Curcumin, the super ingredient inside turmeric, is a trendy herb that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helps cognitive function.
Why does this super ingredient have so much buzz? It helps the human condition in so many ways: From the appearance of your skin to fighting depression and boosting bone density.
While the benefits of curcumin seem too good to be true, curcumin is still a recent discovery in the world of nutrition.
1. 1MD Advanced Turmeric Curcumin X285
For those who’re serious about taking the best curcumin supplement, Advanced Turmeric Curcumin X285 is the most potent you can get.
They also have the endorsement of a prolific cardiologist, Dr. Michael Fenster, who says “As a board-certified cardiologist, I stand behind 1MD’s Advanced Turmeric Curcumin x285 formula which combines two clinically studied, patented ingredients, Longvida Turmeric Curcumin and WokVel Boswellia Serrata, both clinically shown to boost systemic health.”
From alleviating joint pain to providing your body with more energy, Advanced Turmeric Curcumin X285 is one of the better daily regimes you can have in the supplement space.
All natural, and made in the USA in an FDA-approved facility.
The all-around curcumin winner of 2020.
2. NatureWise Curcumin
At 750 mg of curcumin per capsule, NatureWise has a high dosage, plus a few extras. There is ginger root extract, which is another powerful antioxidant, and the familiar black pepper extract for absorption and efficacy, but this supplement doesn’t get bogged down with excess ingredients either.
3. Solgar Full Spectrum Curcumin
Solgar takes a unique approach to their curcumin supplement. Instead of the standardized extracts used by other companies, Solgar has a special liquid extract they claim is 185x more effective.
As such, the dosage per capsule is far lower. Solgar has a good track record as a supplement company, so the odds are good that they are correct in their assertion.
4. Bio Schwartz Turmeric Curcumin
BioSchwarts provides a solid dose of curcumin from a trusted brand. At 500 mg per vegetarian capsule, you can tailor your dosage to meet the right dosage for you. It also includes bioperine, a black pepper extract which helps boost the absorption and bioactivity of the curcumin.
5. Jarrow Formulas Curcumin 95
If all you want is a reasonable dose of curcumin without any added supplements, Jarrow Formulas should be your go-to option. It has 500 mg of curcumin per capsule, and aside from the necessary ingredients for the cellulose-based capsule, zero other ingredients.
6. Now Curcumin
Now Curcumin offers a bulk-buy no-nonsense curcumin supplement. With 665 mg of curcumin per capsule, the dosage is good, though it doesn’t have bioperine like some of the other curcumin supplements out there. Not interested in black pepper extract? Now Curcumin is a great choice.
7. Doctor’s Best Curcumin
Doctor’s Best provides a similar level of curcumin to other supplements on the market, and it also includes bioperine (black pepper extract) for better absorption. It doesn’t distinguish itself in any particular way, though, so it doesn’t land any further up in the rankings.
8. Health Plus Prime Turmeric Curcumin
Health Plus Prime has a pretty high dosage of curcumin per capsule at 600 mg, and like many of its competitors, it includes bioperine for better absorption. Its ingredients label doesn’t offer quite as detailed of a breakdown of the curcumin content, though.
9. Nature’s Nutrition Turmeric Curcumin
Nature’s Nutrition has 700 mg of cucumin per capsule, and the standard black pepper extract. The only curiosity is that Nature’s Nutrition used their own in-house black pepper extract instead of the commercialized BioPerine used by most other companies.
10. Doctor Recommended Supplements Turmeric Curcumin
While the label says each serving contains 750 mg, you’ve got to read the fine print. The active ingredients of this supplement are mixed into a “proprietary blend” which has several sources of curcumin with varying levels of purity, and also includes triphala powder. So you don’t really know how much curcumin is in each capsule.
11. Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin
At only 400 mg of curcumin per capsule, Life Extension seems like a pretty low dosage compared to some of its competitors, which offer up to 50% more. They claim their form of curcumin is absorbed seven times better, but don’t provide much in the way of evidence for this.
Who should buy curcumin?
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that provides many of the health benefits found in turmeric. It has found use in a wide variety of applications, all of which are linked to high levels of systemic inflammation.
It is most popular for long-term health applications like reducing risk factors for chronic disease, fighting pain from arthritis, and treating inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract.
