Often, I’ll get people asking, “What’s the difference between turmeric and curcumin? Should I get the supplement, or the spice?”
Turmeric and Curcumin
It’s a great question. Turmeric (ter-mer-ick) is a spice made from the rhizomes (the horizontal root-like projections, just like ginger) of the Curcuma longa plant. It has been used as a spice, and in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine, for thousands of years.
Curcumin (ker-kew-min), on the other hand, is the active ingredient in turmeric, which is isolated and used in supplements. It regulates inflammatory responses, and recent studies suggest that it may be useful in the amelioration of MS, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, IBD, and other autoimmune conditions. Curcumin may function as an antioxidant, aid in glutathione synthesis, and some studies show that curcumin shows promise as an anti-cancer phytochemical. It also is being studied as an inhibitor in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Most studies done are on the benefits of curcumin, rather than on turmeric, as turmeric rhizome only contains about 2-5% curcumin. In order to reap the same level of benefits, you’d have to eat incredibly large amounts of the fresh or powdered turmeric.
Supplements or Food?
So should you supplement, or eat your curcuminoids? If you’ve been advised by a healthcare practitioner to take a curcumin supplement, then eating turmeric alone will not be potent enough to work in its place. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t consume turmeric as a spice. Regular consumption of curries, using turmeric as a spice, or even juicing the turmeric rhizome will still provide health benefits for those just looking for a reduction in inflammation, and a health boost.
If you have gallbladder issues, ulcers, or bleeding disorders, you should use turmeric and curcumin with caution. As always, check with your healthcare practitioner before adding a new supplement to your routine.
About The Author:
Kelly Boaz, CNP
Kelly is a holistic nutritionist, specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. She is also a public speaker (TEDx King St. West, TDSB) and a writer. Learn more about Kelly, and about booking private consultations at kellyboaz.com Twitter: @kelly_boaz Facebook: /KellyBoazDotCom
Thank you for sharing this information. So very helpful. I have only bought powdered tumeric. I did not know I could get it fresh. Thanks for inspiring.
Hi Madeline, So happy to be able to help! Fresh turmeric is new to us, in the last year or so, but we’re loving it! Very similar to ginger but, as you can see in the picture, it looks a little like overgrown worms. Enjoy!