Curcumin vs. Turmeric: What’s the Difference?

Published on January 18, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Turmeric supplements are some of the most popular on the market. REF#305

From pills to tinctures and beauty products to topical creams, Turmeric and Turmeric/Curcumin formulas are everywhere; and they have an impressive body of research behind them. REF#306

However, this has left many people questioning the difference between Turmeric supplements versus combinations of Turmeric and Curcumin. 

Some of the most frequently asked questions include

  • Is Curcumin the same as Turmeric? 
  • What’s the difference between the two (and does it matter)?
  • Do Turmeric and Curcumin have the same potential health benefits?
  • And which is better for supporting health and well-being?

This article will answer all your Turmeric vs. Curcumin questions, so you can make the best decision to support your well-being.*

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, “the golden spice,” or “Indian saffron,” is a bright orange rhizome (the stem below the ground) belonging to the ginger family. 

It’s grown and cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, primarily India, where it’s been used in Ayurveda (the traditional wellness practice of India) for over 4000 years.

Per information published in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, REF#306

Turmeric’s use spread worldwide, with experts estimating it reached China by 700 ad, East Africa by 800 ad, West Africa by 1200 ad, and Jamaica in the eighteenth century. 

Turmeric’s traditional uses are vast and include: REF#306

  • Immune support
  • Digestive complaints
  • Skin issues
  • Liver ailments
  • Anti-aging and beauty
  • Aches & pains
  • Inflammation
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Wound healing
  • Urinary support
  • Food poisoning

It is evident that modern medical science has taken a great interest in Turmeric, by the over 3000 published studies conducted over the last 25+ years. REF#306

These studies revealed several active plant compounds (also known as phytochemicals) in Turmeric, which are responsible for many of its benefits.*

The most studied phytochemicals in Turmeric belong to the Curcuminoid family. 

This brings us to the next question: What is Curcumin?

What is Curcumin?

As you may have guessed, Curcumin is one of over 100 active phytochemical compounds in Turmeric belonging to the Curcumonoid family.

Gaia Herbs has a variety of Turmeric supplements to choose from, including

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and is considered the primary active component in Turmeric.

It’s also one of the most studied phytochemicals on the planet, with over 2100 studies/references in the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Database.[3]

Curcumin is widely available as a supplement, either as a stand-alone product or as part of Turmeric formulas, as a food coloring, as an ingredient in skincare and personal care products, and in some medicines.

The Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin

As you’ve just learned, Turmeric is a rhizome belonging to the ginger family. 

It is available as a fresh spice, a dried spice, in spice mixes and curries, as a supplement, and in skin, body, and hair care products.

Curcumin is an active component of the Turmeric spice—and part of what gives Turmeric its yellow hue. 

The average Turmeric powder contains 2-8% Curcumin. REF#308

You get Curcumin by consuming Turmeric or isolated Curcumin extracts found in supplements, certain foods (Curcumin is used as a food coloring and additive), and medicines.

The takeaway: Curcumin is a component of Turmeric and is therefore not the same as the Turmeric rhizome.

Now that you understand the difference between Curcumin and Turmeric, let’s explore their health benefits.

Health Benefits Of Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric and Curcumin share many of the same demonstrated health benefits.* 

Some of these include:

Antioxidant support

Turmeric and Curcumin are both powerful antioxidants that help support: REF#309 

  • Balanced inflammation
  • Immunity
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Cellular health
  • And healthy aging

The antioxidants in Turmeric and Curcumin also have individual benefits, which we’ll discuss more in the next section.

Skin Benefits

Turmeric and Curcumin have demonstrated several benefits to the skin, including:

  • Supporting dermal microbiome health
  • Speeding wound healing REF#310
  • Reducing acne REF#311
  • Balancing sebum production REF#311
  • Supporting skin barrier function REF#312
  • Promoting healing of skin burns, including sunburns REF#313
  • Reducing signs of aging via antioxidant support REF#314

To learn more about the science and application of Turmeric and Curcumin for skin care, check out 7 Remarkable Ways Turmeric Benefits the Skin.

Heart and Cardiovascular Support

Turmeric and Curcumin have shown balancing effects on cholesterol levels, which may help promote better cardiovascular healthREF#315

Turmeric and Curcumin’s antioxidant properties have also been shown to support heart health. REF#316 REF#317

May Promote Weight Management

Turmeric and Curcumin have demonstrated a potential benefit to weight management by supporting an inflammatory pathway related to weight gain, as well as functions relating to appetite control and body fat regulation. REF#318 REF#319

Microbiome Support

Curcumin and Turmeric have been shown to positively impact the diversity of gut microbiota.* Although scientists hypothesize Curcumin has the more significant influence. REF#320

Turmeric and Curcumin may also support a healthy microbiome through their bacterial- and fungal-balancing properties. REF#321 REF#322

Blood Sugar Balance

Curcumin and Turmeric have been shown to support normal sugar metabolism in people with blood sugar imbalances. REF#323 REF#324

More research is needed to determine the exact mechanism of action. Still, they both have liver-supportive properties—which is important because the liver plays a critical role in sugar metabolism via enzymes and the storage and release of glucose.

