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Defining usage of turmeric, curcumin

April 7, 2019 GMT

We’ve all heard of the benefits of turmeric. While it is a very healthy spice, it is turmeric’s active property, curcumin that we are usually after. Let’s talk about the reasons to use both.

Turmeric makes a great spice for just about every savory dish. It has a mild, slightly pungent flavor and can be easily added to anything from soups to rice and even breakfast dishes and popcorn. While the level of curcumin will be substantially lower than an extract, the benefits to whole turmeric seem to be more geared towards digestion.

Known as an ancient bitter, turmeric, like many bitter herbs, is considered to be a natural digestive aid. Historically, bitter herbs are used before or right after a meal to stimulate digestion and promote the release of bile. One could see where incorporating a bitter like turmeric into our daily routine could be beneficial for mild digestive issues or even to support liver and gallbladder health.

Curcumin is turmeric’s bright yellow active property. When we hear of benefits of turmeric, like inflammation support, mood support and brain health, those are likely referring to studies using a highly concentrated extract of curcumin. A large portion of the studies are using a very specific extract of turmeric that has been standardized to up to 95% curcumin. Don’t be fooled by supplements that use labeling tricks like “turmeric

with curcumin.” All turmeric contains curcumin, but at a much smaller level. By weight, most turmeric contains up to 5% curcumin. That’s a far cry from the high-curcumin extracts used in the studies.

It is also important to note that curcumin is fat-soluble, so look for a supplement that includes turmeric essential oil or black pepper extract, not just regular black pepper, for increased absorption. If you use turmeric as a spice, try to include it with dishes with some healthy oil and a pinch of something a little spicy. Personally, I use turmeric to spice up as many dishes as I can, but I also take a highly concentrated extract of curcumin a couple times a day to make sure I am getting the best of both worlds.

Travis Lemon is a certified herbalist and co-owner of Tulsi at The Market in Huntington. He has worked in the natural health and wellness industry for over 14 years. He can be contacted at travislemonmh@gmail.com.