Turmeric vs. Curcumin

One question I am often asked is: Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing?  The answer is no!  Curcumin is just ONE of many active components found within turmeric. It is also the one which has had the most publicity and focus: the lead singer of the band, as it were. But, as anyone who has ever had a favourite band will tell you, the lead singer would be nowhere near as impressive without the drummer, bass player and so on, surrounding them.

Curcumin is the lead singer of turmeric. It is the compound most products and articles have focused on, and the one most people are looking for – but it is far from being the whole story.


Turmeric has been the subject of many, many articles and research projects in recent years – and it quite rightly carries the description of a ‘superfood’. Studies have found that turmeric can help to reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar levels, support memory and aid digestion. Trials have even been carried out to investigate whether turmeric could be used alongside cancer treatments, to improve their effectiveness!

All this research and focus has begun to highlight some of the less-known, but equally important, components of turmeric. These include:

  • Turmerone: Has been shown to have benefits for brain function, with some studies indicating it may even be helpful in depression.
  • Turmerin: This is the part of turmeric which helps to balance blood glucose levels, helping to reduce food cravings.
  • Germacrone and Elemene: Shown to be the most effective parts of turmeric in demonstrating an ability to inhibit tumour growth.

Products which focus solely on curcumin content will be missing these vital elements and will therefore not possess all the potential health benefits turmeric is claimed to provide.


Going back to my band analogy, we do still need the lead singer – we don’t want them to be stood at the back without a microphone!

Curcumin is still very important, and it is needed in amounts greater than that provided by turmeric naturally.

The turmeric in the kitchen cupboard, used to make curries, only contains around 3-4% curcumin. But much of the research suggests that doses of around 200mg curcumin are required to obtain some of the suggested health benefits: this is A LOT of turmeric. This is why so many companies produce a concentrated curcumin – with many extracts containing as much as 95% – to help people get a good amount, without having to take lots of tablets.

The trouble is, turmeric which contains 95% curcumin does not leave a lot of room for any of the other elements of this fascinating spice.


Should we be looking to take curcumin or turmeric?

The good news is, you may not need to choose! Some companies are starting to change their approach and use a combination: merging a high strength curcumin AND a whole herb turmeric. By mixing both in one capsule, they can simultaneously offer the 200mg curcumin advocated by research PLUS all of the other potentially beneficial compounds associated with turmeric.

So, when looking for a good turmeric supplement to take, you can now have the best of both worlds – the lead singer WITH the band!

Written by Jenny Logan DNMed.(Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years).

Comments are closed here.