Turmeric vs curcumin. 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. But when it comes to turmeric vs. curcumin, is there a clear winner? We took a look at what the scientific studies say to find out.
What Are Turmeric and Curcumin and What’s the Difference Between the Two?
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. (1) (2)
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. (3) (4)
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. (5)
Studies have shown that curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and even anti-tumor effects. (6) 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. (10) (11) (7)
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. (5) (12) (13)
There are a number of scientific studies and reviews that suggest that turmeric/curcumin alleviates the symptoms of arthritis, likely by reducing inflammation. (3) (14) (15) More research is needed on this topic though.
There have been some studies that showed turmeric/curcumin had beneficial effects in animals. (16) (17) A study done in people with 60 diabetic patients found that turmeric/curcumin “had a beneficial effect on blood glucose, oxidative stress and inflammation”. (18)
The results from a study in rats suggests that turmeric and curcumin have a protective effect against oxidative stress and liver damage. (19)
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. (20)
Other studies suggest that it could prevent and reverse some types of liver damage. (21) (22) 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. (23) 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. (24) (25) 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. (26)
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. (27) (28) 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. (10)
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. (29)
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. (26) (27) Turmeric is probably a stronger antifungal and one study found that it was more effective at suppressing the growth of tumor cells than curcumin. (10)
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.
When you look into it, turmeric and curcumin really have some incredible health benefits, most of which they share in common. They do each have a couple of their own unique health benefits but there’s not a massive difference between the two.
If we had to choose between turmeric vs curcumin and crown one the winner though, that would go to curcumin. Turmeric contains multiple curcumoinoids, and curcumin is the most active of them and has the widest array of health benefits.
But better yet, why not get the best of both worlds? That's how we formulated our turmeric curcumin product — it's a turmeric extract with a high concentration of curcumin.
You can learn about BlueBiology Turmeric Curcumin here.
Please note: This site does not provide medical advice. This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.