Eating Turmeric vs. Taking a Supplement
Touted for its anti-inflammatory† and antioxidant properties, turmeric is a healthy addition to any diet, but there is a vast difference between eating the whole food and taking it as a supplement. We’ll explain why this is and suggest how you can benefit the most from this extraordinary plant.
Turmeric as a supplement
As a natural anti-inflammatory† and antioxidant, curcumin supplements can offer a variety of health benefits. Turmeric (curcumin) supplements are commonly taken to help recovery after physical exercise or high activity.
Turmeric as a spice
For 5,000 years this extraordinary plant has been used in herbal remedies as well as cooking across India, Asia, and Central America. It is believed to provide several health benefits, including:
- Hepatoprotective – (supports liver function)
- Immunostimulant – (stimulates the immune system)
Scientists continue to study this remarkable plant, believing it can also help promote skin, brain, gut health, and much more.
Turmeric in cooking
Because of its bitter taste, turmeric is often combined with other herbs and spices for a more balanced and intense flavor. Curry powder is one of the most traditional spice blends featuring turmeric, but now you can find turmeric in a number of recipes from scrambled eggs and hummus to hot beverages.
Turmeric tea, or golden milk, is a brew served up hot and frothy much like Chai. Typically made with coconut milk, honey, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric and ginger (a cousin of turmeric), golden milk promises to deliver a healthy dose of antioxidants and is great as a post-workout drink. However, this is only partially true.
Eating turmeric vs. taking a turmeric supplement
While the fat from the milk and the addition of black pepper in this recipe will help improve the absorption of turmeric in the body, as a spice in powdered form turmeric yields only about 3% of curcumin, as opposed to a turmeric supplement that can deliver as much as 95%:
Only about 3% of the weight of turmeric powder is curcumin and "curcuminoid" compounds – which are believed to be important to turmeric's effects. In turmeric extracts, the concentration of these is often increased to as high as 95%.1
That’s not to say that cooking with turmeric is not beneficial to your health. But if you want maximum impact, a supplement offers a much richer concentration of curcuminoids.
Additionally, science says the problem lies with how poorly absorbed curcumin is by the body.2 When ingested, curcumin clumps together and is quickly eliminated by the body, leaving little time for absorption.3
The potential health benefits of curcumin are limited by its poor solubility, low absorption from the gut, rapid metabolism and rapid systemic elimination.4
If you were to rely solely on turmeric spice for the same anti-inflammatory† and antioxidant benefits as a supplement, you’d have to consume about 25-30 times more of the substance:
It is not unusual for a capsule containing half of a gram of turmeric extract to provide 400 mg of curcuminoids, while the same amount of turmeric powder (ground herb – just like the spice) might provide only about 15 mg.1
As you can see there’s a huge difference between eating turmeric as an ordinary dried spice and taking it as a supplement. Turmeric is hard to digest and leaves the body very quickly, offering limited health benefits. Whereas turmeric extract in supplement form gives you a much higher dose of curcumin.
For the Rolls Royce of turmeric supplements, you want a bioenhanced product like Qunol’s Extra Strength Turmeric Curcumin Complex in softgels.
With a proprietary water dispersion technology, Qunol delivers superior absorption compared to regular§ turmeric which clumps together in the body. By combining turmeric with a carbohydrate called gamma cyclodextrin, a donut-shaped molecule that surrounds and separates turmeric, Qunol’s Curcumin Complex easily breaks up these clumps to greatly improve absorption. In a human clinical trial Qunol’s bioenhanced turmeric curcumin complex increased bioavailability by a factor of 40.5
So if you’ve ever thought, why bother with a turmeric supplement when you can just add the spice to your food? Now you know the answer. Turmeric supplements provide superior health benefits over turmeric used in food because supplements contain more health-promoting curcuminoids.
1ConsumerLab.com. “Turmeric Spice vs. Turmeric Supplements.” https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/how-does-turmeric-spice-differ-from-turmeric-curcumin-supplements/tumeric_spice_vs_supplements/
2Schiborr C, Kocher A, Behnam D, Jandasek J, Toelstede S, Frank J (2014) The oral bioavailability of curcumin from micronized powder and liquid micelles is significantly increased in healthy humans and differs between sexes. Mol Nutr Food Res 58(3):516–527. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201300724 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201300724
3Ammon HP, Wahl MA (1991) Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Med 57(1):1–7. doi:10.1055/s-2006-960004 https://www.thieme-connect.de/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-2006-960004
4Jäger R, Lowery RP, Calvanese AV, Joy JM, Purpura M, Wilson JM. Comparative absorption of curcumin formulations. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13:11. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633300/
5Purpura, et al (2017). Analysis of different innovative formulations of curcumin for improved relative oral bioavailability in human subjects Euro Journal of Nutr. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28204880
§Regular turmeric is standardized unformulated curcumin extract.
†May help reduce temporary inflammation associated with physical overexertion or other lifestyle choices.
This product is not intended to treat, prevent or cure inflammation associated with any disease.