Benefits and differences of turmeric and curcumin
03/12/2022 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
Benefits and differences of turmeric and curcumin

Turmeric is a widely used spice with many health benefits. It also contains an active ingredient called curcumin.

But did you know that turmeric and curcumin have certain differences and unique health benefits?

Turmeric, an amazing superfood, and curcumin, a beneficial active compound

Turmeric comes from the root of the flowering plant, Curcuma longa. The spice belongs to the ginger family.

When bought fresh, turmeric looks similar to ginger root but with a more intense yellow to golden color.

In India, turmeric is used to treat skin conditions, digestive issues and various aches and pains. It’s a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine, a form of traditional healing.

Turmeric contains many phytonutrients, but one group called curcuminoids offers the greatest health-promoting effects.

Three notable curcuminoids found in turmeric are curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Out of these three, curcumin is the most active and the most beneficial to health.

Curcumin represents at least two to eight percent of most turmeric preparations, and it gives turmeric its distinct color and flavor. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant effects.

Common benefits of turmeric and curcumin

Turmeric and curcumin have medicinal properties that offer several benefits.

Detailed below are some of the areas in which both turmeric and curcumin have scientifically proven health benefits:

  • Antifungal – Turmeric and curcumin can disrupt fungal cell membranes. Both can be used together with fungal medication for best results.
  • Antibacterial – Turmeric and curcumin have strong antibacterial effects. Both can help prevent or reduce the growth of many disease-causing bacteria.
  • Cancer – While research is still in its early stages, studies suggest that turmeric and curcumin may help reduce the activity of colon cancer cells and other types of cancer cells.
  • Diabetes – Both turmeric and curcumin can help improve ugar metabolism and potentially reduce the effects of diabetes on the body.
  • Heart disease – Turmeric and curcumin can reduce “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides. Both can also help lower your heart disease risk.
  • Liver – According to an animal study, turmeric extract and curcumin exert protective effects against chronic liver damage by helping reduce harmful oxidative stress.
  • Obesity – Turmeric and curcumin may inhibit the inflammatory pathway involved in obesity. Both can also help regulate body fat.
  • Osteoarthritis – Research has shown that the plant compounds in turmeric, including curcumin, can reduce markers of inflammation, by extension relieving osteoarthritis symptoms.

Turmeric health benefits that are not attributed to curcumin

Researchers have conducted many studies to understand the potential health benefits of the superfood turmeric.

According to study results, turmeric is good for arthritis. It can also help protect your brain as you age. Data also suggests that turmeric has promise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Turmeric contains many plant compounds that work together to promote your overall health. In one study, researchers found that turmeric and all eight of its components, including curcumin, helped prevent fungal growth.

The same study also revealed that curdione in turmeric had the best inhibitory effect. But when combined with the seven other components, its fungal growth inhibition was more effective. This suggests that while curcumin alone can reduce fungal growth, using turmeric may provide better results.

In another study, scientists reported that turmeric was better at suppressing the growth of tumor cells than curcumin alone. But since turmeric contains curcumin, it’s hard to confirm if turmeric is better than curcumin when it comes to other health conditions.

Curcumin may be more beneficial for certain conditions

Since curcumin is considered the most active ingredient in turmeric, experts have started to isolate it in studies to see if it could treat certain conditions on its own.

Results have shown that curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The compound can also support wound healing through its antibacterial effects.

Additionally, both turmeric and curcumin have been found to reduce blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients. But according to the results of an animal study, curcumin was better at minimizing diabetes markers than turmeric.

Curcumin can specifically lower inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), which are both key contributors to Type 2 Diabetes.

Curcumin may also reduce osteoporosis risk. Results of an animal study revealed that rats who received turmeric extracts enriched with curcumin-like curcuminoids were able to retain bone mass. Meanwhile, subjects who had a lower amount of added curcuminoids showed received no benefit.

Should you take curcumin or turmeric supplements?

When choosing a supplement, purchase a formula that has been clinically tested and proven to be well-absorbed.

There is no official consensus on whether it’s best to take curcumin or turmeric supplements. Most studies that have confirmed the beneficial effects of both have used extracted turmeric with a high concentration of curcumin or curcumin alone.

According to a review on joint arthritis, turmeric extracts with one gram of curcumin per day showed the greatest benefit after eight to 12 weeks.

If you want to reduce your cholesterol, taking 700 mg of turmeric extract twice a day may help. An eight-week study has shown that 2.4 grams of turmeric powder combined with nigella seeds each day reduced cholesterol, waist circumference and inflammation.

Curcumin is considered to be well-tolerated. It has been tested at high doses of up to 12 grams per day. While considered safe to ingest, note that curcumin may cause some side effects like gut discomfort and nausea.

Incorporating turmeric and curcumin into your diet

Note that curcumin is often poorly absorbed and can pass through your gut undigested. For best results, add some black pepper to your meals or supplements that contain curcumin. Piperine in black pepper helps boost the bioavailability of curcumin by as much as 2,000 percent.

Try the suggestions below to boost your intake of turmeric and curcumin:

  • Use tofu and turmeric to make savory scrambled “eggs.”
  • Add turmeric to rice to give it a flavor boost.
  • Add cauliflower and turmeric to taco filling.
  • Give pasta a superfood twist by adding turmeric.
  • Bake turmeric oat bread with chocolate chips.
  • Make some lemonade and add turmeric to make a refreshing drink.
  • Make a turmeric tea latte if you have a cold.
  • Add turmeric to your green smoothie.

Boost your overall health by taking turmeric or curcumin supplements or using turmeric to make savory, nutritious dishes.


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