Spoiler alert. Curcumin is NOT the same as Turmeric and it dumbfounds me that so many companies selling turmeric supplements continue to propagate the confusion with their packaging. Nearly 50% of the top 50 sellers (by revenue) on Amazon use the term “Turmeric Curcumin..” in the title of their capsules.
Why have the terms curcumin and turmeric become almost interchangeable? The German for turmeric is Kurkuma, French and Italian is curcuma, Spanish is cúrcuma so maybe it is just a case of “lost in translation?” More cynically, I am inclined to blame the industry who are trying to cover all bases and appeal to the ill informed. Unfortunately this issue becomes self-propelling and the algorithms of Google and Amazon favour the products which are getting the most engagement regardless of labelling accuracy, or lack thereof.
Turmeric is a root-spice and part of the ginger family. It is typically dried and ground to a fine yellow powder and is a key ingredient in a blend of ground spices to make curry powder (curry powder is just a mix of other spices e.g. cumin, coriander, chili, turmeric.. And others depending on the type of curry).
Turmeric CONTAINS curcumin. Curcumin is just one of the three notable curcuminoids in turmeric, and has been the focus of medical research as curcumin has shown to be the most active and most beneficial to health. Natural, ground turmeric (with no fillers) tends to contain between 1-5% of curcumin. A good turmeric typically has a curcumin content above 3%, and above 5% can become very bitter indeed. In the interest of science, curcumin has been extracted and experiments conducted with concentrated forms of curcumin, however the long term effects of taking such high doses is not yet known. To that end, unless you are following a particular protocol (e.g. treating cancer), taking a supplement with 95% curcuminoids is not recommended. On the flip side, little research has been done on the other main curcuminoids, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin, and their symbiotic impact on the efficacy of curcumin.
Therefore, for daily vitality, a turmeric supplement should contain natural ground turmeric and NOT curcumin extracts, and seek out those supplements which detail the exact curcumin content of the turmeric they are using in the supplements, as not all turmeric is the same.