What is the difference between Curcumin and Turmeric?

What is Turmeric?

Turmuric is a spice that by now (hopefully anyway) we should all be familiar with. Far from being a simple curry spice, this vibrant orange root extract is now receiving widespread recognition for its many medicinal qualities.

It has been a mainstay of Indian and Asian medicines and cuisines since time immemorial, but nowadays turmeric enjoys something of a renaissance in Europe, with huge numbers of people looking towards this ancient Asian remedy as part of a more holistic approach to health and wellness.

Now famed for its rich, earthen, fireclay hue and bitter yet peppery taste, turmeric is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and shares its genus with plants such as ginger, cardamom and galangal. These plants have, in Ayurvurdic medicine,  been extoled since antiquity as a treatment for ailments as far ranging as cancer and diabetes.

Even though modern research around turmeric is still in the early stages, many people believe strongly in the historic traditions of eastern healing and use turmeric for its excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. In Europe, this is often in the form of supplements as a replacement for a turmeric rich diet.

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is a chemical compound belonging to the family of Curcuminoids. Curcuminoids are identifiable by their striking yellow colour and are found completely naturally within turmeric. In fact, it is the high concentration of this potent compound that is found in turmeric which lends the spice its distinctive colour.

Despite this, curcumin is not simply about the colour (although anyone who has tried to wash it out of their clothes will zealously attest to its qualities as a dye). Curcumin is without doubt the most bioactive phytochemical in Turmeric.

The natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that we associate with the spice are in fact the work of curcumin.  The myriad benefits of curcumin are boasted as a natural booster for the immune system and it is also associated with improving cognitive function and increased mood.

So, what’s the difference?

The bottom line is this: In its raw, untreated form, turmeric is a spice. This is not to do any discredit to turmeric and its long history as a health food. There is little doubt in Traditional Eastern Medicine as to the health benefits of turmeric, however, this is based on a lifelong turmeric rich diet that is rarely followed in Europe.

If you cook with turmeric and use it regularly as a cooking spice, you may experience some very low-level health benefits from curcumin. It is worth noting that the volume of curcumin present in turmeric is highly variable and is based on a number of factors. This can include factors such as the species of the turmeric plant, the method used to dry the root and the way that this is converted into a powder. But on average, any given turmeric powder may contain from 2.5% to 10% curcumin.

A regular recipe might call for half a teaspoon of turmeric powder; to achieve the health benefits of one capsule of high quality curcumin extract it would be necessary to add around 7 to 8 teaspoons of turmeric powder to your meal. There are quite a few downsides to this and it’s not just about ruining the taste of your meal as ingesting such large quantities of turmeric can cause nausea and intestinal distress.

Since curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and the one that provides the majority of the health benefits, it makes sense to ingest it in its simplest form. Once curcumin has been extracted from turmeric it is often ingested as a powder in food and drinks, or eaten in the form of a capsule.

When taken as a supplement, this potent extract provides much clearer effects than simply ingesting regular turmeric powder. Because of the sheer difference in mass, curcumin is much more easily dissolvable into the system and may be retained for longer periods of time in the natural fats within the body.

By extracting the curcumin, it is possible to recreate the lifetime health benefits that eastern cultures have enjoyed from turmeric, without having to adopt it so strictly into our diets. In fact, by adding natural ingredients, such as black pepper, to curcumin supplements it is possible to increase the bioavailability, this makes it much easier for the body to absorb and helps produce the same effects over a shorter period of time.

Is it organic?

There are many methods of curcumin extraction. All of which produce high quality, potent and safe curcumin. The most effective of these is to use an ethanol solution wash – this process strips the turmeric down to a curcumin-rich solution which is then dried and ground to produce a high purity extract.

While ethanol is an organic compound and this process is therefore organic, it is possible that the turmeric used in the ethanol wash is not. While both sources will produce a high-purity curcumin extract, many people who enjoy the natural health benefits of curcumin understandably prefer that the product is sourced organically from start to finish.

Therefore, you may encounter many different curcumin extracts at slightly different price points. This is a personal choice of the buyer, the important aspect to consider is that you are purchasing curcumin extract, rather than a fortified turmeric powder. Even those which advertise at 10% curcumin, still lack the bioavailability to fully experience the benefits of curcumin.

Why should I use curcumin?

At Vegavero our curcumin capsules are 95% pure and are naturally extracted from only the highest quality sources in Sri Lanka. As always however, it is important that curcumin should only make up one small part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle & diet. However, many people think of turmeric as a superfood for good reason, with reports of its incredible applications for the whole body that may include:

  •     Warming
  •     Anti-inflammatory
  •     Analgesic
  •     Anti-biotic
  •     Anti-oxidant
  •     Anti-tumor
  •     Anti-diabetic
  •     Hepatic-protective
  •     Digestive
  •     Anti-bacterial
  •     Stimulant
  •     Vulnerary
  •     Immune supportive

So, if you are still wondering about which supplement could be the right one for you, it might be worth thinking about the all-natural benefits of curcumin.