Updated on August 3, 2023
Curcumin nutritional supplements are immensely beneficial, in theory. After all, curcumin is renowned for its antioxidant effects, its support for the cardiovascular system, and its ability to promote optimal immune function.* But despite widespread use of curcumin nutritional supplements, many users have reported their disappointment with the products they’ve purchased, leading many to wonder, “Do curcumin supplements work?” Today, that concern is changing, because curcumin supplements formulated for high bioavailability are entering the market and opening the door to significant benefits. For individuals who don’t know the story behind curcumin supplements, however, knowing which curcumin supplement to purchase can still be a shot in the dark.
To truly determine what differentiates a good curcumin supplement from an ineffective one, we talked to Al Czap, the founder of Thorne Research and Tesseract Medical Research. Czap has worked for more than a decade to formulate a curcumin supplement that will give its users the results they desire to optimize their health and wellness. As a result, Czap is a recognized leading expert on the past, present, and future of curcumin as a nutritional supplement and its therapeutic potential. With Czap’s advice, consumers can finally find a nutritional supplement that helps them obtain the true potential of curcumin.
Although curcumin nutritional supplements are relatively new, the use of curcumin in other forms is an ancient practice. Curcumin is derived from the turmeric root, which is a common spice present in curry. “In the East, people have been using turmeric root as a flavoring and a spice for thousands of years,” Czap explains. However, the flavor of turmeric wasn’t its only draw; people who consumed turmeric as part of their diet seemed to experience fewer problems associated with old age.
“They had a lower incidence of joint problems, it also provides cardiovascular support, and it’s good for wound healing,*” Czap continues. The medicinal properties of turmeric root prompted researchers to investigate further with the intent of turning its active ingredients into drugs—but they soon found that unlocking curcumin’s potential would take much more work than originally anticipated.
Turning curcumin into an effective nutritional supplement has taken the better part of a hundred years of effort. Part of this effort was to identify how turmeric was capable of improving the health of people who consumed it in their diets. “In the 20th century, because they figured out the active component of turmeric was curcumin, you didn’t need to eat a pound of curry to get your curcumin,” Czap says. This provided a clear path toward operationalizing curcumin: manufacturers only need to isolate curcumin from the turmeric root and package it in supplement form. But isolating curcumin from turmeric wasn’t the only challenge researchers had to overcome to produce an effective nutritional supplement.
Although the taste of turmeric might be prized in cooking, curcumin’s flavor acted as a major barrier to its use in supplement form. This is because the isolated curcumin would retain the spiced flavor of turmeric, which made even encapsulated supplements unpleasant for users who disliked its taste. “If you took curcumin and put it in juice, it’d be pretty nasty,” Czap says, speaking from personal experience.
To complicate matters further, small amounts proved to not be efficacious, according to Czap, “You had to take quite a bit to achieve a therapeutic amount.” Furthermore, even when users could manage to consume a considerable amount of curcumin, they didn’t always experience the desired beneficial effects. Their bodies appeared to process curcumin too inefficiently for it to be of use, leading many to reject curcumin as a possible natural remedy.
Supplement manufacturers responded by using new formulations of curcumin which sought to improve its bioavailability but ended up struggling with palatability yet again. “They made a liposomal form that is more well-absorbed than regular curcumin, but it tasted horrible,” Czap says. “The liposomal products are typically recommended to be held under the tongue for five or ten minutes. As you can imagine, the formulation never became popular because the taste of it was absolutely wretched.” In other words, solving the bioavailability problem didn’t solve the tolerability problem, and the only way forward was to develop a supplement that could accomplish both.
In the 2010s, after decades of investigation, researchers finally found the missing piece of the puzzle needed to produce a curcumin supplement that was both palatable and effective. “The researchers discovered that curcumin itself is not what affects the body,” Czap explains. “Rather, your body must first break down the curcumin in the liver before it achieves its active form.” More specifically, researchers found that the liver would metabolize curcumin into an active byproduct that can subsequently benefit the body’s tissues. That active curcumin byproduct metabolite is called tetrahydrocurcumin.
By discovering that tetrahydrocurcumin is responsible for the beneficial effects of curcumin,* researchers finally realized why a user needed to take so much curcumin to realize its efficacy: the body couldn’t convert curcumin into tetrahydrocurcumin quickly enough and the tetrahydrocurcumin was cleared from the bloodstream too rapidly for it to have its beneficial effects on the body’s tissues. By isolating tetraohydrocurcumin, it became possible to bypass the liver’s conversion process and introduce the tetrahydrocurcumin directly into the body. Significantly, this also meant that the minimum amount necessary to experience beneficial effects could be significantly minimized.
“Tetrahydrocurcumin is the workhorse,” Czap says. “If you compare how effective a person’s body is at absorbing curcumin versus tetrahydrocurcumin, the tetrahydrocurcumin is 3.5 to 4 times more effective than the curcumin.” As such, both clinical research and patient anecdotes typically report significantly better benefits when taking a tetrahydrocurcumin supplement versus taking a curcumin supplement. Finally, Czap had the tools he needed to make an effective curcumin supplement.
With fresh research in hand and an abundance of experience with the pitfalls of the legacy curcumin supplements, Czap’s team turned tetrahydrocurcumin into a working supplement that enables consumers to experience the multiple benefits of curcumin.* However, Czap’s new tetrahydrocurcumin supplement doesn’t rely solely on the tetrahydrocurcumin for efficacy; rather, the tetrahydrocurcumin is combined with an advanced delivery system designed to optimize bioavailability. As Czap says, “Tesseract Medical Research is the only company that takes tetrahydrocurcumin and puts it into a molecular trap and makes it ready for release at the right time.”
Although the promise of a tetrahydrocurcumin supplement has only started to reveal itself, research suggests it can be beneficial for individuals with a wide range of health concerns.* And while clinical trials describing curcumin’s efficacy remain forthcoming, Czap has witnessed how his tetrahydrocurcumin supplement is already transforming the lives of its users for the better.
The power of Tesseract supplements lies in the proprietary science of proven nutrients and unrivaled smart delivery, making them the most effective for supporting cardiovascular health and musculoskeletal health.*