What is Curcumin?

Turmeric is a common spice worldwide, particularly popular in India and Southeast Asia. Part of the ginger family, the bright yellow root of the plant is the source for both the cooking spice and the powder featured in various turmeric health supplements. Turmeric has become a common daily supplement because of the wide variety of health benefits it may offer, including immune, inflammation, joint, and digestive support.*

As the popularity of turmeric rises and more studies are conducted, new vocabulary has cropped up on supplement bottles and in articles. You may have seen the terms ‘curcumin’ and ‘curcuminoids’ being emphasized over ‘turmeric’. Why should these details matter to you as you shop for turmeric supplements? Knowing what to look for and what aspects of the turmeric plant will most benefit you will help you make an informed decision for your health.

Turmeric is the term applied to the flowering plant as well as the powdered spice and supplement that is made from it. Curcumin, simply put, is the active ingredient in turmeric that gives the root its color. To break it down further, curcumin is one of three curcuminoids, or polyphonic compounds, found in turmeric (the other two are desmethoxycurcumin and bisdesmethoxycurcumin). Studies have shown that the variety of health benefits of turmeric stem from these curcuminoid compounds.  

Many average turmeric powders naturally have incredibly low levels of curcumin content, often between 2-15%. Therefore, if you want to maximize the health benefits of turmeric, paying close attention to the amount of curcumin in the turmeric you buy is very important.

Most turmeric powders on the market for cooking will have these low levels of curcumin; however, it is still a great option for a culinary spice and adds wonderful color and flavor to a variety of dishes. On the other hand, turmeric extract prepared for health supplements can be standardized to increase the curcuminoid content. If you are looking for the health benefits of turmeric, supplement with one of these standardized extracts. Be sure to note exactly what this standardized percentage is. For instance, Nature’s Lab Turmeric Extract has been standardized to 95% curcuminoids for maximum benefit. It contains a patented compound called Curcumin C3® which contains the standardized form of all three types of curcuminoids.

One additional factor to look for is an added element that will assist with absorption. Turmeric is not always easily bioavailable, so even if you are taking a turmeric supplement with high levels of curcumin, your body may not be able to absorb it properly. Black pepper extract can significantly enhance the bioavailability of various nutrients and increase absorption of curcumin. At Nature’s Lab we have combined our turmeric extract with BioPerine®, a patented form of black pepper extract that has been clinically tested in the US for its impact on absorption.