You probably know turmeric as the yellow powder sold in the grocery store on the spice aisle. Turmeric is one of the main ingredients in curry and also forms the basis of curry powder. Yet turmeric is not only used as a spice but is also linked to health benefits and may even have medicinal properties.
Turmeric is often referred to as curcumin in this context. You can read in this article how this works exactly, what the difference is between turmeric and curcumin, and what scientific evidence there is for the effect of turmeric.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is the English name for the plant officially Curcuma longa hot. The roots of the turmeric plant are used to make a spice that is often used in Asian dishes in particular. Thanks to the pronounced yellow color of turmeric, it can also serve excellently as a coloring agent, for example in food or make-up. In addition, turmeric may have medicinal properties and is used to treat various diseases.
What is Curcumin?
The dye curcumin is found in the roots of the turmeric plant ( Curcuma longa). It is a strong antioxidant and it is also associated with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, curcumin is responsible for the characteristic, yellow color that turmeric is known for. Curcumin is therefore part of the turmeric plant, also called turmeric or turmeric. Raw turmeric contains about 2 to 5 percent curcumin.
In principle, turmeric is a term that usually means exactly the same thing. Curcumin, on the other hand, is just a specific substance from the roots of the plant.
Turmeric / Curcumin in Supplements
But what about the supplements that contain turmeric, turmeric, and/or curcumin? Below is a summary and the necessary explanation.
Turmeric, turmeric powder & (ground) turmeric
Turmeric as you buy it in the supermarket is usually simply a dried, ground variant of whole turmeric or the roots of turmeric/turmeric. The roots are then only cleaned, dried, and processed into a powder. These herbs are also called turmeric powder.
Turmeric or turmeric extract
Turmeric extract (= turmeric extract) is a concentrated, thickened variant of the original roots. When turmeric is used in a supplement, it is often added in extract form. This creates a product with a higher concentration of useful substances and you do not have to take a lot of it to benefit from the beneficial properties of turmeric.
Curcumin is a dye from turmeric roots. In particular, this substance is associated with several health benefits. This is why curcumin from turmeric is often used in supplements. This is called curcumin extract. Curcumin extract is a stronger antioxidant compared to ordinary turmeric powder. Curcumin extract is also sometimes called turmeric extract or turmeric extract in practice, but it is actually something else.
Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
With the help of scientific research, turmeric, usually, specifically curcumin, has been associated with the following health benefits and medicinal effects…
Many of the studies and conclusions mentioned below are exploratory in nature and/or relatively small-scale. This means that although there are indications that curcumin has a beneficial effect on the diseases and disorders listed below, additional, larger-scale research is needed to confirm the preliminary conclusions.
One of the most beneficial properties of turmeric (particularly of the substance curcumin) is its anti-inflammatory effect. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory abilities are said to be comparable to anti-inflammatory drugs. Such anti-inflammatories are often accompanied by side effects, while curcumin would hardly be the case.
Substances with an anti-inflammatory effect are extremely beneficial for the human body. They support your immune system and contribute to physical recovery. So, on the one hand, you get sick less quickly and on the other hand, you get better faster. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin has been investigated in several studies (including this one and this one ).
Curcumin itself is an antioxidant ( source ), but it may also promote the functioning of the body’s own antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against free radicals (= oxidants). Free radicals can damage your body’s cells, which can lead to many diseases. This includes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The eyes, skin, and brain can also be affected by free radicals.
Hay fever & Allergies
Curcumin may have a beneficial effect on people with hay fever and other allergies. Curcumin is said to have an inhibitory effect on the release of histamine, among other things. According to this study, administering curcumin to animals had a positive effect on allergy symptoms.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect, curcumin could also be beneficial in asthma. This is confirmed by this research.
In arthritis, the joints become inflamed. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may provide relief for patients with arthritis. See this study.
Promotes brain activity and prevents brain diseases
Curcumin has been linked to a beneficial effect on brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF). This is a type of growth hormone that keeps your brain in good shape. This positive effect of curcumin may prevent or delay brain disorders. Your memory might also improve.
There is some evidence that curcumin is effective as an antidepressant. In addition, it is linked to the promotion of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, substances that have a positive influence on depression, among other things.
Both inflammation and oxidation play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Because curcumin may have a positive effect on both (see above), curcumin may have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, curcumin is linked to the disappearance of amyloid plaques, which play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease. There is some evidence that curcumin can be used to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as well as to treat it.
Heart and vascular disease
Curcumin could have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease. For example, curcumin contributes to the functioning of the endothelium. This serves to line the blood vessels. The fact that curcumin is linked to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (see above) can also have a very beneficial effect on the heart. This research underlines the protective role of curcumin in the development of cardiovascular diseases.
Prevent & treat cancer
Various studies (including this and this one ) have been done into the effect of curcumin and turmeric in relation to cancer. There is some evidence that curcumin may support anti-cancer treatment, as well as inhibit the growth of cancer cells and the spread of cancer. There is also some evidence that curcumin may even play a role in preventing cancer. This would especially be the case with cancers that originate in the digestive tract, such as colon cancer.
Other complaints & disorders
Because curcumin has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it can have a beneficial effect on many diseases and body processes. A wide range of diseases has one or more interfaces with inflammation and/or oxidation. Thus, curcumin can have a beneficial effect on, among other things:
- Gastric acid
- Stomach ulcers
- Joint Pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS / IBS)
- Gallbladder Problems
- Elevated Cholesterol
- Lung infection
- Lupus (SLE)
- Kidney problems
- eye inflammation
- Gum disease
Negative research results
While many exploratory studies have been conducted praising the effects of turmeric and curcumin, there are also studies that have failed to find any beneficial effects. In particular, the fact that curcumin is poorly absorbed by the human body is potentially problematic. In addition, there have been no scientific studies of curcumin that were double-blind and placebo-controlled.
This is the gold standard in science for making conclusions really credible. Finally, some of the studies that have been conducted may involve conflicts of interest. Think of researchers who are also producers of a curcumin supplement or scientists who are sponsored by a producer.
Incorporation of turmeric & curcumin
Unfortunately, the human body is naturally incapable of absorbing turmeric. The same goes for curcumin, the specific substance that is extracted from turmeric. There are indications that absorption can be improved by taking it together with fat or oil. Black pepper could also improve the absorption of turmeric and curcumin. This is due to the compound piperine in black pepper. According to this study, piperine improves curcumin absorption by 2000%.
There are generally not many side effects reported with the use of turmeric and curcumin. The most common side effects are abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea. Always consult your doctor before using a supplement and read the package insert carefully.
Curcumin is probably safe to use turmeric spice occasionally while cooking during pregnancy, taking a supplement containing turmeric, turmeric, or curcumin is not recommended. This is because there is some evidence that curcumin may affect the uterus and induce menstruation.
The dosage of turmeric or curcumin used differs greatly per the above research. In general, a dosage of 500mg to 1500mg or more per day has been studied. It is therefore unlikely that you will get enough turmeric through a regular meal (such as curry) to have any discernible health benefits. A curcumin supplement is therefore probably the best option if you want to test the health benefits of turmeric yourself.