Curcumin vs Turmeric - What’s the Difference?


Turmeric vs. Curcumin: What’s the Difference?

Turmeric in Ancient Indian Ayurvedic Holistic Medicine

Recognized for its therapeutic properties more than 5,000 years ago, turmeric was widely used throughout India, Asia and Central America. Its vibrant amber hue made for the perfect fabric dye and in cooking, it became known as the Golden Spice. As an herbal remedy in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric offered a number of health benefits. Today, turmeric is regarded as a:

  • Strong, natural anti-inflammatory
  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Supplement for joint health2 

Curcumin vs Turmeric

The easiest way to know the difference between turmeric vs. curcumin is to think of turmeric as the source of curcumin. Being one of three bioactive compounds within turmeric, curcumin is an antioxidant and therapeutic anti-inflammatory† with a number of incredible health benefits.

What is Turmeric?

Let's break it down further. Turmeric is a root vegetable from the ginger family and the star player in curried dishes and the popular drink, Golden Milk. This flowering plant is found in areas of India and Southeast Asia, and is often included in recipes to help create a bold yellow or orange color in the dish.To obtain the Golden Spice, the root of the turmeric plant is boiled, dried, and ground to a powder. This is the turmeric you find on the spice rack in the grocery store and in some herbal supplements. Various common names for turmeric can include Indian saffron, yellow ginger, yellow root, or kacha haldi. The turmeric plant is also known by the scientific name curcuma longa, which is most likely where curcumin got its name.

What is Curcumin?

When scientists took a closer look at turmeric, they found three bioactive compounds with health-promoting properties housed within the root of the plant. Known collectively as curcuminoids, these antioxidant compounds include:

  • Curcumin (or diferuloylmethane)
  • Demethoxycurcumin
  • Bisdemethoxycurcumin3

Curcuminoids are natural polyphenols with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.1 Polyphenols occur naturally in plants and contain health-promoting properties to help ward off predators and disease. You receive some polyphenols from fruits and vegetables, but like curcumioids, there are multiple types that can provide various benefits.

As a rich source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, curcuminoids are a unique group of polyphenols found only in the turmeric plant. But between the 3 curcuminoids in turmeric, one stands out above the rest. Curcumin, or diferuloylmethane, offer the biggest health benefits.

Taken as a supplement, curcumin may help support an active lifestyle and promote a healthy inflammation response due to physical overexertion.* 

Curcumin may also assist in providing relief for swelling from inflammation, helping you to keep moving - even after intense workouts, or during days when your joints ache.*

Curcumin is the secret to turmeric. As the primary player in the turmeric powerhouse, curcumin has a lot of benefits and properties that intrigue scientists and researchers around the globe. Countless studies have tested curcumin for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and found it to be beneficial in promoting good health.

 

As an active compound, curcumin can help promote joint health and is especially helpful as a post-workout recovery aid.

Studies suggest that curcumin may even help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis such as inflammation and pain. These factors are valuable for maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.


As an antioxidant, curcumin can help the body fight free radicals. Both antioxidants and free radicals naturally exist in the body and it’s a daily struggle to keep a healthy balance between the two. While free radicals run rampant, trying to steal electrons and in turn damaging existing cells, antioxidants can neutralize free radicals to no longer need more electrons or provide the needed electrons without taking any away from current cells. Problem solved, right? But, the body can only produce so many antioxidants in a day to keep free radicals down. In order to keep a healthy balance, the body needs to stock up on antioxidants from the food we eat.

This is where supplements may help. Powdered turmeric offers only a low concentration of curcumin and is not absorbed well in the body. A curcumin supplement with enhanced absorption will be more effective.

How Can I Add Curcumin to My Diet?

Although curcumin is the main compound needed to get the health benefits, that doesn't mean you need to find a curcumin supplement. Taking a turmeric supplement with enhanced absorption is a great way to get curcumin into your body. Though many Indian foods and healthy recipes contain turmeric, there is a huge difference between eating it as a whole food and taking it as a supplement. When eating turmeric as only a spice, your intake is less than 3% curcumin. When taking a turmeric supplement with enhanced absorption, you can receive over 95% of curcumin. 

Another difference between foods naturally containing turmeric and a turmeric supplement is the bioavailability to your body. You may have heard health-conscious friends or seen news articles stating that to get the benefit of curcumin from turmeric in your diet you need to be sure you are eating your turmeric combined with an activator, like fat or black pepper for your body to properly absorb the nutrient. This advice comes because turmeric as a spice has poor bioavailability for your body to get curcumin’s benefits from eating the spice alone. When taking a turmeric curcumin supplement, look for one with enhanced absorption which provides a higher bioavailability than the natural spice.

To best use a turmeric curcumin supplement, follow dosage directions on the bottle and consult your primary care physician with any health questions or concerns. 

Are All Turmeric Curcumin Supplements the Same?

A turmeric curcumin supplement gives you a more concentrated dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory† health benefits compared to turmeric powder or turmeric-rich foods. But even if all supplements had the same concentration of turmeric curcumin, there are still other factors to analyze. Afterall, how good is a supplement if your body can’t use it?  If you want to receive the maximum therapeutic effect, look for a turmeric curcumin supplement like Qunol Extra Strength Curcumin with water dispersion technology for enhanced bioavailability and superior absorption, even over other supplements. It’s your best option for a healthy daily dose of anti-inflammatory† antioxidants.

 

References:

  1. Panahi Y, Hosseini MS, Khalili N, Naimi E, Majeed M, Sahebkar A. Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec;34(6):1101-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25618800
  2. Panahi Y, Rahimnia AR, Sharafi M, Alishiri G, Saburi A, Sahebkar A. Phytother Res. 2014 Nov;28(11):1625-31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24853120
  3. Amirhossein Sahebkarab, Maria-Corina Serbanc, Sorin Ursoniuc, Maciej Banach. Journal of Functional Foods Volume 18, Part B, October 2015, Pages 898-909. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464615000092#kwd0010

 

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.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.