Turmeric, a constituent of the Curcuma longa root, has taken the world by storm in the past decade. Research continues to surface, demonstrating a wide variety of health benefits and medicinal uses for turmeric supplements.
With thousands of studies in the books, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that curcumin’s therapeutic effects are both powerful and long-lasting. If you’re here right now, you may be looking for clarification on the terminology you’ve seen used when discussing Curcuma longa.
This article will explore the difference between turmeric and curcumin and how it relates to the Curcuma longa plant. We will also cover the many benefits of turmeric, as well as dosage recommendations and potential side effects.
Curcuma Longa vs. Curcumin vs. Turmeric
What is the difference between turmeric and curcumin? Turmeric powder comes from the ground up roots of the Curcuma longa plant. Within turmeric are curcuminoids, a potent compound that acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammation throughout the body. Studies show that curcumin provides most of the health benefits.
In simpler terms, curcumin is inside turmeric, which is inside Curcuma longa root.
That’s the shortened version of the primary distinction. They all have the same lineage but are quite different when you take a deeper dive. To get a better understanding of why turmeric is so popular, let’s analyze each component of Curcuma longa in more detail.
What is Curcuma Longa?
Curcuma longa is a perennial flowering plant classified in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and commonly used in Ayurveda. This herbaceous plant is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent and requires moderate temperatures and heavy annual rainfall to thrive. Curcuma is among the oldest spice plants cultivated in this region of the world. (1)
What is Turmeric?
Each year, locals gather the Curcuma longa plants for their rhizomes, the main stem of the plant. Once the roots dry, they’re ground into an orange-yellow powder called turmeric and used as a flavoring agent in curry and other Asian cuisines. Because of this process, turmeric is also called turmeric root powder or Curcuma longa extract. (2)
What is Curcumin?
About 3% of turmeric powder is curcumin, the primary driver of its health benefits. Our ancestors utilized curcumin in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. These curcuminoids display both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making them ideal for the treatment and prevention strategies of many diseases. (3, 4)
Curcuma Longa Benefits & Uses
Why do so many people use turmeric and curcumin, and what are the health benefits of Curcuma longa? Scientific evidence points to several proven medicinal uses, including:
- It Reduces Inflammation: As far as natural anti-inflammatories go, turmeric is among the best in the world. Curcumin inhibits the chronic inflammation associated with arthritis and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Studies show that turmeric is also beneficial for back pain and controlling the inflammation linked to asthma and allergies.
- It’s a Powerful Antioxidant: Curcumin has a positive track record of boosting your immune system response and preventing disease. Turmeric may also serve as a complementary treatment method for both cancer and fibromyalgia due to its innate ability to fight oxidative stress in the body.
- It Improves Cardiovascular Health: Research shows that curcumin can improve vascular endothelial function, which eases blood flow and reduces the strain placed on the heart. Turmeric may also lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol and triglyceride
- It Helps Weight Management: Studies show that curcumin may be able to improve metabolic disorders by regulating lipid metabolism and enhancing insulin sensitivity. Turmeric can even target adipose tissue, meaning that it has practical uses for both diabetes and weight loss.
- It Supports Cognitive Function: Curcumin can improve overall brain health in many ways. Most notably, it works to preserve mental acuity as we age. Studies indicate that turmeric may be beneficial in those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric can also help stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
- It Improves Liver Health: As the central filtration system in the body, the liver’s job is not only a tough one, but it’s critical. Multiple studies show that curcumin can help cleanse and detox the liver by facilitating the removal of foreign substances from the body.
- It Helps the Digestive System: If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), turmeric may be able to help reduce the severity of these conditions. Since curcumin possesses antifungal properties, it has also shown that it can effectively target fungal infections.
Turmeric vs. Curcumin: Which should you choose?
Which is better, turmeric, or curcumin? Most of the studies demonstrating significant health benefits use curcumin over turmeric. However, some research indicates that you’ll achieve better benefits when using turmeric and curcumin, as opposed to curcumin alone.
We recommend picking a supplement that has both turmeric and curcumin together. However, keep in mind that turmeric has very poor absorption by itself. The addition of piperine (black pepper or BioPerine) has shown that it can increase curcumin’s absorption by 20 times.
Therefore, when selecting a supplement, pick a formula that has turmeric and black pepper together. Also, make sure the product discloses the exact amount of curcumin per serving. Ideally, look for somewhere between 150-250 mg of curcumin per serving, mixed with turmeric root powder.
Side Effects & Dosage Recommendations
Can turmeric be harmful? Side effects are very mild and rare under standard dosages. With substantial long-term doses, adverse reactions may include a skin rash, headaches, and nausea, gallbladder problems, kidney stones, digestive issues, or problems with blood sugar and blood clotting.
Remember, curcumin has anticoagulant properties. If you’re currently using a blood thinner, talk to your primary care physician before taking turmeric. Turmeric is generally safe, but if you are pregnant or nursing, we recommend that you DO NOT take turmeric.
How much turmeric per day should you take? Studies indicate that curcumin is safe and well-tolerated in dosages up to 8,000 mg. However, this is an extremely high dosage, and more turmeric does not necessarily translate to more significant benefits.
Stick to the standard dosages provider by most dietary supplements for the best results. A product containing turmeric root powder, with piperine (black pepper) and 150-250 mg of curcumin per serving is ideal for daily use.
Final Thoughts on the Curcuma Longa Plant
Curcuma longa is one of the most beneficial herbs we have. There’s a reason why our ancestors used the plant’s roots in therapeutic healing for thousands of years. While Curcuma does provide numerous health benefits, it’s essential to know the difference between curcumin and turmeric when you’re shopping for supplements online.
As always, if you’re considering adding turmeric to your daily regimen, consult with a certified medical professional first to make sure it will work for your purposes.