The health benefits of turmeric are becoming increasingly well known which has given rise to a vast range of turmeric based products that have flooded the market. But, which ones are any good and which ones are just jumping on the turmeric band wagon and offer little or no benefit at all. To answer this we need to understand the active ingredients of turmeric and the challenges of getting the right amount of the good stuff into our bodies, or the bodies of our four-legged friends.
Turmeric is a yellow spice which has been used in India for thousands of years as both a spice in curry dishes and in alternative medicines for many ailments. Recent scientific research has started to back up traditional claims that turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids and the most important one is curcumin.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. However the body finds it difficult to absorb curcumin and hence there have been many studies looking to improve the bioavailability of curcumin. In summary, these processes or additions have statistically shown to improve the body’s absorption of curcumin. This list is not exhaustive but highlights some of the most popular and used methodologies.
Black pepper. Consuming turmeric with black pepper has proven to improve the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%! Piperine is the bio-active compound in black pepper and you only need a little of it to gain massive improvements
Oil. Curcumin is also fat soluble, which means it breaks down and dissolves in fat or oil. That’s why adding a good oil like coconut oil serves as a carrier for the curcumin to enter the bloodstream faster and bypass the liver whereby it would otherwise be excreted with other bodily waste.
Heat. Turmeric is a starchy rhizome and by adding water and gently heating for 7-10mins, breaks down these starches to release the curcumin and increases solubility by 12x. There is no definitive evidence as yet to the extent that improvements in solubility impacts on bioavailability although it does mean that turmeric is more readily absorbed by the body.
So with that in mind, what are the best turmeric supplements:
Home-made Golden Paste. Golden Paste is created by heating the turmeric powder with water, adding coconut oil and freshly ground black pepper. The recipe is here. Doing it yourself is the cheapest and most effective way. But beware it can be messy and will stain everything the paste touches, so have dedicated saucepans and utensils!
Ready-made Golden Paste. Ready made Golden Paste can now be purchased by a number of different manufacturers. Spice Origin specialise in sourcing high quality ingredients directly from farmers in India. You can check it out here. It is the simplest way to get Golden Paste but is more expensive than making yourself.
Golden Paste Capsules (or Golden Paste Powder). For those that do not like the taste of Golden Paste or need a more convenient form because they are going on holiday for example, the Capsules are the way forward. Capsules will dissolve in a liquid so the turmeric has not been heated and coconut oil powder is used instead of coconut oil. These products are unique in the market and are pioneered by Spice Origin.
Turmeric & Black Pepper Capsules. As above but without an oil carrier the efficacy is not quite as good.
Whichever route to take please follow the Golden Rules:
- Choose companies providing turmeric, turmeric supplements and other ingredients which have a proven provenance of ingredients. Avoid cheap turmeric which are in danger of containing fillers
- Look for proof of curcumin content which should be between 3-5% and should be backed up by certified analysis
- Do NOT buy capsules with added curcumin extract unless following the cancer protocol. Often advertised as 95% curcumin/curcuminoids
- The best turmeric supplements will include black pepper AND an oil. Search for these… they are out there!