What Are Turmeric and Curcumin and What’s the Difference Between the Two?
One, Turmeric, is a spice and herbal supplement that comes from the curcuma longa plant native to Southwest India. The other, Curcumin, is the most bioactive substance within turmeric. If you know about turmeric or curcumin, you’ve probably heard about all their great health benefits.
Curcuma longa is a perennial herb native to Southeast Asia that grows from three to five feet tall and belongs to the ginger family. This is the plant that turmeric comes from. Turmeric comes in the form of a cooking spice that has a distinct yellow/orange/gold color. It has also been used in Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine for thousands of years with the intention of treating pain, digestive issues, wound healing, inflammation, and others.
Turmeric contains several plant compounds that are known for having health benefits. The most well-known compounds in turmeric with the most significant health benefits are called curcuminoids. The curcuminoids in turmeric most worthy of noting are curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin. As you may have guessed, out of these three curcuminoids, curcumin is the most beneficial in terms of health.
Curcumin is a big part of what gives turmeric its distinct flavor and color. Curcumin makes up about 2-8% of turmeric. Studies have shown that curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and even anti-tumor effects. These and other health benefits are why curcumin has become such a sought after health supplement.
Health Benefits that Turmeric and Curcumin Have in Common
Studies have shown that both turmeric and curcumin have antibacterial effects, meaning they attack bacteria that they come in contact with. (7) (8) (9) It’s probably a good idea to take your probiotics and turmeric curcumin supplements at different times of the day because of this!
Many studies have found that both turmeric and curcumin act as antifungal substances. This could mean that turmeric/curcumin may help keep you from getting infected with a fungal infection.
Studies indicate that turmeric and curcumin may be beneficial for weight management in a variety of ways. Some of the ways turmeric and curcumin may do this is by suppressing chronic inflammation, decreasing body fat, regulating leptin secretion, and more.
There are a number of scientific studies and reviews that suggest that turmeric/curcumin alleviates the symptoms of arthritis, likely by reducing inflammation. More research is needed on this topic though.
There have been some studies that showed turmeric/curcumin had beneficial effects in animals. A study done in people with 60 diabetic patients found that turmeric/curcumin “had a beneficial effect on blood glucose, oxidative stress and inflammation”.
The results from a study in rats suggests that turmeric and curcumin have a protective effect against oxidative stress and liver damage. Primary liver cancer (also known as hepatocellular carcinoma), is thought to be caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, which turmeric/curcumin reduces, so it’s possible that turmeric/curcumin could lower your risk of developing liver cancer, although more research is needed. Other studies suggest that it could prevent and reverse some types of liver damage. More study is needed to better understand turmeric/curcumin and its effects on liver health.
Turmeric and curcumin may be beneficial for heart health by improving serum lipid levels. This basically means that bad cholesterol is lowered and good cholesterol is raised.
The results from some in vitro (test tube) studies have indicated that turmeric/curcumin reduces cancer cell activity. A study in patients with colorectal cancer, ingestion of a curcumin extract was accompanied by a decrease in one of the biomarkers of risk for colorectal cancer. Keep in mind though that these are just a few studies and that much more research needs to be done to come to any definitive conclusions.
Health Benefits Specific to Curcumin
Turmeric contains several different types of curcuminoids and curcumin is the most active of them. Curcumin itself has some unique health benefits, or at least enhanced health benefits compared to other forms of turmeric. One of these things that could be unique to curcumin is bone strengthening and protection against osteoporosis. In a study done in rats, one group of rats were fed turmeric and a separate group was given a curcumin-enriched turmeric mixture. The group that was given curcumin saw a prevention in bone loss, while the turmeric group did not. Another health benefit that is likely unique to curcumin is that it lowers inflammatory markers for type 2 diabetes, which could lower the risk of developing it. More studies are needed.
Health Benefits Specific to Turmeric
There are some health benefits specific to turmeric or that it does a better job of delivering. However, it’s difficult to determine if turmeric is better than curcumin and vice versa because both contain at least some amount of the other. But one area where turmeric may be a better option is when it comes to being an antifungal. One study found that turmeric and each of its individual curcuminoids have antifungal effects. However, when administered as turmeric, its antifungal effects were increased.
