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Turmeric Or Curcumin?

Updated: Oct 14

What is the Difference?

Turmeric is widely touted as the new superfood, miracle drug, cure-all, et cetera because of its many health benefits. These claims of health benefits are substantiated by the thousands of scientific, peer-reviewed studies which have been conducted on the health benefits of turmeric. However, much of the marketing surrounding turmeric misrepresents it badly. The greatest misunderstanding seems to be whether to use the word 'turmeric ' or 'curcumin' or, worse ‘turmeric curcumin’. One sees article after article that promotes turmeric all the way through the article, and then at the end, suggests using a curcumin supplement.


If you search Amazon for turmeric supplements, you will find that many, many well-known companies use the term “Turmeric Curcumin” right on their label. It is like calling spinach “Spinach Iron” since spinach contains iron. Or saying that you are going to have a nice cup of ‘Coffee Caffeine’ to help you wake up. This makes you think that either they simply do not know the difference, or they are somehow trying to confuse you into thinking it is something that it is not.


But Aren't They The Same?


But aren't they the same thing? Emphatically not. Think of turmeric as a plant – leaves, stalks, roots and rhizomes. It is the rhizomes that are harvested and then processed into various products. The rhizomes have been found to contain 237 beneficial compounds. Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids. However, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is the most well-known of the compounds in turmeric. However, it is by no means the only one. As a matter of fact, curcumin makes up only 3-5% by weight of turmeric powder.


Turmeric Has Developed For Millions of Years


Turmeric has been developing its plethora of compounds over millions of years for its own protection. Some of the compounds are useful for repelling insects, others help it withstand the hot sun, and others come into play only during times of drought and other stress. However, fortunately for us humans, these same compounds can bring great relief to a long list of human conditions.


Turmeric has been carefully studied and documented by Ayurveda, a traditional medical system of India going back thousands of years. Curcumin as a specific constituent of turmeric wasn't known until sometime in the 19th century. Its exact chemical structure wasn't determined until 1910. It has been heavily scrutinized in Western laboratories for its pharmaceutical properties since the 1940's. Many of the studies and trials performed in Indian hospitals and universities used the whole turmeric plant.


The Health Benefits of Turmeric Are Amazing


Indigestion or Dyspepsia

Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which some people think may help improve digestion. The German Commission E, which determines which herbs can be safely prescribed in Germany, has approved turmeric for digestive problems. And one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric reduced symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion.


Ulcerative colitis

Turmeric may help people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the digestive tract where symptoms tend to come and go. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people whose ulcerative colitis was in remission took either curcumin or placebo, along with conventional medical treatment, for 6 months. Those who took curcumin had a significantly lower relapse rate than those who took placebos.


Stomach Ulcers

Turmeric does not seem to help treat stomach ulcers. In fact, there is some evidence that it may increase stomach acid, making existing ulcers worse. (See "Precautions" section.)


Osteoarthritis

Because of turmeric's ability to reduce inflammation, researchers have wondered if it may help relieve osteoarthritis pain. One study found that people using an Ayurvedic formula of herbs and minerals with turmeric, winter cherry (Withinia somnifera), boswellia (Boswellia serrata), and zinc had less pain and disability. But it's impossible to know whether turmeric, one of the other supplements, or all of them together, was responsible for the effects.


Heart Disease

Early studies suggested that turmeric may help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque that can block arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up in blood vessels. Because it stops platelets from clumping together, turmeric may also prevent blood clots from building up along the walls of arteries. But a double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, at a dose of up to 4 g per day did not improve cholesterol levels.


Cancer

There has been a great deal of research on turmeric's anti-cancer properties, but results are still very preliminary. Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. Tumeric's preventive effects may relate to its antioxidant properties, which protect cells from damage. More research is needed. Cancer should be treated with conventional medications. Don't use alternative therapies alone to treat cancer. If you choose to use complementary therapies along with your cancer treatment, make sure you tell all your doctors.


Bacterial and Viral Infections

Test tube and animal studies suggest turmeric may kill bacteria and viruses, but researchers don't know whether it would work in people.


Uveitis

A preliminary study suggests curcumin may help treat uveitis, an inflammation of the eye's iris. Preliminary research suggests that curcumin may be as effective as corticosteroids, the type of medication usually prescribed. More research is needed.


Neurodegenerative Conditions

Tumeric's powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and circulatory effects may help prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.


Standardized Extract of Curcumin


However, once the scientific scrutiny of the West turned to turmeric, the approach was to isolate the various compounds in turmeric and to study them individually. There are good reasons for medical trials to use standardized extracts, primarily to ensure that the results of the trial are a consequence of specific known factors. And it made sense that so much emphasis would be put on curcumin since it was the most easily identifiable compound in turmeric. But this emphasis has also resulted in repeated confusion between whole turmeric and the extract of curcumin. Even some well-researched and peer-reviewed articles refer to turmeric and curcumin interchangeably, so it's no wonder that confusion reigns.


