Turmeric vs. Curcumin Supplements

If you thought turmeric and curcumin were the same things, you’re not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. This article will put an end to your confusion once and for all.  This way, the next time someone mixes the two up, you can show off your newly acquired knowledge and help others choose the best option for their health. 

What is the Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin?





Turmeric is a root or rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant, a flowering variety of the ginger family of rhizomes and plants. The turmeric stalk looks like a ginger root, except that it has a richer yellow-golden hue.

Curcumin is a compound that is a part of turmeric. The golden hue is imparted by the carotenoid compounds, i.e., curcumin, which constitutes one part of the polyphenolic pigments in turmeric, the other two of which are bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin. Curcumin imparts most of the beneficial properties attributed to turmeric, particularly its antioxidant qualities. Curcumin constitutes only about 2-8% - on average 3% of turmeric, but it gives turmeric its color and flavor


Turmeric is ground and powdered, used mainly as a spice in Indian cooking. But it can also be used for herbal teas and in drinks like turmeric lattes. You can get it as full roots, powders, extracts, or supplements. 

You can get curcumin by consuming turmeric as a whole or taking it in a more concentrated form as a supplement. Usually, concentrated forms are taken when you want to see clinically discernible and relevant responses.


Turmeric extract is made by grating turmeric roots and letting the shreds of turmeric dissolve in edible solvents.

Curcumin extract is harder to extract – when taken from turmeric supplements, you can get a total 100% dosage, as compared to only 95% from a turmeric extract and a tiny 3% from turmeric root powder. Curcumin is isolated from the turmeric source of choice and extracted using chromatography, which separates the different components of a mixture. 

Should You Choose Turmeric or Curcumin?

The obvious question now is which version you should choose and if it even makes a difference considering curcumin is already part of turmeric. 

It comes down to factors like bioavailability and your biological makeup and requirements. Let's look at these in turn −


This term refers to the ability of the active nutrient/ingredient to be effectively absorbed and utilized by its destination cells/organs. As a whole, turmeric has less absorption capacity since it is not in a concentrated form. It is added to cooking because oils and fats enhance bioavailability. Cooking foods with turmeric, seasoned with some oils, or adding it to milk with fats, will improve its absorption and effectiveness in our system. Black pepper is also very effective at enhancing the potency of turmeric and curcumin because it contains a compound called piperine. Many curcumin supplements have added piperine and fatty acids that raise the bioavailability factor by as 2000% by slowing down the rate at which curcumin is digested or broken down, thus allowing longer retention in the body. Using turmeric root is also helpful rather than powder form because the root has some essential oils that enhance bioavailability.

Biological Structure

Some people are sensitive to certain compounds in a highly concentrated or supplement format. For them, integrating turmeric use into your daily habits in a small, gradual way will prevent any side effects or discomfort. For example, you can add it when you cook certain dishes or add a little pinch to your morning cup of lukewarm water. Then you can increase its use by sprinkling it on top of soups or roasted greens, add some to scrambled eggs or hummus, tofu, rice, and keema, to name a few options. This way, your body gets subtly acclimated to turmeric not to shock your system and yet reap the benefits of better overall health and quality sleep.

If you don’t have nutritional sensitivities, you can take concentrated curcumin supplements that are more impactful and discernible. But choose supplements of high quality that have high bioavailability because curcumin has an even lower ability to absorb into the bloodstream.

Choose those which have a significant clinical bioactivity potential to get to high enough levels in the blood, and in doing so, consult your doctor to check which suits you best. Both turmeric and curcumin can cause stomach discomfort in the form of diarrhea or nausea. People taking medication for hypertension, using NSAIDs, or having allopathic medication in general, should consult a doctor before using any of these supplements, as should those people with health problems like kidney disease, gallstones, and autoimmune disorders. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid these supplements or take them only if recommended by a physician.

Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

These compounds have antibacterial, antifungal, and inflammatory impacts. Their antioxidant properties can help to reduce oxidative stress that contributes to liver damage, mitigate cancerous cell growth, and modulate blood sugar metabolism to keep diabetes at bay or reduce its impact. Keep in mind that none of these effects have been proven – effects have only been potentially indicated scientifically through studies. These supplements may also be useful for people with arthritis, kidney problems, degenerative eye disease, inflammatory conditions, and lifestyle diseases like obesity or to reduce LDL, i.e., low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease.

The only difference is that curcumin may have a stronger anti-inflammatory effect for conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis as it directly targets endothelial cells. Likewise, turmeric had additional plant compounds besides curcuminoids, which have their fair share of wholesome health benefits not found in isolated curcumin. 


Whether you holistically integrate turmeric into your lifestyle or you choose turmeric or curcumin supplements, taken in moderation and with the advice of a medical professional – it can be an excellent addition to your overall well-being.