Turmeric is a commonly used spice that has increased in popularity thanks to its potential health benefits. Unfortunately, this has led to increased confusion about the difference between turmeric and curcumin.
Curcumin vs. Turmeric
Turmeric is a yellow-hued spice that comes from the roots of the Curcuma longa, a plant that belongs to the same family as ginger. Along with its use in cuisine, turmeric has been used as a staple in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat digestive issues, skin problems, and general aches and pains.1
Turmeric contains a variety of bioactive compounds that have been studied for their potential health benefits, but the main active component in turmeric is curcumin. In a nutshell, turmeric is the plant and curcumin is the main active in the plant that provides health benefits.
Curcumin, a compound belonging to the curcuminoid family, is estimated to comprise up to 8 percent of most turmeric preparations. Even pure turmeric powder has an average curcumin concentration of just 3.14 percent by weight.2
Curcumin or Turmeric: Which Is Better?
In essence, curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Even though curcumin comes from turmeric, curcumin is better. If given the choice between equal amounts of curcumin or an equivalent amount of turmeric powder, you should choose curcumin because it is the ingredient that gives turmeric its beneficial qualities.
Turmeric Curcumin Benefits
Although curcumin is an integral part of turmeric’s makeup and contributes to many of its potential health benefits, turmeric contains many more bioactive compounds that may result in more health benefits than just curcumin on its own. For example, studies show that even though curcumin on its own may offer antifungal properties, the cumulative effect of the main active components in turmeric may present a more powerful fungal growth inhibition.3
The plant compounds in turmeric may also present antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that may be more effective together.4 However, determining turmeric’s effects on its own is difficult because curcumin plays such an active, inherent role in its general makeup.
Researchers have begun to isolate curcumin and study its effects outside of turmeric. Some studies suggest that curcumin may be more beneficial on its own for specific conditions. Several studies support evidence that curcumin presents strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.5 In a rat study, both turmeric and curcumin were found to regulate blood sugar in rodents with type 2 diabetes, but curcumin was more effective than turmeric in reducing diabetes markers.6
In another rat study, rats were given either a turmeric solution containing 41 percent curcuminoids by weight or a curcuminoid-enriched turmeric solution containing 94 percent curcuminoids by weight. The results of the study found that the curcuminoid-enriched solution with 94% curcuminoids prevented up to 50 percent bone loss in the rats.7
Turmeric Curcumin Side Effects
Turmeric and curcumin are generally considered as safe, and there are no reports of serious side effects. Mild side effects may include:
- bloating or gas
- skin rash
Turmeric may slow clot formation. Discontinue use of it for two weeks prior to surgery.9
Turmeric and Curcumin Overdose
There are no specific details on turmeric and curcumin overdose, though there is one report of a person who took a twice-daily dose of more than over 1500 mg and experienced an abnormal heart rhythm.10
Whether you choose a turmeric or curcumin supplement, it should be noted that curcumin is poorly absorbed by itself. Taking curcumin with piperine (a major active component in black pepper) significantly increases absorption.8
DrFormulas® 30x Turmeric Curcumin supplement was formulated with these findings in mind. While normal turmeric powder has about 3% curcuminoids by weight, DrFormulas® 30x Turmeric Curcumin has been concentrated to contain 95% curcuminoids by weight. It also contains piperine to increase absorption.