Turmeric, a constituent of the Curcuma longa root, has taken the world by storm in the past decade. Research continues to surface, demonstrating a wide variety of health benefits and medicinal uses for turmeric supplements.
With thousands of studies in the books, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that curcumin’s therapeutic effects are both powerful and long-lasting. If you’re here right now, you may be looking for clarification on the terminology you’ve seen used when discussing Curcuma longa.
This article will explore the difference between turmeric and curcumin and how it relates to the Curcuma longa plant. We will also cover the many benefits of turmeric, as well as dosage recommendations and potential side effects.
- Our Picks: Best Turmeric Supplement
Curcuma Longa vs. Curcumin vs. Turmeric
Is curcumin the same as turmeric? Not exactly. Turmeric powder comes from the ground-up roots of the Curcuma longa plant. Within turmeric are curcuminoids, a potent compound that acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammation throughout the body. Studies show that curcumin provides most of the health benefits.
In simpler terms, curcumin is inside turmeric, which is inside Curcuma longa root.
That’s the shortened version of the primary distinction. They all have the same lineage but are quite different when you take a deeper dive. To get a better understanding of why turmeric is so popular, let’s analyze each component of Curcuma longa in more detail.
What is Curcuma Longa?
Curcuma longa is a perennial flowering plant classified in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and commonly used in Ayurveda. This herbaceous plant is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent and requires moderate temperatures and heavy annual rainfall to thrive. Curcuma is among the oldest spice plants cultivated in this region of the world.
What is Turmeric?
Each year, locals gather the Curcuma longa plants for their rhizomes, the main stem of the plant. Once the roots dry, they’re ground into an orange-yellow powder called turmeric and used as a flavoring agent in curry and other Asian cuisines. Because of this process, turmeric is also called turmeric root powder or Curcuma longa extract.
What is Curcumin?
About 3.14% of turmeric powder is curcumin, the primary driver of its health benefits. Our ancestors utilized curcumin in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. These curcuminoids display both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making them ideal for the treatment and prevention strategies of many diseases.
Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
What is Curcuma longa good for, and what are the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin? Scientific evidence points to several proven medicinal uses, including:
- It Reduces Inflammation: As far as natural anti-inflammatories go, turmeric is among the best in the world. Curcumin inhibits the chronic inflammation associated with arthritis and inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Studies show that turmeric is also beneficial for back pain and controlling the inflammation linked to asthma and allergies.
- It’s a Powerful Antioxidant: Curcumin has a positive track record of boosting your immune system response, preventing disease, and helping cold and flu symptoms. Turmeric may also serve as a complementary treatment method for thyroid disease, cancer, and fibromyalgia due to its innate ability to fight oxidative stress in the body.
- It Improves Cardiovascular Health: Research shows that curcumin can improve vascular endothelial function, which eases blood flow and reduces the strain placed on the heart. Turmeric may also lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- It Helps Weight Management: Studies show that curcumin may be able to improve metabolic disorders by regulating lipid metabolism and enhancing insulin sensitivity. Turmeric can even target adipose tissue, meaning that it has practical uses for both diabetes and weight loss.
- It Supports Cognitive Function: Curcumin can improve overall brain health in many ways. Most notably, it works to preserve mental acuity as we age. Studies indicate that turmeric may be beneficial in those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric can also help stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
- It Improves Liver Health: As the central filtration system in the body, the liver’s job is not only a tough one, but it’s critical. Multiple studies show that curcumin can help cleanse and detox the liver by facilitating the removal of foreign substances from the body.
- It Helps the Digestive System: If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), turmeric may be able to help reduce the severity of these conditions. Since curcumin possesses antifungal properties, it has also shown that it can effectively target fungal infections.
Turmeric vs. Curcumin: Which Should You Choose?
Is it better to take turmeric or curcumin? Most of the studies demonstrating significant health benefits use curcumin over turmeric. However, plenty of research exists indicating that you’ll achieve better benefits when using turmeric and curcumin, as opposed to curcumin alone.
We recommend picking a supplement that has both turmeric and curcumin together.
However, keep in mind that turmeric has very poor absorption in the body when used by itself. The addition of piperine (also known as black pepper extract or BioPerine) has shown that it can increase curcumin’s absorption by 20 times.
You should also look for a product that contains AstraGin, a natural ingredient that improves absorption by an additional 92% with the added benefit of supporting gut health.
What is the best form of turmeric to take? If you want a medicinal amount that’s likely to have actual benefits, we recommend using turmeric in pill or capsule form. Simply adding turmeric spice to food or using turmeric powder in a smoothie is unlikely to provide the quantity of curcumin needed to improve one’s health.
To tie this up, when selecting a product, pick a formula that has turmeric and black pepper together with AstraGin. Also, make sure the product discloses the exact amount of curcumin per serving. Ideally, look for somewhere between 150-250 mg of curcumin per serving, mixed with organic turmeric root powder.
Side Effects and Dosage
What are the side effects of curcumin? Turmeric side effects are very mild and rare under standard dosages. With substantial long-term doses, adverse reactions may include a skin rash, headaches, and nausea, gallbladder problems, kidney stones, digestive issues, or problems with blood sugar and blood clotting.
Who should not take curcumin? Remember, curcumin has anticoagulant properties. If you’re currently using a blood thinner, or if it’s just before or after surgery, you should not take turmeric. If you are pregnant or nursing, turmeric may be safe in the quantities found in food, but it is likely not safe to take in supplement form.
How much turmeric per day should you take? Studies indicate that curcumin is safe and well-tolerated in dosages up to 8,000 mg per day. However, this is an extremely high dosage, and more turmeric does not necessarily translate to more significant benefits.
Stick to the standard dosages provided by most dietary supplements for the best results. A product containing organic turmeric root powder, with piperine (black pepper extract) and AstraGin, and 150-250 mg of curcumin per serving is ideal for daily use.
Curcuma Longa: Final Thoughts
Curcuma longa is one of the most beneficial herbs we have. There’s a reason why our ancestors used the plant’s roots in therapeutic healing for thousands of years. While Curcuma does provide numerous health benefits, it’s essential to know the difference between turmeric and curcumin when you’re shopping for supplements online.
As always, if you’re considering adding turmeric capsules to your daily regimen, consult with a certified medical professional first to make sure it will work for your purposes.