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Turmeric vs Curcumin: Which Offers The Most Health Benefits?

Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and is a staple of South Asian cooking. It’s also gaining mainstream popularity, popping up everywhere from iced lattes and face masks to health supplements. 

If you’ve read our blog before, you may already know that curcumin is one of the key active compounds found in turmeric. It’s known as the most powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient, giving turmeric its much-buzzed-about healing properties. In that case, should you take curcumin extract on its own? Should you try eating curry every day? Or should you incorporate a capsule supplement like TurmeriX into your daily routine?

To answer these questions, let’s start with a quick refresh on turmeric vs curcumin. We’ll explain their differences as well as the overall health benefits, to help you determine what may be best for you.

What is turmeric?

Did you know that your favourite Indian curry owes its bright yellow colour to turmeric? Turmeric, or curcuma longa, is a flowering plant part of the ginger family. Turmeric powder is the powder created by boiling, drying and crushing part of the plant, mainly its roots.  Its powder form has been used in traditional South Asian and Middle Eastern dishes for thousands of years. Nowadays, it’s also a popular form of alternative therapy for a variety of conditions, diseases and ailments.

Turmeric can be used as a generic immune system booster and daily health supplement. Turmeric is known as an anti-inflammatory assistant due to its variety of bioactive compounds, including curcumin.

What is curcumin?

The chemical compounds found in turmeric include a group of plant-based nutrients called curcuminoids. Curcumin is the most important compound within this group. It’s the main active ingredient that acts as both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant — but it can’t do it all on its own.

Due to its low concentration and absorption levels in turmeric, combining curcumin with an activator like black pepper greatly improves its effectiveness. That’s why turmeric powder on its own has less bioavailability. Without the right activators, less of those beneficial components are getting absorbed into the body. If you choose to take curcumin on its own, be sure to look for an extract or blend that contains an activator ingredient such as piperine (black pepper).

What is the difference between turmeric vs curcumin

Curcumin itself is one of many key active compounds in turmeric, likely earning its name from the plant’s scientific name, curcuma longa. Turmeric roots usually contain a low concentration of approximately 2-5% curcumin.

According to researchers, curcumin extracted from turmeric root may have more antioxidant power than turmeric powder. However, there are other components and even other curcuminoids (demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin) in turmeric. Studies show these compounds may also help reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. Taking curcumin extract alone may not achieve the same health benefits.

So, which offers the most health benefits, turmeric vs curcumin?

Ultimately, both have their advantages. Turmeric powder on its own has poor bioavailability but is easy to incorporate into a whole-foods diet through a variety of recipes. Some curcumin supplements can have high bioavailability but lack the added health benefits of turmeric’s other active compounds.

Rather than isolating curcumin entirely from turmeric, it’s possible to activate it and improve absorption by using another ingredient. Black pepper is one of the most widely known activators. TurmeriX X-Factor blend contains black pepper, along with other natural herbs and spices, that increase the bioavailability of turmeric vs curcumin. Now you can fully reap the benefits of this natural superfood!

Post adapted from TurmeriX Australia.