Curcumin is Not the Only Active Ingredient in Turmeric


If curcumin is the primary active component, then what difference does it make? First, as mentioned above, it is not the only active ingredient. For example, turmerones (the oils in turmeric) are being studied now for their pharmacological activity, as well as the recent articles about the efficacy of the other curcuminoids (besides curcumin). And these are not the only constituents with potential pharmaceutical benefits. But also, the various ingredients work best together, as they evolved together, in "synergy" with each other. Synergy describes the way in which individual components of a system contribute to a result greater than the sum of all the single constituents.


Single Ingredient Products are Only Useful in Research


Second, while the use of concentrated single-ingredient products may be useful in research, it doesn't follow that this is the best way for people to eat the foods they came from. No one would suggest eating just the quercetin extracted from apples and blueberries instead of the whole fruit, or the bromelain extracted from pineapples instead of pineapple itself. Yes, those ingredients are indeed sold as supplements, but not as substitutes. We recognize that whole fruits and vegetables possess other valuable properties and should generally be eaten in their original form. Yet, illogically, the idea has persisted and spread that the curcumin extracted from turmeric is somehow preferable to turmeric itself.


Turmeric Products From Whole Turmeric Plants Have Been Around for Thousand of Years


Third, the promotion of extracted curcumin as a substitute for turmeric has a questionable purpose. Turmeric rhizomes are from a plant that has been around for thousands of years. It is not something that can be patented. It is not, therefore, profitable for pharmaceutical companies in its original form. And besides, it takes months to grow a turmeric plant to maturity. This does not fit well into the business model of pharmaceutical companies. Turmeric is essentially a food. But a unique formulation of curcumin can be patented, and several have been. Therefore, it is in the interest of the supplement manufacturers to repeat statements such as "curcumin is poorly absorbed," or "curcumin is not easily bio-available," and then to point out how their formulation gets around those claims. They conveniently don't mention, of course, that when turmeric products are made from the whole plants curcumin and all the other compounds in turmeric are indeed bio-available. They work together with our natural gut microbiome in a supportive and synchronistic manner.


Unknown Results for Curcumin Only Supplements


Fourth, the high concentration of curcumin in many of these extracts is itself a concern. No studies have been done on their long-term safety. Early supplement containers often were labeled with "Use only for three months" or similar warnings, because most of the trials had been conducted for no more than three months. Those who promote curcumin supplements point to the fact that humans have been given up to 8 grams of high-concentrate curcumin extracts a day for three months without adverse effects. One blogger, fighting melanoma, reports that she has taken 8 grams of curcumin a day for over four years without problem. And in fact, we do suggest that curcumin supplements be used in addition to the Golden Paste in cases of severe disease. But those situations don't represent the typical person ingesting curcumin-extract supplements for an extended period. The fact is that we simply don't know what the long-term effects might be. We do know that the curcumin from commercial capsules is a far higher amount than the body can use, and that they don't include all the other benefits of the whole turmeric. plant.


So How Should You Consume Turmeric?


To begin with, stop treating it as a drug or even as a supplement. It is a food {with some potent pharmaceutical properties, no question), but it has been used as a food and a natural adaptogen and curative for thousands of years with minimal side effects.

Turmeric activates the whole digestive system and consuming too much at first can result in a better acquaintance with the toilet than you might like. Otherwise, turmeric toxicity is relatively unheard of.


As you become accustomed to using turmeric, after a week or so, increase the amount you're using by adding it a third or even fourth time during the day. If you're healthy and just want to maintain that good health, you may not need any more than that. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, such as arthritis, or if you are fighting a chronic condition, such as heart disease, you can continue to increase your consumption until you find relief, or until your digestive system lets you know that you're having too much. If that happens, reduce the amount you're eating until those side effects go away.


How Do I Choose Which Product to Take?


The American Turmeric Company provides a number of turmeric products from which to choose. These range from our flag-ship Georgia Gold Fermented Probiotic Turmeric Puree’. If you are looking for something powerful and potent, this is your choice.

If the convenience of powder is your thing, we offer you both Lead-Free Plain Turmeric Powder and Lead-Free Fermented Turmeric Powder plus Lead-Free Fermented Turmeric Capsules.


​The suggested serving size for the powder is 1 tablespoon per day. Only you can determine how much your body requires to give you a feeling of balance and well-being. You want to obtain the amount in your diet that indicates to you that you have fewer episodes with any condition that negatively affects your health...such things as allergies, pain, etc. Also, you can test your blood sugar and cholesterol for improvement over time.


​Fermented Turmeric Powder improves your body’s ability to absorb the valuable healing compounds that your digestive system may not break down for assimilation.

We also offer Fermented Turmeric Oil Extract as a supplement to the turmeric powder (fermented and unfermented) products. It puts back some of what is lost in the process of making powder.

Check With Your Medical Professional


If you are taking regularly prescribed medications, please do talk to your doctor or pharmacist about interactions.

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