However, curcumin finds some use among athletes as a way to reduce post-workout soreness and speed recovery from tough training sessions. It also may help improve depression and could even boost bone density in older adults with osteoarthritis.
If you want to incorporate a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement into your regular routine, curcumin is a great option.
It’s not for everyone; it has the potential to interact with some prescription medications, for example, but if your overall aim is long-term health and wellness, curcumin is a good way to move closer to that goal.
How we ranked
Unlike turmeric supplements, which are focused more broadly on the entire range of biologically active compounds found in raw turmeric, curcumin supplements focus only on delivering the curcumin molecule.
As such, dose of curcumin was our top priority when it came to formulating our rankings. We only examined supplements that were focused primarily on curcumin; more general antioxidant supplements that happened to include curcumin alongside other biologically active ingredients did not make the cut.
Since potency is important with curcumin, we only analyzed the curcumin supplements that had the highest dosage. After dropping low-dose supplements from consideration, we looked for the presence of other potentially helpful ingredients which could enhance the activity of the curcumin.
Most salient among these was black pepper extract, sometimes marketed commercially as BioPerine. We looked for this ingredient because there are good scientific studies that have validated black pepper extract’s ability to enhance the absorption and bioavailability of curcumin.
Beyond just chemically active ingredients, we also cared about the overall purity and quality of the supplements’ design. Products that used a lot of binders, fillers, and excipients scored lower, while pure, simple products scored higher.
We noted whether a particular product used vegan-friendly cellulose in their capsules, or gelatin, but only had a small influence on the overall score of a product.
After sorting the remaining products by their overall score, we had our final rankings. These represent the best curcumin that’s available right now, and are all excellent options for a supplemental strategy to boost your long-term health.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with broad health applications. Curminin, part of the ginger family, may sound so familiar because it’s the super ingredient from turmeric. In fact, it’s believed that the main benefits of turmeric are drawn from curcumin (1).
Many of the benefits of turmeric, including fighting inflammation, improving brain function, reduced risk of heart disease, fighting cancer, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, depression, arthritis, and aging may be in part due to curcumin.
The issue here is that curcumin alone may have different effects in the body because it is isolated in supplements. Keep reading on to see how different curcumin works differently or better than turmeric.
This yellow miracle molecule is first and foremost a potent antioxidant.
The research goes forward to describe that curcumin “scavenges” oxidative stress and aggressively works to reverse it to repair the body (2).
The proactive nature of curcumin is likely what causes most of the positive health benefits seen through turmeric and curcumin use.
Curcumin protects your liver. Curcumin doesn’t just stop at increasing your general health, it seems to unlock greater health in your liver as well.
One review of the medical effects of curcumin looks at the liver-protecting effects curcumin can have on the body (3).
In patients given carbon tetrachloride, a mild liver poison, patients saw their levels raising thiobarbituric acid and lipoperoxide levels (bad things) and their amounts of glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E (good things) diminishing (4). Once curcumin is given to the patient, the health markers of liver function seem to go back to normal as the toxin, carbon tetrachloride, is cleared away (5).
Curcumin is poorly absorbed and unstable. While curcumin is seen to have many benefits, when it is isolated it is missing a few components that help it be absorbed and used.
Looking to the research, it was seen that only 60% of the curcumin was absorbed in mice, it may be even less in humans who have larger and more complex digestive systems (6). However, as we’ll see later, there are strategies you can adopt to boost the absorption of curcumin when taken in supplemental form.
Curcumin treats indigestion. Curcumin is also soothing for the digestive tract and can help soothe indigestion, which is why it is found in many probiotic supplements.
One study looked deeper into this and researchers found that supplementing with curcumin helped about half of hospital patients with indigestion feel better (7).
This was a double-blind study though, so looking more into the numbers and results, researchers found that there was, in fact, a significant difference between the placebo and the curcumin-treated patients when it comes to indigestion.
So, the next time you have an upset stomach definitely take a curcumin pill.
Curcumin soothes ulcerative colitis. In addition to treating indigestion, curcumin can go further and treat ulcerative colitis (UC).
Ulcerative colitis is a nasty disorder where you have long-term inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract which can lead to a lot of pain.
Curcumin seems like a safe and effective solution to help bring UC patients into remission or reduce symptoms.
First, researchers looked and saw that curcumin in combination with mesalamine, a typical UC drug, significantly shortened time to remission for UC patients (8).
