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Turmeric Spice vs. Turmeric Supplements

Question:
How does turmeric spice compare to turmeric (curcumin) in supplements? I sprinkle it on my foods and wonder if that's equivalent to taking a supplement.

Answer:
Turmeric spice is ground (dried) turmeric herb — specifically the root/rhizome, sold as a powder. Consuming between ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (about 2.5 to 5 grams) with food has been found to have certain digestive and cognitive benefits
 
Most clinical studies, however, have not used turmeric powder, but turmeric extract. Only about 3% of the weight of turmeric powder is curcumin and "curcuminoid" compounds -- which are believed to be important to turmeric's effects. In turmeric extracts, the concentration of these is often increased to as high as 95%. 
 
Therefore, it is not unusual for a capsule containing half of a gram of turmeric extract to provide 400 mg of curcuminoids, while the same amount of turmeric powder (ground herb -- just like the spice) might provide only about 15 mg. In fact, in 2013, ConsumerLab.com found that capsules of turmeric "herb" (not extract) from a well-known supplement brand contained only 3 mg of curcuminoids per capsule. Many brands of turmeric supplements contain a combination of extract and herb, and the ratio will greatly affect the amount of curcuminoids you get, so be sure to check the amounts of curcuminoids in popular supplements in ConsumerLab.com's Review of Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices >>.
 
One advantage of using turmeric spice, as opposed to a supplement, is that you are more likely to consume it with fats or oils from your food. This will enhance absorption of curcuminoids in the turmeric, as they are lipophilic (they attach to fats). You should take turmeric supplements with meals for the same reason and/or choose a supplement which includes a bioavailability enhancer (as discussed in detail in the Review). 

Another way that turmeric extracts differ from turmeric powders is that extracts are less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead, and do not contain the filth (insect parts and rodent hairs) normally found to varying degrees in the powders. In the Review, you'll also see our tests of levels of filth and heavy metals in popular turmeric spices for cooking, plus the dosage of herb or extract used in treating conditions such as ulcerative colitis, uveitis, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetes, depression, and cognitive function.

Learn More About Turmeric:



I read that turmeric may be a GI irritant. I have GI problems and wonder if I should avoid turmeric and curcumin? >>

Is it safe to take curcumin or turmeric supplements for a long period of time? >>

There are many reports of lead contamination in turmeric spice. How can I make sure I'm not getting lead in my turmeric supplement or spice? >>

How does regular black pepper compare with black pepper extract used in supplements? Will sprinkling it on food with turmeric help increase the bioavailability of curcumin compounds from turmeric? >>

Do turmeric and curcumin supplements contain significant amounts of oxalates? Can this increase my risk of kidney stones? >>

What are the side effects of curcumin and turmeric? >>



See other recent and popular questions >>
Comments
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Laura11702   February 15, 2017
I've been making turmeric paste using the ground herb. I noticed a significant difference (positive) in taking this as opposed to capsules and tablets purchased from various places. The paste is made by cooking to turmeric in water and then mixing it with coconut oil and black pepper to make a paste. If the ground herb is not as potent in the curcuminoid compounds, I'm wondering why I noticed significant improvement in myself and my dogs when taking it and I didn't notice any difference while on commercial brands. Is it the cooking or combination with other ingredients?

ConsumerLab.com   February 15, 2017
How are you consuming the paste and how are you consuming the capsules? If you consume the paste with food (anything with oils) but are taking the capsules without food, curcuminoids in the paste will be better absorbed (assuming no special bioavailablity enhancers in the capsule).

Laura11705   February 15, 2017
I put the paste in my protein drink in the morning and at night I put it in hot water with a bit of stevia for a tea. Took it three times and noticed a huge difference that fast. The capsules I was taking with the rest of my supplements in the morning with breakfast. Never noticed a difference in years of taking them.

Laura11706   February 15, 2017
Note that breakfast I took the caps with is the same protein drink I put the paste in.