Another area where turmeric may be more beneficial than curcumin is in suppressing the growth of tumors. A study looked at how cancer is less common in regions of the world where turmeric is consumed more frequently and whether turmeric has anything to do with that. The researchers did find that turmeric was effective at suppressing the growth of tumor cells — more than curcumin.
Turmeric Vs. Curcumin: Is One Better Than The Other?
It’s not really possible to say with 100% certainty when it comes down to turmeric vs curcumin which one is better. However, the majority of the studies that have been done on turmeric and curcumin that found health benefits were done with either turmeric with high concentrations of curcumin or curcumin alone. That’s why we decided to formulate our turmeric curcumin supplement with a 95% concentration of curcumin because we know it’s effective. Turmeric/curcumin also has issues with bioavailability (a measure of a supplement’s ability to successfully reach the required destination in order to be beneficial), which is why we formulated our product with Bioperine, a form of black pepper that improves bioavailability. You could say that turmeric or curcumin is better than the other, but there’s a lot of overlap between turmeric vs curcumin when you consider the health benefits. If you have a specific health issue that you want to address, it may be worth considering choosing one over the other.
Curcumin may be better to take if you’re concerned with your bone health or if you’re at risk of developing diabetes. Turmeric is probably a stronger antifungal and one study found that it was more effective at suppressing the growth of tumor cells than curcumin. Both turmeric and curcumin have a lot of health benefits and many of those health benefits they have in common, so you really can’t go wrong with either one. If we had to choose between turmeric vs curcumin though, we would go with curcumin because it is turmeric’s most active ingredient.
How to Pick A High-Quality & Safe Turmeric/Curcumin Supplement
If you’re shopping for a turmeric or curcumin supplement, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you should look for a formula that has been clinically researched and tested. Turmeric and curcumin have issues being absorbed into the body, so be sure to also look for a product that contains black pepper extract, which improves its bioavailability. Lastly, be sure to pick a product that’s potent enough to give you all the great health benefits that turmeric and curcumin have to offer. We recommend a dose of a thousand milligrams.
Essential Vitamins and Nutrients Naturally Found in Turmeric:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3
- Other phytonutrients
Here Are Just Some of the Health Benefits of Turmeric
- Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
- When combined with cauliflower, turmeric has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
- Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.
- It may prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
- Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
- Turmeric is a natural liver detoxifier.
- Turmeric may prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
- It may prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
- Turmeric is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
- Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.
- Turmeric is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.
- May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
- Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
- Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- It boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.
- Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
- Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.
- Turmeric has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
- It speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.
- Turmeric may help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
- Curcumin seems to delay liver damage that can eventually lead to cirrhosis, according to preliminary experimental research at the Medical University Graz in Austria.
- Kansas State University research found that adding certain spices, including turmeric, can reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines — carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meats are barbecued, boiled or fried — by up to 40 percent.
- Rodent studies at the University of Texas indicate that curcumin inhibits the growth of a skin cancer, melanoma and also slows the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.
- Researchers from the University of South Dakota have found that pretreatment with curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy.
- Epidemiologists have hypothesized that the turmeric that is part of daily curries eaten in India may help explain the low rate of Alzheimer’s disease in that country. Among people aged 70 to 79, the rate is less than one-quarter that of the United States. (Source: Dr. Andrew Weil)
Studies Done on Turmeric
One study noted that curcumin, the major component of the spice turmeric, has several therapeutic effects, one being the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation. Curcumin was studied against triple-negative breast cancer, which scientists noted has a poor prognosis, after which researchers concluded that curcumin may be able to inhibit the proliferation of TNBC cells, possibly due to a change in the signaling pathway of the cancer’s underlying molecular mechanism. Turmeric extracts were also tested and found to have skin-improving properties. In one study, extracts of turmeric were used on ultraviolet radiation-damaged skin for six weeks. Scientists reported improvements in skin hydration and sebum content, along with possibilities that similar creams could be used in future photoprotective formulations. In another study, an ethanol extract of turmeric and curcumin ointment were found to produce significant pain relief in patients with external cancerous lesions.
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