Another study shows that supplementing with curcumin can support and maintain remission for UC patients as well to drastically reduce symptoms (9). For these results, the studies used 1.5 grams of curcumin twice a day for results.
Curcumin may fight rheumatoid arthritis. One of curcumin’s biggest claim to fame is fighting inflammation and treating arthritis.
One group of researchers reviewed all the papers on curcumin and arthritis and found that there is a definite connection that shows curcumin can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (10).
Here, the studies used about 1 gram of curcumin per day to see results. But they also noted that more research needs to be done to establish a stronger link and say that curcumin can treat arthritis because the number of studies they had limited the confidence they have in their findings (11). Here, researchers used 500 mg of curcumin twice a day.
Curcumin reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis. Evidence backs this (12).
Not all arthritis is the same. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disease. The body is attacking its own joints leading to arthritis symptoms of soreness, pain, and limited range of motion.
On the other hand, osteoarthritis is due to overusing a joint to the point where you have actual wear and tear on the joint. This leads to bone-on-bone situations leading to soreness, pain, and limited range of motion as well.
Luckily, whichever version of arthritis you have it seems that curcumin can effectively reduce your symptoms. Here, researchers supplemented patients with about 1.5 grams per day of curcumin.
Curcumin helps post-workout soreness. Usually, after a training session where you incorporate new exercises or you push yourself harder to get more speed and explosiveness out of your movements, you feel that soreness the next day.
These scientists found that markers of inflammation and muscle damage in the curcumin group were lower than these same markers in the placebo group after both groups performed heavy eccentric exercises (13).
Here, the protocol was to take 500 mg of curcumin twice a day starting two days before exercise and continuing until the day after exercising.
You could be able to fight allergies with curcumin. Researchers discovered that curcumin can actually work to improve breathing and reduce inflammation from the nose for those with allergies (14).
So, with a daily curcumin supplement, you may be saying goodbye to seasonal allergies for good with just 500 mg of curcumin a day.
Curcumin can prevent Type 2 Diabetes. If you’re a prediabetic curcumin might help push you back on track to being healthy.
Curcumin given to prediabetic patients over 9 months was seen to increase insulin sensitivity by improving the function of Beta cells, the ones that produce insulin (15).
Compared to the placebo group, which had about 16% of prediabetics turn into full-blown type 2 diabetics, the curcumin group had NO patients go from prediabetic to diabetic (16).
Here, researchers split 1.5 mg of curcumin into two doses per day.
Curcumin improves blood pressure. There are also a few heart-healthy benefits to consuming curcumin regularly.
Especially as you age, the lining of your blood vessels seems to get worse at keeping your blood flowing. One study looked at women to test the effects of curcumin on their circulation and blood pressure.
These women were split up into the placebo group, the exercise group, and the curcumin group. At the end of 8 weeks taking a curcumin pill daily showed the same results as performing aerobic exercise (17)!
Curcumin treats major depression. In the past, curcumin has been linked to fighting depression. However, the studies testing this connection were too poor to find any real benefits.
Researchers gave subjects with major depression curcumin supplements over 12 weeks and tested their improvements with both the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30) and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) tests (18). They gave patients 500 mg of curcumin twice a day.
The results showed that curcumin had a significant effect on positively changing the recorded scores.
Curcumin boosts short-term memory. Curcumin has further brain benefits aside from destroying depression. Research supports that curcumin can actually increase something called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (19).
Basically, curcumin can make your brain bigger and smarter (like a nootropic).
For four weeks of supplementation, these researchers saw an increase in memory, calmness, and stress resilience (20). In the short term, researchers saw that curcumin significantly increased attention and memory compared with the placebo and they only gave patients 1 gram of curcumin a day (21).
Not only will curcumin dramatically lower inflammation and reduce your risk of disease, but also it seems to radically make you more focused and attentive to get more done.
Curcumin reduces cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s Disease. In the long term, curcumin may even work to fight dementia.
Specifically, researchers looked to see how curcumin would affect Alzheimer’s Disease (22). While researchers are still not sure if curcumin worked by fighting oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, or working on the cell membranes of brain tissue affected the most by Alzheimer’s, there seems to be a lack of cognitive decline over 6 months (23).
For the future, curcumin can be formulated into a pill that may even improve and reverse Alzheimer’s Disease.
