If you want health benefits – it’s hard to go past turmeric.
With all these benefits, it’s no surprise people are adding turmeric to their diet.
But, what if you don’t like turmeric or if you want targeted health benefits?
If that's the case, you'll want to rely on turmeric supplements. These are more effective and offer a higher dose of beneficial compounds (particularly curcumin).
This post looks at some of the best products out there, which you should choose and why.
Should You Use a Supplement?
Turmeric is powerful when used as a spice and it adds great flavor to many dishes. Even so, you may need somewhere between 1 and 2.5 grams of turmeric each day to see the benefits.
But, if that’s not you, taking turmeric in pill form is another way to go. Supplements make it easy to get high doses of curcumin, rather than trying to find recipes that use turmeric.
Such products are also specially formulated. So, you’re not just getting turmeric powder. Instead, you get a higher amount of curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric. Many supplements are also designed to boost absorption. This increases the availability of the compounds.
These differences mean a greater chance for health benefits. The site Consumer Lab also offers more detail about what to expect with turmeric spice vs supplements.
Turmeric vs. Curcumin Supplements
You'll often see the words turmeric and curcumin used interchangeably.
With this in mind, there are two general types of supplement – curcumin or turmeric. They can be broken down like this:
- Turmeric supplement: A capsule containing powered turmeric, with little else added.
- Curcumin supplement: Typically involves a turmeric extract, resulting in a higher concentration of curcumin. Other ingredients may be added as well.
While the definitions work well – companies don’t follow them.
- Instead, many turmeric supplements are made with turmeric extract.
- Others may use a combination of turmeric extract, curcumin extract and turmeric powder.
- The precise combinations vary, as do the amounts of each ingredient.
- Many companies don't disclose the precise amount of curcumin itself present.
These aspects make the supplements more difficult to compare.
If you want health benefits, supplements that use curcumin extract are typically best. Most research has focused on these and they give you the high concentration of curcumin that you need. That’s why all of the turmeric supplements on this list use an extract as one of their ingredients.
Now, turmeric itself isn't bad exactly. But, it doesn't offer nearly as many benefits. This is because turmeric root powder only contains around 2% or 3% curcuminoids. In contrast, standardized extracts often have 95% curcuminoids.
You'll also want supplements that are optimized for absorption. This is essential, as curcumin is poorly absorbed on its own. The absorption challenges can limit how many benefits you see. The issue is related to various factors, including:
- Poor absorption in the gut
- Fast elimination from the body
- Rapid metabolism
- Low solubility
Choosing the Best Turmeric for You
It's always important to pay attention to the ingredient label for any supplement. Many companies use proprietary blends and may tell you little about what these contain. A blend like that could be mostly turmeric powder and offer few benefits.
Thankfully, the brands below are all powerful options and contain significant levels of curcumin. Many have also passed independent testing, showing that supplements live up to their claims.
Doctor’s Best Curcumin
The Doctor’s Best brand is a reliable choice, offering many different products to choose from. This supplement uses what they call a Curcumin C3 complex, which is standardized to include 95% curcuminoids. Independent testing supports this claim.
With this product, you take 2 supplements each day with food. That dose offers 1,000 mg of the Curcumin C3 complex.
The other advantage is that this is a relatively inexpensive choice for the concentration you receive. For many people, this may be reason enough to try it.
- 450+ Amazon reviews, mostly positive
- Soy free, gluten free, non-GMO
- Uses a Curcumin C3 complex
- Has passed third party testing
- Contains BioPerine
- Need to take two pills to get the daily dose
Nutrigold Turmeric Curcumin Gold
This supplement from Nutrigold is similar to the previous example and has also passed independent testing. The company uses a similar Curcumin C3 Complex, which offers 95% curcuminoids. In this case, the dose is 500 mg, along with 2.5 mg of black pepper extract.
The dose makes this product sound inferior but that’s not the case. The difference is just serving size. Doctor’s Best has a serving size of 2 capsules, while Nutrigold uses 1 capsule as the serving.
