Turmeric has seen a meteoric rise in popularity and evidence shows it may arguably be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Many studies and user led reviews show that it is a particularly effective natural anti-inflammatory which is a popular alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
Unfortunately with this uprising, a flood of 'turmeric supplements' have hit the market which are hugely misleading to consumers. This is resulting in people being grossly ripped-off for one, and also ending up disillusioned as to the efficacy of turmeric because often these inferior versions of the supplement do not deliver on the amazing health benefits it's purported to have.
The reason for this happening is quite simple: 'Turmeric' is the name the supplement is most commonly known and advertised as, but the active ingredient within it is called curcumin, and the curcumin content of a turmeric supplement can vary hugely.
If you are buying turmeric, you must make sure you check its curcumin content!
More about the supplement and terminologies is explained below:
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. Although turmeric is perhaps most famous for its vibrant colour and its role as a culinary spice, it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
What is Curcumin?
Curcumin is the main active ingredient of turmeric, which is a plant native to tropical regions of Southern Asia. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high. It’s around 3%. That means if you were to consume normal culinary turmeric, available widely in supermarkets, you would have to consume huge amounts to get the same amount of curcumin as a supplement containing a concentrated extract.
How to avoid being ripped-off
You may see some Turmeric supplements declare ingredients something like this:
| Nutritional Information || Per Serving |
| Turmeric Powder (Curcuma Longa) (Rhizomes) || 1000mg |
| Piperine |
Standardised from Black Pepper Extract (Piper Nigrum)
| 10mg |
If you bought a supplement with ingredients similar to above you are being sold culinary grade Turmeric, with black pepper extract - at a very high premium! Don't forget that the curcumin content of turmeric is about 3% so in the example above there would be about 30mg of curcumin which is only about 10-15% of any premium supplement.
There is no reference to "Curcumin" which should be referenced as a standardised extract illustrating its quality.
In this example below the supplement contains 500mg of turmeric extract, standardised to provide 475mg of curcumin, which is the equivalent level that you would find in 10,000mg of ordinary culinary turmeric. It is the "Curcumin" content which you should be looking for as that is the active ingredient and the turmeric content can vary hugely depending on the quality and concentration of the extract.
| Nutritional Information || Per Tablet |
| Organic Turmeric Extract 500mg (20:1 extract) from 10,000mg Turmeric |
Standardised at 95% Curcumin
| 475mg |
| Piperine (Bioperine®) |
Standardised from Black Pepper Extract (Piper Nigrum)
| 5mg |
Also ensure that you check the amounts given are per tablet and NOT per serving, a serving size can be as many as 6 tablets per day in some cases which means you'll be burning through your pack of supplements in no time.
The bioavailability of curcumin - Black Pepper Extract or Oil?
Much is made about how difficult it is for curcumin to be absorbed by the body, and rightly so, there is little point in consuming something if the body is just going to get rid of it.
One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is making them water soluble so they can be more easily excreted by the body. Substances that are excreted are of course not absorbed so this is a problem. The addition of black pepper extract to a turmeric supplement inhibits the excretion process; this allows for the same amount of curcumin to be consumed, but the bioavailability (ability of the substance to be absorbed) is shown to increase by up to 2000%.
Natural oils found in turmeric root and turmeric powder can also enhance the bioavailability of curcumin, in fact it can do so by 700%. When eaten with fat, curcumin can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymphatic system thereby in part bypassing the liver.
Whilst oil suspended supplements can be absorbed more easily, without an increase in bioavailability, the amount of curcumin absorbed by the body is not as great as that of supplements containing black pepper extract because the liver excretes the 'foreign substance'.
To cover all your bases why not take your Turmeric with Bioperine® Tablets with a meal - this is likely to contain at least a small amount of fat therefore covers both schools of thought!
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.