Turmeric is the ground rhizome of the perennial herb, Curcuma longa Linn. Aside from its use as a condiment in Indian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines, it is also extensively used in traditional medicine and as a household remedy. In this week’s Health & Wellness feature, we outline the benefits of curcumin supplements and compare between some of the best brands available in the market.
Turmeric or Curcumin?
Today, turmeric extracts are available as dietary supplements for a variety of conditions, including oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyper-lipidemia. So by now you might be wondering what is curcumin then? Well, this is the bright yellow pigment found in turmeric, a polyphenol with known anti-inflammatory properties.
Although turmeric root contains several phenolic compounds known as curcuminoids, it is curcumin in particular, that is known to exhibit therapeutic benefits.
Health benefits of curcumin supplements
- is a natural, anti-inflammatory agent.
- helps improve muscle regeneration after injury or high-intensity exercise.
- helps in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery time.
- is a powerful antioxidant.
- has cognitive and neuro-protective benefits which may help to improve the memory.
If I use turmeric in cooking or drink turmeric lattes daily, will that be equivalent to taking a supplement?
Turmeric latte contains cinnamon, ginger and black pepper. Not surprisingly, this golden milk concoction is gaining popularity as a caffeine-free alternative among health aficionados. In fact, it is now being served at most cafes and can also be easily prepared at home.
One advantage of consuming it with milk would be that the fat soluble curcumin best absorbs when paired with fat and piperine, which is a major component of black pepper. Similarly, taking a curcumin with a meal may also improve absorption.
Turmeric contains an average 2%-9% curcumin, and each gram of ground turmeric powder is about ½ teaspoon. Therefore, one teaspoon of freshly ground turmeric has around 30 to 40 milligrams of curcumin.
One teaspoon of freshly ground turmeric has around 30 to 40 milligrams of curcumin. This means, for complete health benefits, you’d need to sip on at least two turmeric lattes a day.
While I recommend adding turmeric to your diet to relieve chronic pain, it is advised that turmeric supplements — standardized to 95% curcumin would be a better choice to relieve symptoms of acute pain. Overall, there is evidence that supplementing with a low dose of curcumin daily can provide health benefits, even for people with no known diagnosed conditions.
Turmeric powder vs. curcumin extract
It is also worthwhile to mention that clinical studies have not used turmeric powder, but have rather studied the benefits of its extract. The spice powder that you might have in your kitchen is made by drying and grinding the whole turmeric root. The extract on the other hand, is prepared by utilizing only the root and extracting the curcuminoids from it using edible solvents. The concentration of these extracts are often increased to as high as 93 – 95%, depending on the brand.
What about the daily dosage of curcumin supplements?
The recommended dose of curcumin is highly dependent on the person’s health condition. The recommended dose may range from 250 mg daily to higher doses for patients with arthritis and dementia.
What to look for in the label?
- It is not unusual to find supplements that are prepared using turmeric powder alone. In such cases, you will see it listed as: “Turmeric, or Curcuma longa)” in the label. Remember with these supplements, you’ll will only get 2-3% of curcumin (the active ingredient).
- Further, the potential health benefits of curcumin are limited by its poor solubility and rapid metabolism. To counteract this, absorption enhancers can be added to the formula to improve its bio-availability.
- This includes black pepper extract (piperine), which acts by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of turmeric compounds. However, bear in mind that this combination can also affect the metabolism of other drugs. Additionally, the dose of piperine added is often not enough to make a significant difference on absorption.
- Alternatively, re-formulation of the curcumin supplements have been proposed as a measure to overcome the bio-availability concerns.
- Among them, there is mounting evidence that nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles, and phospholipid complexes can improve overall absorption of curcumin.
Here, the best curcumin supplements
Curcumin supplements come in many forms, including capsules, gummies and as powder. But before starting curcumin, you should be aware that it may interact with certain medications or be contraindicated for certain conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to speak with your health care provider before adding it to your routine.
Overall, the choice of turmeric supplement depends on several factors which includes cost, quality and effectiveness of the formula. Whenever you’re given the option, select ‘enhanced’ formulas to optimize full benefits of curcumin.
Disclaimer: I ensure you that each of the products listed below are independently selected. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission from Amazon Associates and this helps to keep our blog running.
Natural Factors Theracurmin
Why we love it?
It contains Theracurmin™, a patented form of curcumin that has been reduced in particle size to form “nanoparticles” which are then micro-encapsulated for better absorption. In fact, this specially formulated variation of curcumin is reported to have 30 times better absorption when compared with other conventional formulas. Theracurmin, Amazon
NOW Foods CurcuBrain
Why we love it?
Another highly bioavailable curcumin preparation is Longvida, a patented formula that uses Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle (SLCP™) Technology. This encapsulates the curcumin in a tri-lipid matrix, enhancing its solubility bypass the metabolism and enter the bloodstream. Some studies have suggested that using this technology, we can target the release of curcumin in otherwise difficult to reach areas. While there are several brands that use Longvida technology, this one has caught my interest. And it available in vegetarian capsules. NOW CurcuBrain, Amazon.
Solgar Full Spectrum Curcumin
Why we love it?
Solgar’s Full Spectrum formula uses NovaSOL, a patented technology that produces micellar curcumin — in liquid, water-soluble form. As a result of which, Aquanova, the company that has developed this patent, claims that their formula produces superior bio-availability and it stays longer in the body. However the extent of which in comparison to other technologies should be further investigated. This, I’m sure it would be very interesting to read. Also, they’re gluten-free, non-GMO and free from preservatives, artificial colors and flavors. Solgar Curcumin, Amazon
Nature’s Bounty Turmeric
Why we love it?
This is a rather conventional turmeric pill. It contains both Turmeric root and the extract, which is standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids. That means, each capsule provides you with about 50 mg of curcuminoids. There’s another one with piperine, to help the curcumin to be more bio-available. In that case, you could opt for Nature’s Bounty 1000 mg which provides 95mg curcuminoids + 5mg piperine. Plus, they’re gluten-free, non-GMO and free from preservatives and artificial color and flavors. NB Turmeric, Vitaminshop
Some turmeric supplements combine curcumin with other herbal extracts such as boswellia, burdock, ginger or even collagen. These are often marketed as ‘Joint Relief’ supplements. Always remember, when choosing a turmeric supplement, make sure you read the ingredient list to ensure that the formula would work for you.
Always Consult with Your Health Care Provider
Disclaimer: It’s always advisable to check with your doctor if you’re taking any medications that could possibly interact with your supplements. A word of caution for those taking antidepressants, anti-epileptics, anticoagulants, cardiac medicine, antibiotics and chemotherapy treatment. Always discuss with your health care provider before taking any supplements, especially if you’re pregnant or are breastfeeding.