Laureen11711   February 15, 2017
I know that pepper helps the turmeric absorb in your body.. along with coconut oil.. I use almond milk..

chuck11540   January 1, 2017
I use my juicer to juice/grind turmeric root I purchase. Wouldn't that be the best source?

ConsumerLab.com   January 2, 2017
Hi Chuck - It is certainly okay to use the root, but be sure you are taking it along with fats so that you will better absorb the key curcuminoid compounds.

James11289   September 21, 2016
Can you open a capsule of turmeric extract and use it in cooking to get the benefits of both the concentrated extract and using it in cooking? Or does it taste different?

ConsumerLab.com   September 21, 2016
The most important benefit of cooking with turmeric is that the turmeric will be consumed with fats/oils which aid its absorption. So, rather than cooking with material from a supplement, just take the supplement with a meal which contains fats/oils.

ConsumerLab.com   September 20, 2016
Interestingly, a British TV program, "Trust me I'm a Doctor," recently ran an experiment in which people were given equal amounts (1 teaspoon) of turmeric powder either for cooking or to take as a supplement, and some people received a placebo capsule. After using daily six weeks, only those who used turmeric for cooking showed a change in the activity of a gene associated with risks of depression and anxiety, asthma and eczema, and cancer -- which may turn out to be a beneficial effect. Additional analyses of the results are underway, but it is believed that better absorption occured with the turmeric used for cooking. More information is found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/PSTGKKt3HR08tmK69w7J1b/does-turmeric-really-help-protect-us-from-cancer.

Carolyn8511   March 9, 2016
My doctor has me taking Thorne Meriva and each capsule contains 500 mg. circumin. Is this a good and safe product. I am inquiring because you do not have this company listed.

margaret11335   October 12, 2016
I have been using the Thorne Meriva SR for 6-8 mos. and I think it works. I have had fibromyalgia for many years and much leg and joint pain. It was also doctor recommended. She likes the Thorne products.

ConsumerLab.com   March 10, 2016
Hi Carolyn - We did not test this product in our most recent review; however, you can find more information about Meriva in the "Bioavailability" section of the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/t_/turmeric/#meriva

christine8137   December 4, 2015
Is it safe to take a Tumeric supplement with Xarelto for A Fib?

ConsumerLab.com   December 31, 2015
Hi Christine - Please see the "Cautions" section of the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements Review for information about taking turmeric/curcumin with blood-thinning medication: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/turmeric-curcumin-supplements-spice-review/turmeric/#cautions

Howard8126   December 3, 2015
It is my understanding that turmeric needs to be taken with black pepper in order to be effective. Is that the case and, if so, how does that work with supplements. Thanks in advance.

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Hi Howard - It's true that only a limited percentage of curcumin will be absorbed when taken orally, which is why a number of supplements contain bioavailability enhancers, such as black pepper extract. Bioavailability can also be increased by eating certain foods with turmeric/curcumin. Please see the "Bioavailability" section of the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review for details: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/turmeric/#bioavailability. You may also be interested in this related CL Answer: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/turmeric_black_pepper/

Barbara8125   December 2, 2015
I have been growing turmeric for a few years. After harvesting it I slice, dehydrate, then pulverize it. Recently i mix it with pepper as suggested by herbalists for better absorbing. I've use in cooking. Lately I found it delicious sprinkled with pepper on popcorn.
I found your article enlightening since I used to think that it was just commercial hype to buy the expensive supplements. Of course I don't worry about dirt and insects since i have full control of the powder I make. But I do want to know where lead and heavy metals come that you mentioned. Are they naturally in the plant or do they pick it up in the commercial processes of preparing the powder for culinary use? And either way, does that make it unsafe to eat a lot turmeric either from garden or commercial powder?

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Hi Barbara - Plants, including turmeric, absorb heavy metals from the soil they are grown in.

