- What are turmeric and curcumin? Turmeric is a spice used for its flavor and orange-yellow color. Curcumin is one of several curcuminoid compounds found in turmeric that give turmeric its color and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making turmeric root powders and extracts useful as dietary supplements (see What It Is).
- What are the health benefits of turmeric? Small clinical studies suggest that curcumin from turmeric is helpful for indigestion, ulcerative colitis, certain liver conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, seasonal allergies, as well as depression, and may have benefit in some precancerous conditions. Turmeric/curcumin may improve cognitive function in healthy older adults, but little benefit has been found in people with Alzheimer's disease. Other compounds in turmeric may also be active (see What It Does).
- How much turmeric to take? The typical daily dose ranges from 500 mg to 2,000 mg of curcuminoids (most of which is curcumin) from turmeric extracts (see Dosage), which can often be as much as 95% curcuminoids. Turmeric spice powder is much less concentrated — only about 3% curcuminoids— yet some turmeric supplements are just turmeric spice placed in capsules, offering much lower amounts of curcumin than supplements made from turmeric extracts.
- How do forms of turmeric differ? Turmeric and curcumin are not well absorbed on their own. See Absorption and Bioavailability to learn about bioavailability enhancement with ingredients such as BCM-95, C3 (which includes the black pepper extract Bioperine), CurcuWin, Longvida, phytosomal formulations such as Meriva, and other formulations including NovaSol, and Theracurmin.
- What did CL's tests of turmeric find? As shown in the Results Table below, a supplement from a major brand provided just 10 mg of curcuminoids, far less than the 100 mg or more in many other brands, and one supplement was found to contain just 82.7% of the curcuminoids expected by CL.
- Best turmeric/curcumin supplement? Among supplements that passed testing, we identified our Top Pick -- which provided curcumin at one of the lowest costs and includes a bioavailability enhancer to boost the amount of curcuminoids making it into your bloodstream (see Absorption and Bioavailability to learn about bioavailability enhancement with BCM-95, CurcuWin, Longvida, Meriva, NovaSol, Theracurmin, and C3 — which includes the black pepper extract Bioperine. Be aware that variations in color of these products can occur, and this does not necessarily indicate a problem with quality (see ConsumerTips).
We also selected a Top Pick for Dogs, as there is some evidence that curcumin/turmeric may be helpful for dogs with osteoarthritis.
- Best turmeric spice? We also purchased popular brands of turmeric spice, testing them for curcuminoid content, heavy metals (lead, cadmium and arsenic) and filth (e.g., insect fragments and mites). One product stood out for providing significantly more curcuminoids than other products -- as well as being less expensive and containing less filth -- and was chosen as our Top Pick for Spices.
- What is the best way to take curcumin and turmeric? It's generally best to take turmeric/curcumin with food containing some fat in order to increase absorption. If taking with just water, using a bioavailability-enhanced formula may increase the absorption (see the Best Way to Take Curcumin and Turmeric Supplements for details). To get the most from turmeric spice, use it in a meal that contains fats or oils, as well as some black pepper.
- Turmeric/curcumin safety and side effects: Turmeric/curcumin supplements are generally safe, but gastrointestinal side effects may occur with higher doses and they can cause problems for people with gallbladder disease, kidney stones, or those taking blood-thinning or blood-sugar-lowering medications. Rarely, liver injury has been reported. Curcumin may act as a MAO inhibitor, although this has not been studied in people. The safety of long-term supplementation has not been established. One of the bioavailability enhancers commonly added can potentially affect a number of drugs (see Concerns and Cautions).