Turmeric Extract vs Powder
Turmeric spice is ground (dried) turmeric herb — specifically the root/rhizome, sold as a powder. Consuming between ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (about 2.5 to 5 grams) with food has been found to have certain digestive and cognitive benefits.
Most clinical studies, however, have not used turmeric powder, but turmeric extract. Only about 3% of the weight of turmeric powder is curcumin and "curcuminoid" compounds -- which are believed to be important to turmeric's effects. In turmeric extracts, the concentration of these is often increased to as high as 95%.
Therefore, it is not unusual for a capsule containing half of a gram of turmeric extract to provide 400 mg of curcuminoids, while the same amount of turmeric powder (ground herb -- just like the spice) might provide only about 15 mg. In fact, in 2013, it found that capsules of turmeric "herb" (not extract) from a well-known supplement brand contained only 3 mg of curcuminoids per capsule. Many brands of turmeric supplements contain a combination of extract and herb, and the ratio will greatly affect the amount of curcuminoids you get, so be sure to check the amounts of curcuminoids in popular supplements in ConsumerLab.com's Review of Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices >>.
One advantage of using turmeric spice, as opposed to a supplement, is that you are more likely to consume it with fats or oils from your food. This will enhance absorption of curcuminoids in the turmeric, as they are lipophilic (they attach to fats). You should take turmeric supplements with meals for the same reason and/or choose a supplement which includes a bioavailability enhancer (as discussed in detail in the Review). (Be aware, however, that some curcumin may be lost due to heat and chemical changes when cooking foods spiced with turmeric.)
Another way that turmeric extracts differ from turmeric powders is that extracts are less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead, and do not contain the filth (insect parts and rodent hairs) normally found to varying degrees in the powders. In the Review, you'll also see our tests of levels of filth and heavy metals in popular turmeric spices for cooking, plus the dosage of herb or extract used in treating conditions such as ulcerative colitis, uveitis, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetes, depression, and cognitive function.
10 Serious Side Effects of Turmeric
Turmeric and curcumin seem to be generally well tolerated. The most common side effects observed in clinical studies are gastrointestinal and include constipation, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, distension, gastroesophageal reflux, nausea, vomiting, yellow stool and stomach ache.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), turmeric is generally safe, though consuming it in high doses or over long periods of time may upset your stomach. A small, past study of 24 people found that taking 500 to 12,000 mg of curcumin was associated with various side effects, including diarrhea, skin rash, yellow stool, and headache.
Is it better to take turmeric or curcumin?
There is no official consensus on whether it's best to take curcumin or turmeric supplements.Most studies that have shown beneficial effects have used extracted turmeric with a high concentration of curcumin or curcumin alone.
When choosing a supplement, it’s important to buy a formula that has been clinically tested and proven to be well absorbed. In a review on joint arthritis, turmeric extracts with 1 gram of curcumin per day showed the greatest benefit after 8–12 weeks.
For those wanting to reduce their cholesterol, 700 mg of turmeric extract twice a day may help.One eight-week study found that 2.4 grams of turmeric powder combined with nigella seeds each day reduced cholesterol, waist circumference and inflammation.
Though the research is mixed, one study in athletes found that 6 grams of curcumin and 60 mg of piperine in three divided doses helped reduce muscle damage after exercise.Curcumin is considered to be well-tolerated and has been tested at high doses of up to 12 grams per day.However, it may cause some side effects like gut discomfort and nausea.
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