Mykola8124   December 2, 2015
Don't forget that curcumin supplements containing Meriva (trademark) are considerably more absorbed by the body than those without. There is also another absorption enhancer ... I think its a black pepper extract.

jack8123   December 2, 2015
This link, circa 2012, shows Dr. Oz saying Turmeric may stave off Alzheimer's. Any more info on this?

Amy8184   December 16, 2015
Hi Jack - Thank you for your question. We've now answered it here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/curcumin_Alzheimers/

janine8119   December 2, 2015
What about fresh turmeric. I eat it raw in my smoothies and cooked in veggie stir fry.

susan8117   December 2, 2015
i have found that taking 1500mg of curcumin as a supplement has helped with pain in my hand. i am a body worker and it is very important for me to be painfree so i can work. curcumin does seem to do the trick. i think the research information provided by consumer labs helps me make informed choices

Layne8115   December 2, 2015
So, I'm not clear, this seems to mean you should take the supplement, not the powdered spice itself, but the opening line was that 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the powder showed benefits. But the study didn't use powder? If the supplement provides 400 mg of the substance that is supposedly of benefit, and the powder provides 15 mg. you'd be using many times more than the 1/2 to 1 tsp of powder. So, is that the point, that you have to take the supplement to get the benefits because you need way more than is in the powder?

ConsumerLab.com   December 2, 2015
Hi Layne - You can get some benefit with the powder (which is the same as the spice), but not just with a little sprinkle -- you need 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. However, the most of the anti-inflammatory effects have been shown using extracts, not powders.

Wendi8118   December 2, 2015
What about using the actual root - the turmeric root blended in blender with a smoothie? Any idea on the mg. there? I use it with ginger root and cayenne pepper and raw lemon with raw honey this way. Helps a lot but I have no idea the amount of turmeric I get.

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Hi Wendi - We were unable to read the amount of root you stated you used in your comment, but as discussed in the answer above, about 3% of the weight of turmeric powder (which is made from the root/rhizome) is curcumin and other curcuminoid compounds.

gerri8122   December 2, 2015
Whoo! spice.. supplement.. I only want to know which is the most absorbed by the body and what is the dose...... Thanks

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Hi Gerri - You can find information about absorption and dose in the ConsumerTips section of the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/turmeric/#tips

Marge8121   December 2, 2015
As pointed out in the article, most of the work has been done on the turmeric extract, curcuminoid. The levels of curcuminoid in extract are more or less a "pharmaceutical" dose in that it is not something you would get from turmeric in foods. Many of the epidemiological studies look at dietary levels of tumeric in populations that normally ingest it and there is benefit seen at these levels of total turmeric intake on every day inflammation levels. Clinical studies looking at curcuminoid extract are usually measuring the effect of a large, concentrated dose of curcuminoid on an outcome in a population with some sort of disease state that can be clearly identified and measured.

Which form is best for you depends on why you want to use turmeric, every day health or to alleviate the result of a disease. While both turmeric and curcuminoid extract can be successful at improving inflammatory profiles, neither are known to resolve the underlying, original cause of your inflammation. If you seem to require pharmaceutical doses of turmeric to acheive the result you are looking for, be sure to also address your other risk factors. It is always best to take the least amount of any supplement/med that gives you the best result.

richard j11528   December 31, 2016
People generally refer to curcuminoids (plural). Curcumin is one curcuminoid. Other examples are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.

ConsumerLab.com   December 3, 2015
Sound advice, Marge. Thanks for posting.

Integral Yoga8133   December 3, 2015
Curcuminoids are just one of the constituents in Turmeric. Some see more benefit from taking the whole herb because all the constituents work together synergistically to have a healing effect on the body.

richard j11529   December 31, 2016
Curcuminoids (plural) are actually a category that includes many constituents.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curcuminoid
I think what you meant to say is that *curcumin* is just one of the consituents of turmeric. Alternatively, you could say curcumin is just one curcuminoid.

This CL Answer initially posted on 12/1/2015. Last updated 8/2/2017.

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