There's a common misconception that Turmeric and Curcumin are the same; this stems from the word used to describe the same plant (Curcuma Longa) across different languages. Some use Curcumin and its equivalent forms, while others call it Turmeric.
However, there's a strict distinction between the two. Ayurvedic medicine has always seen the use of turmeric in some areas of the world, most notably Asia. Turmeric spice is usually strikingly yellow, prompting some people to call it “Indian saffron' or the 'Golden spice.”
It has been in use since many centuries ago due to its numerous health benefits, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. In recent years, Turmeric's interest has grown, making it one of the most sought-after spices worldwide.
Curcumin is the active compound within Turmeric, and Curcumin is actually what gives Turmeric its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This article will look at the difference between turmeric and Curcumin and why it's important to keep them apart.
What are Turmeric and Curcumin?
Turmeric is taken from the Curcuma Longa plant. Curcuma Longa itself belongs to the ginger family of plants and has a similar albeit milder taste. You can purchase it in either spice form or fresh, in which case it looks virtually the same as ginger root.
Turmeric powder is ubiquitous in India and Southeast Asia, where the plant has been a staple choice in traditional medicine. It's been used to treat a variety of health conditions such as digestive issues, skin conditions, pain, and heart disease.
But more on the benefits of turmeric later.
As far as turmeric is concerned, it's filled with a wide variety of plant compounds, the healthiest of which are Curcuminoids. There are three main Curcuminoids with health benefits: demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and Curcumin.
The latter is the strongest and with the most health benefits. Turmeric preparations contain between 2% and 8% of Curcumin, providing turmeric root and turmeric powder with its stunning yellow color and intriguing taste.
So, if you want to reduce symptoms of an illness you're experiencing, taking turmeric and Curcumin supplements may be the way to go. Now let's learn more about the turmeric and Curcumin health benefits.
The Many Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric and Curcumin are packed to the brim with an incredible amount of health-positive compounds, many of which exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Curcuma Longa is not just a beautiful flowering plant but also a potential lifesaver if we look at its usage history.
In any case, here are the main health benefits of Curcumin in Turmeric:
Obesity is one of the most common medical conditions that can lead to numerous other illnesses such as elevated blood sugar levels, heart disease, fatigue, high blood pressure, and more.
One of the benefits of Curcumin (and, by extension, turmeric) is the ability to effectively regulate body fat by inhibiting certain inflammatory markers and pathways. It must be noted that it won't completely prevent obesity, especially if an individual leads an unhealthy life.
Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric and Curcumin also prevent potential digestive issues.
Osteoarthritis is the most common variant of arthritis among humans; it usually requires surgery to deal with, and even then, the afflicted individual may experience pain and discomfort.
Thanks to the plant compounds found in turmeric (including Curcumin), the appearance of inflammation markers are reduced. A Curcumin supplement is also capable of helping individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammation medical conditions.
Although more research is needed on turmeric and liver health, a preliminary study conducted on rats has shown positive results. The liver is an organ that does its job perfectly - filtering blood.
When the liver is afflicted with specific ailments and is not working properly, potentially even experiencing damage, our blood doesn't get filtered and keeps some of the toxins. These toxins are then carried throughout the cardiovascular system.
Liver failure is hazardous and should be dealt with immediately. Luckily, the Curcumin rat study has shown that turmeric reduces oxidative stress on the liver, ultimately guarding it against damage.
Diabetes is a terrible disease that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and there's no cure. Epipens are a lifeline, but their effects aren't permanent. On top of that, we still haven't managed to find a better solution for diabetes, although some scientists are hopeful.
Nonetheless, the main goal of every one of us is to prevent diabetes by living healthily and taking care of sugar intake. The wondrous Curcuma Longa flowering plant provides us with Turmeric and Curcumin that improve blood-sugar metabolism and reduces the possibility of an individual 'contracting' diabetes.
Finally, Curcumin is excellent for stopping diabetes markers before they evolve into a fully-fledged illness by regulating blood sugar levels.
Cardiovascular health is a big deal in a world where most of us sit in an office, barely moving throughout the day. And even then, heart disease-causing bacteria can drastically impact an individual's life.
