Turmeric (Curcuma longa L., Zingiberaceae family) is a well known Chinese herbal medicine. It possesses diverse pharmacologic effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antiangiogenic activities. The main bioactive constituents of C. longa include sesquiterpenes, which are responsible for its aroma, and curcuminoids, which contribute to its bright yellow color. Both sesquiterpenes and curcuminoids exhibit great potential as therapeutic agents for various diseases including colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Particularly, curcumin, one of the major curcuminoids of turmeric, has been proved to be effective in cancer treatment and prevention by recent phase I clinical trials. In order to ensure the efficacy and safety of turmeric in clinical applications, sensitive and accurate analytical methods are of significance for the comprehensive quality control of C. longa. This review summarizes recent progress in the chemical analysis of sesquiterpenes and curcuminoids in turmeric.