As such, both products offer roughly the same dose per capsule. Both bottles contain 120 pills and they’re comparable in price. They are also both gluten free and free from GMOs.
The main differences are that Nutrigold offers more guarantees on its labeling and is certified kosher and vegan.
- 450+ Amazon reviews, mostly positive
- Gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher
- Has passed third party testing
- Contains BioPerine to promote absorption
- The most expensive product from this list (although, the price differences are small)
Naturewise Curcumin Turmeric
This product offers 1,500 mg of curcumin complex per serving (2 capsules). However, only some of this is in the form of extract. There is also organic turmeric root in the mix as well.
The pattern is fairly common, with many companies following it. That combination means that the amount of curcumin per serving may be lower, although you’re still going to get a decent serving.
The inclusion of turmeric root isn’t entirely bad either. Instead, it gives you more of the other compounds in turmeric, which can offer additional health benefits.
Once again, the supplement has a black pepper extract, which is called BioPerine. Ginger root is also included, which has health benefits too.
The supplement also has an exceptionally good reputation and has been through third-party testing – making it a good choice all around.
- Almost 2,500 Amazon reviews, with positive feedback
- Large number of pills for a reasonable price
- Includes BioPerine for absorption
- Has passed third party testing
- Contains ginger root
- Turmeric root powder is an ingredient, which has a lower curcumin concentration
Me First Living Turmeric Curcumin
This supplement offers 1,000 mg of turmeric root extract, with 95% curcuminoids. In this case, the serving is 2 capsules. The other active ingredient is 10 mg BioPerine for absorption.
The main advantage is that the pills contain just turmeric root extract, rather than powder as well. From this perspective, the supplements are extremely appealing. And should offer more benefits.
The company states that the product has been through testing – although there’s no information about what testing was used. This may make it a little less reliable than the other brands. You do also get fewer capsules per bottle (just 60).
- 1,100+ Amazon reviews, largely positive
- Uses BioPerine to promote absorption
- Turmeric powder is not included
- Few details about the testing processes
- Similar price to other brands but only 60 capsules per bottle
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Potency per serving
Capsules per bottle
What Does Turmeric Work Best For?
So then, there are many different brands to choose from - and they all give you access to curcumin. Many also contain some of the other compounds present in turmeric.
That begs the question, why is turmeric so powerful anyway? This is a topic we've examined in detail elsewhere. The site Examine.com also has a powerful Human Effect Matrix that highlights all of the human research conducted that involves curcumin, along with the strength of the outcomes.
Their analysis shows that curcumin supplementation offers the most benefits for:
- Reduction of arthritis pain
- Brain health
- Lowering inflammation
The site Consumer Labs has also highlighted research that supports how curcumin can reduce pain in general, including muscle soreness and arthritis pain.
Many other areas of benefits have been proposed as well, including a connection between turmeric and weight loss. While more research is needed, it's already clear that curcumin can offer many benefits and may help improve overall health.
Dosing and Absorption of Curcumin
Including turmeric in your food is appealing - but supplements are much more powerful for health. To get these advantages, you have to make sure that you choose the right brand and dose. Unfortunately, that's not as simple as it seems.
Research suggests that a dose of between 80 and 500 mg of curcumin (not turmeric) will offer health benefits. But, that's only if the curcumin is absorbed. The topic is something that Examine.com highlights in their discussion.
To make matters more confusing, studies have considered a wide range of different doses. These often vary from 500 mg to 2,000 mg, as Consumer Lab discusses. But, that measure is of curcuminoids, not curcumin itself.
This is an issue, because curcumin is poorly absorbed on its own. To get the benefits of the compound, you need some type of enhancement. There are multiple such options, with more being researched as time goes on.
5 Ways to Optimize Your Curcumin
These are the five most common approaches for promoting curcumin absorption.
- Black pepper (piperine). This is the most common technique and is also why black pepper is often included in recipes that use turmeric.
- Curcumin nanoparticles (often called theracurmin).
- Water-soluble curcumin (called polyvinyl pyrrolidone).
- Curcumin combined with a hydrophilic carrier (CurcuWin formulation)
- Curcumin phytosomes that are complexed with phosphatidylcholine (e.g. BCM-95 and Meriva).
