. In Greek, rhizome means “mass of roots.” This mass of roots from the zedoary plant resembles fresh ginger root when you buy it. As a mature plant, you can use rhizomes as a spice for cooking. There is a thin brown skin covering the root of the plant, and when peeled, it has a vivid orange color. When sliced, the interior is white, where it also gets its name white turmeric.

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What Climate And Growing Conditions Are Best For Zedoary?

Zedoary grows best in tropical and sub-tropical climates. In the United States, frost-free regions like zones 10, 11, and 12 might be the only places where you could consider planting this remarkable plant. Remember only to plant it when the temperature is warm and no cold weather is on the horizon.

Zedoary is a perennial plant and goes dormant when the winter comes but remerges again in the spring. Remember to plant it in partial shade where it can receive some sun, and the soil needs to drain well and contain a fair amount of essential nutrients. Also, don’t forget to remove any weeds from the area you’re growing.

An excellent way to ensure that the plant receives enough nutrients is by spreading manure or compost to the area and mixing it into the soil. If your soil contains any clay, you won’t have to water as much as you would with sandy soil because clay holds moisture better than sand. Plant one rhizome at a time, two to three inches (about 5 to 7,5 cm) deep, and lay it on its side.

Zedoaries are usually planted horizontally, but thankfully they have nodes that allow the shoots to grow upward. Also, please make sure they are at least two feet apart, and water the soil after planting until the soil is moist but not soggy.

If pests start to be a bother in your garden, use an insecticide or some insecticidal soap by following the package’s instructions.

Time To Fertilize…

After you’ve planted your zedoary, make sure to fertilize it if you didn’t already with manure or compost. Remember, plants need food too! When you prepare the growing area, you could also incorporate some fertilizer alongside the compost and soil. Another way to fertilize zedoary is by feeding it in early spring and again in the middle of the season as the plant grows. As a reminder, if you use fertilizers, please use organic ones to keep the soil microbes healthy.

When using zedoary for medicinal or culinary purposes, you may harvest the rhizomes when foliage begins to die. You can also use them as houseplants, and use a relatively large pot, and follow similar instructions as listed above. Growing indoors is advisable, especially when your living in a different hardiness zone than 10m 11, 12, or if you live in a region with frost or even snow. The plant does best at a temperature of 70 to 80°F (about 21 to 27°C), so you could keep it outdoors in summer and indoors for the rest of the year.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Zedoary?

It is entirely safe to eat zedoary unless you have an allergy to it. If you’ve eaten ginger or turmeric, chances are it would be safe to eat. It is supposed to be good for digestion, just as ginger is.

In many cultures, people use zedoary solely for cooking. It has a taste that is more reminiscent of ginger with a slightly bitter aftertaste. In Thai food, it is sliced in thin strips and eaten raw in salads, and in Indonesia, it’s used in curry pastes by grinding the root into a powder. Indians also use the root to pickle their foods.

The zedoary plant is also used for making different medicines, infusions, oils, and even perfume. It has antioxidant properties and is used as a digestive aid in relieving colic and flatulence and treating colds and ulcers. It is even used to help men and women with sexual problems and sometimes as an aphrodisiac. The uses don’t end here because even swelling, pain, fatigue, stress, and anxiety are other uses for zedoary.

People often use zedoary as an antiseptic. When it’s made into a paste, it will help heal wounds and cuts. It is said to have antibacterial qualities, and the treatments for even anemia, liver cancer, and heart disease have been successful.

Unfortunately, even though zedoary has helped some people doesn’t mean that it’s safe for everyone. There isn’t enough evidence to prove that the plant works for medical conditions or how secure it is for everyone. The only studies have been done on animals, but there haven’t been any reports of life-threatening side effects.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

You shouldn’t consume zedoary in medicinal amounts if your pregnant or your breastfeeding. If any, the effects on an unborn baby are unknown and as we know, whatever the mother consumes goes directly to the baby through breast milk. Also, don’t use medicinal zedoary if your suffering from heavy menstrual periods. The best suggestion is to speak with your doctor if you are thinking of trying zedoary to remedy an ailment.


Don’t give medicinal zedoary for your children! This is because we don’t have enough information about this plant and the medicines made from it. There are also no accurate dosage guidelines and how it may interact with any other medications. Again, speak with a doctor if you think about giving zedoary for your kids.

People With Allergies

For people with allergies, use caution when trying anything new, especially any plant-based medicine.


I would not recommend giving this herb to your pets. Their digestive system is different than ours.

Featured image credit – © Alexandre – stock.adobe.com

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