Curcumin is a yellow pigment found primarily in turmeric, a flowering plant of the ginger family best known as a spice used in curry. It’s a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to increase the amount of antioxidants that the body produces.
Curcumin and the curcuminoids found in turmeric can be extracted to produce supplements that have a much higher potency than turmeric. However, curcumin is absorbed poorly during digestion, so a myriad of different formulations have been created to improve its bioavailability.
Supplementation of curcumin reliably reduces markers of inflammation and increases the levels of endogenous antioxidants in the body. More research is needed for many areas of health, but what research there is supports a small to moderate improvement in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and pain and function in osteoarthritis. A reduction in LDL-cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure is possible, but the research is less consistent and more is needed.
Doses of up to 8 grams of curcuminoids aren’t associated with serious adverse effects in humans. However, long-term studies that are more comprehensive in their assessments are needed. High doses of curcumin may produce nausea and gastrointestinal complaints. Use of curcumin with piperine may cause adverse drug reactions, as piperine greatly increases intenstinal permeability. The different formulations of curcumin have not all been tested for safety to the same degree.
Turmeric is a popular root/spice, and curcumin is a highly potent chemical in turmeric, but hardly the only one. Curcumin and the curcuminoids are present in turmeric at around 22.21-40.36mg/g in the rhizomes and 1.94mg/g in the tuberous roots, so turmeric is less potent as a source of curcumin than an extract and anti-inflammatory. However, some studies suggest that turmeric has benefits, and it's possible that it has benefits that curcumin alone doesn't, but more research on this is needed.
Our Supplement Guides give you unbiased recommendations — based on research — that you can immediately apply to improve your health. You can find curcumin in our Joint Health and Mood & Depression Supplement Guides.