Joint Support

Curcumin and Turmeric’s antioxidant properties have been shown to support healthy joints and mobility. REF#325 REF#326

This is a sampling of the shared health benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin. 

Next, we’ll look at a few of their health benefits to help you decide which may be right for you.

Curcumin vs. Turmeric: Which Has More Potential Benefits?

Many traditional herbalists, scientists, and Ayurvedic practitioners insist whole Turmeric vs. Curcumin extracts are the best and safest way to reap the most benefits.

The argument is that Curcuminoids represent a small fraction of the hundreds of potentially beneficial plant phytochemicals and nutrients found in Turmeric. 

Some of these include: REF#306

  • Polyphenols
  • Volatile oils
  • Antioxidants beyond Curcumin such as 5’-methoxyCurcumin, and dihydroCurcumin,
  • Aromatic compounds such as turmerone
  • Polysaccharides
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • a-Linoleic Acid
  • And more. 

In other words, by consuming whole Turmeric vs. an isolate, you’re receiving a potentially broader spectrum of benefits in addition to the Curcumin.

Plus, Turmeric has been the subject of thousands of studies. And its other non-Curcumin components have demonstrated some superior benefits for brain health and brain aging, REF#327 REF#328 cell health, REF#306 and fungal balance, REF#329 than Curcumin.

However, Curcumin has also been the subject of thousands of studies demonstrating its prowess for various health issues.

Some of those studies suggest Curcumin may have an edge over Turmeric in certain circumstances, including bone health, REF#330 inflammatory response, REF#331 and wound healing. REF#310

Ultimately, more research is needed to determine which may be optimal for specific health concerns.

We are proponents of broad-spectrum Turmeric supplements vs. Curcumin isolates at Gaia Herbs due to the demonstrated benefits of Turmeric’s many phytochemicals.

Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner when deciding if Turmeric vs. Curcumin is better for you.

How To Choose the Best Turmeric or Curcumin Supplement

Taking supplements is a convenient and efficient way to increase the amount of Turmeric in your diet.

Whether you take broad-spectrum Turmeric, Curcumin, or a Turmeric/Curcumin combination supplement, keep these five tips in mind:

  • Look for Turmeric or Curcumin supplements with Black Pepper Extract or “Piperine.” The digestive system poorly absorbs curcuminoids. However, Black Pepper Extract (also known as piperine) is used to help increase the bioavailability of Curcuminpods in Turmeric or Curcumin supplements. REF#332
  • Insist on Turmeric products that are sustainably and naturally grown. 
  • Look for companies that follow cGMP manufacturing practices and do third-party testing for identity and contaminants, such as heavy metal, mold, and more.
  • If you follow the principles of a whole foods diet, consider broad-spectrum Turmeric Supplements. This ensures you’re getting all the potential health benefits of the whole Turmeric rhizome vs. isolated Curcumin.
  • Get familiar with a company’s extraction methods. Chemical solvent extractions are a cheap way to make Turmeric and Curcumin supplements. Unfortunately, they leave behind chemical residues you don’t want in your supplement! Instead, look for gentle extraction methods, such as water or ethanol, that preserve potency and leave no potentially harmful residues.

    Learn more about choosing a quality Turmeric or Curcumin supplement in: Turmeric: 4 Tips For Choosing the Highest Quality Supplements.

    Want More Turmeric In Your Diet? Try These Recipes

    Traditional Asian cultures consumed most of their Turmeric from foods such as curries, soups, stews, and other simple dishes and beverages.

    Some experts believe part of the reason Asians tend to enjoy better health is because of spices like Turmeric.

    If you’re interested in getting more Turmeric into your diet the traditional way, check out these recipes:

      Curcumin vs. Turmeric: The Final Verdict

      More research is needed to make a definitive conclusion about whether Turmeric or Curcumin is superior for specific concerns.

      What we do know, as demonstrated by the research in this article and 4000+ years of traditional use, is that Turmeric is a powerful herbal ally for providing board-spectrum health and wellness support.*

      Curcumin has been shown to play a significant role in its beneficial properties…

      …but it’s not the only active component at play.

      Therefore, we have a choice: choose the whole herb or an isolate.

      The right choice for you is individual and should be left up to you and your healthcare practitioner.

      Regardless, it is evident that Turmeric and Curcumin can provide fantastic support for a healthy lifestyle.


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