For example, high cholesterol levels are usually associated with high blood pressure. LDL (bad) cholesterol is found in certain foods such as red meat, processed meat, sweets, fried food, and full-fat dairy. You won't find these often in Indian cooking but what you will find is loads of Turmeric and Curcumin.
It's been noticed that Curcumin and turmeric reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in an individual and influence the triglycerides in one's body, ultimately lowering the risk of heart conditions.
Cancer is one of the most devastating and toughest illnesses in the world - and there's not just one of them. The numerous cancers that humans can experience are similar but different enough to require specific treatment.
As such, turmeric isn't a miracle cure, no matter how powerful its medicinal properties are. However, certain preliminary studies have shown that Curcumin and Turmeric can influence certain cancer cells, specifically colon cancer ones.
With that said, more research is needed on Curcuma Longa and the turmeric root to determine whether or not its cancer-preventing benefits are legit.
The health benefits of turmeric supplements and turmeric extract cannot be under-appreciated or underestimated. Of course, turmeric in powder form will also have antibacterial and antioxidant properties, but it will be poorly absorbed.
More on that later.
In any case, turmeric and Curcumin have powerful antibacterial effects and can prevent the growth of certain disease-causing bacteria.
There are no other compounds in turmeric that exhibit antifungal properties apart from Curcumin. Curcumin can easily disrupt fungal cell membranes, fully protecting the individual against them.
Fungal medication can be used in conjunction with a turmeric supplement or turmeric extracts to enhance the antifungal benefits.
Downsides of Curcumin and Turmeric
While the Curcuma Longa plant gives us turmeric filled with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, it's not without flaws. However, the key differences between turmeric (and Curcumin) and other natural medicine are that these two almost don't have any, and they generally aren't anything serious.
The primary issue with Curcumin is that our bodies aren't entirely equipped to absorb it properly. Because of this, most people prefer taking turmeric in supplement form or as an extract to enhance the absorption process.
However, one of the best ways to improve Curcumin absorption is by taking black pepper (or black pepper extract) in conjunction with Turmeric. Black pepper has its own anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties while also enabling our bodies to process Curcumin properly.
There also seems to be a correlation between cognitive function improvements and turmeric and Curcumin, but more research needs to be done to confirm this.
Adverse Effects at High Doses
Certain side effects that a person may experience after taking Curcumin and turmeric are dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. These side effects only occur at high doses or in sensitive individuals.
A word of advice - do not take Curcumin supplements if you're on blood-thinning medication. Curcumin also acts as a blood thinner and it can negatively interact with your medication. It doesn't even have to be a high concentration of Curcumin - avoid it until you're done with the blood thinners.
Curcumin Supplementation or Turmeric Supplements?
The truth is, it doesn't really matter. Some pills are marketed as supplements with Curcumin while others are 'turmeric supplements'. They are the absolute same so don't let the terms confuse you.
However, Curcumin can be helpful on its own (without other plant compounds found in turmeric) in specific situations, specifically regarding diabetes. Although both turmeric and Curcumin are great for preventing diabetes, Curcumin by itself is more effective.
The reason for this is the ability of Curcumin to reduce inflammation markers such as TNF (Tumor cells Necrosis Factor) and IL-6 (InterLeukin 6). These two markers are the most significant contributors to type 2 diabetes.
So, if you manage to find supplements with Curcumin instead of turmeric, be sure to grab some, as it does seem to have more potent effects than turmeric.
Simply put, the benefits of Curcumin and Turmeric are plenty. This simple spice should be a staple ingredient in many dishes around the world, not just due to its benefits but also for its taste.
The whole turmeric vs Curcumin story is predominantly a battle of language terms and translations instead of two powerhouse components of healthy living. To some, the extent of Curcumin benefits seems unreal but, those who have dabbled with traditional medicine in the past are perfectly familiar with its effects.
In any case, even if you aren't currently suffering from any ailments, incorporating Curcumin into your diet might be a good idea to both prevent certain health conditions from appearing and to introduce a new flavor.
All in all, this incredible spice has proven time and time again that it's an incredible piece of nature that we have at our fingertips.