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Understanding Curcumin vs Turmeric

Natural foods that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years are often sources of great health benefits, and turmeric is an excellent example.

The spice has gained a higher profile in recent years as a food and supplement.

Recently, experts have added curcumin to the conversation, sometimes using the words interchangeably.

What are the differences between curcumin and turmeric, and which should you take for the most benefits?

Defining Curcumin vs. Turmeric

To start, it's important to understand what the two substances are and how they relate to each other.

Despite how you may see them used, these terms are different.

Turmeric is a root that is dried and ground to be used as a spice in many Asian and African cultures.

It has a yellow hue that colors food and can act as a dye, and recently people around the globe have adopted it for its health benefits.

In addition to being a spice, the root can be turned into a pulp and made into an elixir.

Curcumin is one of the substances that scientists have identified in turmeric.

It is often considered the key compound responsible for the benefits of turmeric, although there are other helpful substances in the root.

Curcumin is a carotenoid, a category of plant pigments found in other foods such as carrots.

Aside from providing vibrant color, carotenoids may support body functions.

Think of the relationship between turmeric and curcumin the same way you think of oranges and vitamin C.

Turmeric is a whole food that contains many nutrients, including curcumin, just as an orange is a whole fruit that contains many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C.

Curcumin vs. Turmeric: Bioavailability

Since scientists have learned to isolate curcumin from turmeric, people have wondered if it is better to consume whole spice or root or if a curcumin supplement is a better option.

While the answer can depend on your needs and goals, it's important to note that the body may not absorb each product similarly, affecting the benefits you will get from these nutrients.

What Is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability is a big consideration to consider when using curcumin, turmeric, or any other supplement.

This term refers to how well the body can break down a compound and extract its useful parts.

Nutrients with high bioavailability are easier for the body to absorb and use than substances with lower bioavailability.

Some research has shown that curcumin supplements taken orally are not absorbed by the intestine well and instead pass through the body undigested.

The body only gets a few benefits from curcumin since it is not properly broken down.

According to research, using whole turmeric can result in better absorption of all the compounds in the root, including curcumin.

How Do Other Compounds Help With Nutrient Absorption?

To improve the bioavailability of curcumin, both as a standalone supplement and in turmeric, scientists have studied whether pairing the compound with other nutrients improves absorption.

Research shows that consuming turmeric with fats can make it easy for the body to break down curcumin and get more benefits from it.

Pepper is another substance that studies have demonstrated to have a positive relationship with curcumin.

Scientists believe that a substance in the pepper called piperine may help improve the bioavailability and support your body's ability to get the most out of curcumin supplements, as well as turmeric spice.

Reasons To Take Curcumin and Turmeric

Whether you take curcumin vs. turmeric can be a personal preference and what's more convenient for you and your lifestyle.

A daily curcumin supplement may be easier to integrate into your routine rather than adding turmeric to your food, or it may be simpler to use turmeric extracts in drinks to boost your curcumin intake.

Adding these substances to your health arsenal can offer several potential benefits.

Reduced Inflammation

Curcumin has exhibited anti-inflammatory properties when taken as either a supplement or consumed in turmeric.

Extensive research indicates that reducing inflammation can support heart health, better metabolism, and joint health.

Some scientists are also investigating curcumin's role in supporting brain health.

There are known links between inflammation and reduced cognitive function, so researchers are working to find out if curcumin could play a factor in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Reduced inflammation is also beneficial in dealing with obesity and arthritis.


Curcumin is an antioxidant that may fight free radicals. Those are particles in the body that can damage cell structures and lead to medical conditions.

Increasing your antioxidant intake can help prevent or reduce this damage, supporting your overall health.

Extra Benefits From Turmeric

Researchers are also looking into the possibility that there are different benefits of using curcumin vs. turmeric.

The whole spice or root may have additional health attributes, including anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that are more pronounced than pure curcumin.

Experts believe that this is due to the way curcumin interacts with the other compounds and structures found in turmeric.

Using curcumin or turmeric can be a constructive way to support a healthy body, so explore both options if you want to add something new to your wellness routine.

To determine the right dosages and consumption methods, check in with your doctor to see their advice for your specific health situation.

Choose Between Curcumin vs. Turmeric and Support Your Health

For centuries, people have consumed turmeric both as a food and as a health supplement.

People around the globe have seen the benefits that come with this root and are now able to try the active compound curcumin on its own.

Both may play roles in helping your body operate at its best, so check out the differences between curcumin vs. turmeric to see which could offer you more.


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