In fact, more and more supplement companies are adding in special piperine blends to their curcumin supplements to drastically increase absorption. On study showed that piperine can increase curcumin absorption in humans as much as 2000% (25).
Curcumin could help increase bone density. One of the health concerns faced by older adults, and particularly older women, is low bone density, which can eventually manifest as full-fledged osteoporosis.
Some exciting new research, both in animal models and in humans, suggests that curcumin could be used to improve bone density and fight osteoporosis.
At the cellular level, evidence from a study published in International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology suggests that curcumin is able to alter the activation of specific genes linked to bone microarchitecture (26).
The study used a group of mice who had experimentally induced osteoporosis that were given a curcumin supplement or a control group (no supplement), and researchers tracked both the microarchitecture of the bones in the mice as well as the activation level of specific genes linked to bone structure.
By suppressing the expression of a specific gene, curcumin was able to help reverse osteoporosis in the mice, suggesting that curcumin could have a role alongside more common supplements like calcium and vitamin D in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
While success in small studies on mouse models don’t necessarily guarantee that a supplement will succeed in humans, there is new research suggesting that humans can indeed benefit from the bone density building effects of curcumin.
A paper published in 2017 in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences used a curcumin-based supplement in a group of 57 people with low bone density (27).
The subjects were randomly assigned to either a curcumin supplement group or a placebo group, and took their assigned supplement every day for six months. The researchers tracked the bone density of the participants before and after the six-month study period and found that the curcumin group improved their bone density significantly compared to the control group.
While this was still a small preliminary study, the results are very promising and suggest that curcumin’s health benefits could extend significantly beyond its already powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Curcumin may amplify the effect of prescription drugs. One of the issues with curcumin is that it is so effective it may amplify the effects of other drugs you are taking.
For example, curcumin decreases inflammation and can reduce blood clotting, but if you’re already on a blood thinning medication it can amplify those effects (28).
Another example is the curcumin decreases blood sugar and inflammation, so when you take a drug that already does this, like talinol, you will have enhanced effects that can be unexpected and even dangerous (29).
Caution: Despite it being seen as a safe supplement, be sure you purchase curcumin for reputable buyers.
According to consumerlab.com, about 7% of imported turmeric is contaminated with salmonella and 12% of imported turmeric has “filth” (or bug parts) coming with it (30).
Clearly, the majority of turmeric being imported is safe, but you just have to look out for the cheap brands that cut corners and bring dangerous products to the market.
Curcumin seems safe up to food-level dosages, about 15 grams, but you don’t need to take a dosage that high to see results.
Most research uses 500 mg taken twice per day, though there is quite a wide range of doses used in the scientific literature.
So, if you’re taking curcumin for general health try starting off with 0.5 grams to 1 gram a day but if you want greater effects to fight a disease then increase your dosages (31).
Q: Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing?
A: No, turmeric is not the same thing as curcumin, though they are related. Turmeric is a plant that’s similar to ginger; when people are talking about turmeric, they are usually talking about the powderized version of the turmeric root, which looks just like a yellow-orange version of ginger root.
Turmeric supplements include either the whole raw powder, or use an extracted version of this powder. Curcumin, on the other hand, is one of the chemical constituents of turmeric, and is what gives turmeric its deep yellow-orange color.
Curcumin is a single individual molecule, and many nutrition experts believe that curcumin is the reason that turmeric has so many health benefits.
In practice, all turmeric supplements will contain curcumin, and many (though not all) curcumin supplements also contain other biologically active compounds in turmeric as well.
Q: What is curcumin used to treat?
A: Curcumin is an extremely potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which means that it finds use in a wide range of conditions that are linked to systemic inflammation.
Curcumin fights against ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis, all of which are directly linked to undesirable inflammation.
Likewise, curcumin has been found to exert benefits on blood pressure and type two diabetes, which are also thought to be linked to chronic inflammation. Curcumin has also been used successfully to ameliorate symptoms of depression, though in this case it’s not clear whether the benefit is from anti-inflammatory effects or from something else.
Curcumin is known to exert benefits in at least some domains beyond its inflammation and oxidative damage fighting abilities, though; it boosts bone density by altering specific gene expression pathways related to bone microarchitecture. These are broad categories, but they are a testament to the vast utility of curcumin.
Q: What medications should not be taken with turmeric?
