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Comparing curcumin vs. turmeric supplements is emphasized by the vibrant orange of turmeric powder on a wooden spoon, lying next to turmeric root.

Curcumin vs Turmeric Supplement: Which Is Most Effective?

Article Summary:

  • Turmeric's ability to support the body's natural inflammatory response can be largely attributed to curcumin — the primary active ingredient of turmeric.
  • Curcumin’s low water solubility leads to poor bioavailability and absorption by the body.
  • Although tetrahydrocurcumin is a metabolite of curcumin, its chemical structure makes it more stable and effective than curcumin. 

Turmeric has long been used in traditional medicine to promote a healthy inflammatory response. In recent decades, the scientific community has extensively studied the biological activities of turmeric and curcumin — the major polyphenolic compound found in turmeric — and confirmed their therapeutic potential. But as our understanding of these potent ingredients expands, the bioavailability of the two compounds fuels an ongoing debate on the efficacy of curcumin vs. turmeric supplements.

Curcumin vs Turmeric Supplements: A Comparison 

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family, native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The bright yellow-orange color of turmeric comes from the presence of curcuminoids—the polyphenolic pigments. Curcumin, also known as diferuloylmethane, is the key polyphenol—a plant compound offering various health benefits—found in turmeric. Studies show that curcumin targets multiple signaling molecules and activities at the cellular level to support various health functions.* Apart from curcumin, the other polyphenolic compounds found in turmeric are demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.

So, when it comes to curcumin vs turmeric supplements, what are the differences? 

Curcumin vs Turmeric

Curcumin SupplementTurmeric Supplement
CompositionChemical composition: (C21H20O6)Contains three curcuminoids (active pigment compounds), plus volatile oils, sugars, proteins, and resins.
PropertiesPowerful antioxidant that supports the body’s natural inflammatory response.* Turmeric supplements’ antioxidant properties are mostly attributed to the presence of curcumin.
ApplicationsUsed as a nutritional supplement for musculoskeletal and immune function support;* oral intake in capsule form, powder, etc.Turmeric root paste applied topically for skin conditions; dietary intake as a supplement in powder form, spice, and tea, among others.  

It is worth noting that most researchers use extracted turmeric with a high concentration of curcumin or curcumin alone to study the beneficial effects of the compounds, making it difficult to say definitively whether it is best to take a curcumin supplement or a turmeric supplement. By taking a closer look at the following therapeutic options, however, you might discover a better alternative.

The Health Benefits of Curcumin and Turmeric 

A large body of research demonstrates the therapeutic benefits of curcumin for a range of neurodegenerative, pulmonary, cardiovascular, metabolic, and autoimmune issues. These benefits can be attributed to curcumin’s role in modulating numerous transcription factors, protein kinases, cytokines, redox status, adhesion molecules, and enzymes that help maintain the body’s natural inflammatory response.* 

Although a majority of studies on the therapeutic benefits of curcumin involve populations with existing health problems, there have been several studies indicating the potential benefits of curcumin in healthy people. 

For example, a study conducted on a group of healthy, middle-aged (40-60 years) individuals were administered a daily dose of either 80 mg curcumin in lipid form or a placebo for four weeks. Individuals who took the curcumin showed statistically significant changes, including higher plasma antioxidant activity, greater salivary capacity to scavenge free radicals, more nitric oxide in plasma — for delivering more oxygen to tissues — and lower plasma triglycerides, among others.* The results suggest that low doses of curcumin-lipid preparation have antioxidant and potential therapeutic benefits for healthy, middle-aged individuals.*             

Unlike curcumin supplements, turmeric contains various plant compounds, in addition to curcuminoids, that work together to support body functions. Turmeric nutritional supplements made from the dried rhizome typically contain a mixture of curcuminoids. However, more studies are needed to determine the potential health benefits of turmeric’s non-curcuminoid ingredients.

Tetrahydrocurcumin — The Highly Bioactive Metabolite of Curcumin     

Ingesting either curcumin or turmeric alone does not necessarily confer health benefits. Curcumin’s low water solubility and unstable chemical structure cause rapid metabolization but poor absorption in the body, followed by rapid systemic elimination. In other words, your body can’t use curcumin very well.

Tetrahydrocurcumin—the primary curcuminoid metabolite of curcumin—is superior to curcumin in terms of water solubility, bioavailability, chemical stability, and anti-oxidative activity.* In an in vivo animal study, mice were administered tetrahydrocurcumin orally for four weeks and revealed high levels of free tetrahydrocurcumin in the liver and serum, compared to the population fed with curcumin.

Because tetrahydrocurcumin’s molecular structure is more stable and degrades more slowly than curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin is considered a superior antioxidant to curcumin, making it more effective.* As a result, the answer to the curcumin vs. turmeric supplement question might be neither. If you want to experience the optimal benefits of curcuminoids, then tetrahydrocurcumin is most likely the better option. But where can you get this Option #3?

Tesseract’s TetraCumin® contains tetrahydrocurcumin, making it a more powerful and effective nutritional supplement for supporting a healthy inflammatory response for occasional musculoskeletal and joint discomfort.* Tesseract’s revolutionary delivery technology further ensures greater absorption of tetrahydrocurcumin to support a healthy lipid profile, a balanced gastrointestinal environment, and optimal cardiovascular health.*       

The power of Tesseract supplements lies in the proprietary science of proven nutrients and unrivaled smart delivery, making them the most effective for supporting immune health and cardiovascular health.*

Works Cited

DiSilvestro RA., Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. (2011). Nutrition Journal, 11, 79.

Aggarwal BB, Harikumar KB. (2008). The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology, 41(1), 40.

Okada K, Wangpoengtrakul C, Tanaka T, et al. J Nutr. 2001 Aug;131(8):2090-5. doi: 10.1093/jn/131.8.2090. PMID: 11481399.

Aggarwal BB, Deb L, Prasad S. (2015). Molecules, 20(1), 185-205.

Al Czap, Founder | Tesseract

Al Czap has more than four decades of professional experience in preventative medicine. He founded Thorne Research in 1984 (sold in 2010) and he published Alternative Medicine Review for 17 years beginning in 1996. AMR was a highly acclaimed, peer-reviewed, and indexed medical journal. Al was the first to recognize the need for hypoallergenic ingredients and to devise methods of manufacture for and delivery of hypoallergenic products to underserved patient populations. His work has greatly impacted those with impaired immune and digestive systems and compromised health due to environmental exposures.

The advanced formulations based on our revolutionary, patented, and patent-pending technology are only available through Tesseract. No other medical, pharmaceutical, or supplement company is licensed to utilize our proprietary technology.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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