The site Examine.com highlights the evidence for each of these formulations. The main exception is brands that use a different technique and provide proof that it actually works.
Additionally, if you're using curcumin for your intestines specifically, an enhancement isn't needed. In this case, you don't actually need the curcumin to be absorbed and could simply get the benefit from any supplement or from turmeric itself.
But, if you're looking for something else, like the best turmeric supplement for inflammation - you should choose a formulated product.
When to Take the Supplement
The best time to take turmeric is a surprisingly challenging topic. Different authors have their own conclusions - and research studies vary in their timing and doses.
- Some people feel that the supplement should be taken either before a meal or at least three hours after one, as fasting may improve the absorption of curcumin (10). You might also take the supplement before bed for the same effect. However, some people do experience sleeping problems when they do.
- Others feel that you should take the supplement with some type of fat, ideally during a meal. This is based on the idea that curcumin is fat soluble. As a result, fat may help to improve the absorption.
But, there is little evidence about either perspective.
While the timing may matter for turmeric itself, it shouldn't be very relevant for taking a supplement. If you're focusing on a high-quality product that is optimized for absorption, it will already have everything you need. Taking the supplement with food or on an empty stomach shouldn't make a difference.
Side Effects and Precautions
Turmeric and curcumin supplements are generally considered safe in the short-term for doses of up to 8 grams (8,000 mg) of curcumin. However, as is always the case, there are some additional considerations.
- Long-term safety testing is limited, particularly for high doses.
- Individual formulations will have gone through less testing, often just the testing conducted by the company itself.
- Supplements are not strongly regulated. There is always the risk of contamination and the product may not contain what it claims to.
- People will vary in their reactions. What is healthy and safe for one person may not be so for another.
There is always a risk of interactions. Talk to your doctor if you are taking other medication, if you have a serious medical condition or if you are pregnant. In particular:
- Turmeric acts as a blood thinner and should not be taken at the same time as any blood thinning medication.
- Likewise, turmeric may decrease blood sugar levels. This is a positive outcome but it means turmeric should not be combined with any blood sugar medication without talking to your doctor first.
- Supplements may also interact with the medication talinolol (a beta blocker) and could affect immunosuppressive medications
- Turmeric can stimulate the gallbladder (11). This can increase pain for people with gallbladder disease or gallstones. But, the supplements don't contribute to gallstone formation.
There are also side effects that can occur with high doses of turmeric and/or curcumin.
- Some people experience nausea and diarrhea.
- Allergic skin reactions can also occur.
- Turmeric does contain oxalates. This may contribute to kidney stone formation. The site Healthline talks about the issues with oxalates and the current evidence in this field. However, some brands specifically focus on being low in oxalates.
- Long-term use could result in liver toxicity - although this has only been shown in animal studies.
If you're concerned about these risks, you could always focus on simply including turmeric in your diet. While the benefits of doing so are less, the risks are lower than taking high doses of turmeric in pill form.
That being said, the vast majority of people don't experience any problems at all.
Finally, when you use the supplements, it's important to pay attention to how your body responds. You should also avoid taking large doses for long periods of time. There hasn't been enough research into the risks of doing so and you're not likely to see more benefits by large doses and long-term supplementation.
My Top Pick
So then, which turmeric supplement is best?
My personal recommendation would be Nutrigold. This is a high quality turmeric supplement. As with Me First Living, the supplement contains just turmeric extract, rather than the powder as well. You also get a decent number of pills for the price you pay – and the company has a good reputation.
Of course, this is just one option. Any of the items on this list are good choices – and there are other appealing ones too.
Even so, it’s important to check carefully. The items I’ve focused on here have passed any independent testing they’ve been through. But, many others out there fail such tests.
There are also some products that simply don’t contain all that much curcumin. To get around this, make sure you check the details on the label. If that information isn’t provided, find a different brand.
And finally, if you're more interested in turmeric powder, there are many good recipes to go around. The site Skinny Chef offers some tips to get you started. You can also check out the link below for the best turmeric to buy.