A: According to the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, curcumin (and turmeric generally) interact with three categories of medications: blood thinners such as warfarin, drugs that manipulate stomach acid levels (like nexium), and antidiabetic drugs which interact with blood sugar (32).
In all three cases, turmeric can interact with these prescription medications and either inhibit or amplify their mechanism of action, which can lead to undesirable outcomes.
As with any prescription medication, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about whether there is a potential for curcumin to interact with your medications before you start taking it. There are thousands of prescription medications on the market, so it’s possible that certain drug-supplement interactions have not been formally studied yet.
Q: What is curcumin?
A: Curcumin is a specific molecule that is found in turmeric, a ginger-like root plant native to Asia. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its characteristic yellow-orange color, and has long been used as a spice, pigment, and traditional herbal medication.
More recently, scientific research has pegged curcumin as the compound in turmeric that could be responsible for many of the health benefits associated with turmeric.
Like other brightly colored molecules, like astaxanthin, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, which means it fights against damage inside the body caused by free radicals.
Likewise, it has potent anti-inflammatory activity, which helps fight systemic inflammation, which is implicated in many chronic health conditions, ranging from high blood pressure to type two diabetes to depression.
Q: How much curcumin is in turmeric?
A: According to a 2006 study in the scientific journal Nutrition and Cancer published by a team of researchers in Jordan, pure turmeric powder is 3.14% curcumin by weight (33).
Notably, the same study also examined the curcumin content of turmeric-derived spices, such as curry powders, and found that the powders tended to contain small and highly variable amounts of curcumin.
Thus, the only reliable way to get curcumin in high concentrations is either from a supplement or from pure turmeric powder. Don’t rely on curries or turmeric-derived spices to deliver an adequate amount of curcumin.
Q: What does curcumin do?
A: Curcumin is, at its core, an antioxidant. That means that it can capture free radicals, which are molecules that can cause widespread damage throughout your body.
Many of the health benefits associated with curcumin are tied to its ability to reduce levels of inflammation, which likely explains why it can exert such broad benefits such as decreasing blood pressure, improving symptoms of depression, and potentially protecting against type two diabetes.
Q: Do turmeric and curcumin interact with BioPerine?
A: Yes, there is a significant body of scientific research that suggests that BioPerine, along with other black pepper extract formulations, can boost the absorption of curcumin in your body.
Curcumin is fairly unstable and can be poorly absorbed, so methods to increase the rate at which it is taken up by the body are very useful. Black pepper extract is commonly used to increase the bioavailability of many different kinds of supplements, even though the precise mechanism through which it works is not fully understood.
In the case of curcumin, though, its benefits have been measured directly; taking curcumin alongside black pepper extract will lead to greater levels of curcumin in the body than if you had taken the same amount of curcumin without black pepper extract added in.
Some research suggests that the increase in bioavailability could be as high as a 20-fold increase in curcumin absorption.
Q: How long does it take for curcumin to work?
A: After being taken in a supplement form, blood levels of curcumin rise rapidly, peaking about one to two hours after ingestion (34).
The rate at which curcumin is eliminated from the body is fairly rapid as well; even after a fairly solid dose, curcumin levels in the body are essentially back to zero within about five hours.
These findings suggest that curcumin might be more beneficial if it is split up into two doses taken at different times during the day, to maximize the amount of time that there is curcumin in your system.
Generally, dosages delivered from top-quality supplements like those in our rankings of the best curcumin supplements are compatible with twice-daily or even three times daily dosing, which can maximize the efficacy of a curcumin supplement.
Q: What foods have curcumin?
A: Unlike some other antioxidants, like resveratrol or vitamin C, which are found in many different kinds of foods, turmeric is the only natural source of curcumin.
That means that you’ll only get curcumin if the food that you are eating has turmeric in it as an ingredient. Research has found that pure turmeric powder is high in curcumin, at about three percent curcumin by weight, but beyond this, even turmeric-based ingredients like curry spices are quite low in curcumin.
To ensure that foods you are eating have a solid dose of curcumin, you need to have a hefty dose of pure turmeric powder.
Curcumin is a powerful and effective supplement for a wide range of health conditions. Basically, if you’re looking to lower your risk of chronic disease, increase your focus, and reduce soreness then look no further.
If you don’t have a health condition you’re looking to fix, you may be better with a turmeric supplement instead, otherwise quality curcumin supplements don’t have to break the bank to boost your health.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 curcumin recommendation, click here.