Turmeric is everywhere – it’s in recipes and packaged foods, brewed teas and brightly-colored lattes. And it’s appearing on the shelves of stores everywhere in the form of turmeric supplements. Turmeric is a spice that’s both richly flavorful and highly beneficial, and it’s a particularly powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
The health benefits of turmeric are exactly what make it such a popular supplement. But are these supplements worth taking? Can turmeric supplements have a positive impact on your health and wellness? Are these supplements safe to take daily?
We’re answering these questions and more, helping you discover whether turmeric supplements are worth the hype and if they can really offer health benefits.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice that comes from a plant within the ginger family. Native to Southeast Asia and used for thousands of years in India both for flavor and for medicinal purposes, turmeric is quite a popular product. It’s used in Ayurvedic, Chinese and other Eastern Asian medical traditions to treat health conditions that affect the skin, joints, digestion and more.
When it comes to cooking, turmeric is perhaps best known for its use in curry powder. It’s one of the key spices in curry’s flavor profile and brilliant color. That famous yellow color, however, comes from curcumin.
Curcumin is one of the major components and active ingredients in turmeric, and it does more than deliver color to the spice. Curcuminoids, which include curcumin and other closely related substances, are what make turmeric so beneficial. It’s this component that creates the anti-inflammatory effects and works as a powerful antioxidant.
However, in order to enjoy all of the awesome potential that curcumin holds, you have to consume a whole lot of turmeric. Most research conducted on turmeric examines turmeric extracts that are made up of mostly curcumin – and it’s difficult to get a lot of curcumin from the spice containers in your pantry. Your average turmeric blend contains just 3 percent curcumin.
That’s where turmeric supplements come in.
What are turmeric supplements made of?
Turmeric supplements are a bit different from the spice itself. They’re typically made from turmeric’s dried rhizome and include a blend of curcuminoids. So, these supplements include both the color and the benefits of turmeric in an easy-to-consume form.
Turmeric supplements also contain more significant amounts of curcumin. Dietary supplements made from turmeric extracts tend to contain a lot of curciminoids. The amount can vary, but Healthline notes that research studies typically examine the benefits of turmeric that contains between 500 and 2,000 milligrams of curciminoids (or curcumin).
Because turmeric and curcumin are difficult for the body to absorb, these supplements usually include additional ingredients that help you make the most of them. Black pepper is a popular addition due to its piperine content – this can increase absorption by as much as 2,000 percent.
Types of turmeric supplements
Turmeric supplements come in a variety of different forms. You can find curcuminoid-rich products in pills and capsules, powders, gels, liquids and gummies.
Some of these supplements include turmeric extract and other ingredients. For example, you can find turmeric powder mixed with adaptogens like reishi and ashwagandha or with collagen. You’ll also spot pills or capsules that include turmeric and black pepper, a common ingredient meant to increase potential absorption.
Liposomal curcumin is another kind of turmeric supplement you can try. Said to be a more efficacious and easy-to-absorb form of curcumin, these liquid supplements include both curcumin and liposomes.
Fermented turmeric supplements are also available. Typically found in capsule form, this option often features fermented turmeric root and aims to promote digestive health along with the usual benefits of turmeric.
The benefits of turmeric supplements
Turmeric supplements are so popular because turmeric is one impressive spice. The powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric’s curcuminoids make it effective for a whole lot of different health concerns and conditions. If you’re dealing with inflammation of any kind, turmeric supplements may offer benefits you want to take advantage of.
Here are just some of the health conditions that research has shown turmeric or curcumin can potentially help:
- Joint pain, inflammation and arthritis: The Arthritis Foundation reports that a sponsored review of randomized controlled trials found that taking 1,000 milligrams of curcumin a day can reduce osteoarthritis pain and inflammation. Curcumin may also help prevent bones from breaking down in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Memory: A 2018 clinical trial showed that taking 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily may improve memory in adults, with a potential reduction in brain inflammation.
- Ulcerative colitis (UC): A 2006 study showed that taking 2 grams of curcumin daily helped individuals stay in remission and prolong the length of time between UC flare-ups.
- Heart disease: A 2009 review indicates that curcumin can be protective for the heart, and it may potentially prevent cardiovascular complications, lower cholesterol and provide other heart-healthy effects.
The impact and potential of turmeric (and curcumin) supplements are still being studied. At the heart of these supplements, however, is their anti-inflammatory properties. Since they may be able to lessen inflammation, the positive effects of using turmeric supplements to combat chronic inflammation may become even more common as more is learned.
How much turmeric should I take?
The commonly recommended dose of turmeric per day is 1,000 milligrams total – 500 milligrams taken twice daily.
However, more or less may be better for your specific needs or health goals. Doses from 500 to 2,000 milligrams can be beneficial in different ways. For example, a 2010 research study found that 500 milligrams of curcumin extract taken twice daily can be beneficial for osteoarthritis. A 2012 study showed that taking 700 milligrams of turmeric extract twice daily was beneficial for high cholesterol.
To determine how much turmeric or curcumin is the right amount with you, discuss these supplements with your healthcare provider. For some health conditions and certain individuals, turmeric supplements can cause interactions and side effects. Talk with your doctor to find the right amount – and the right dose – for your specific situation.
What to look for in a turmeric supplement
If you’re interested in taking turmeric supplements, it’s important to remember that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements as closely as it does most foods or medicines. Supplement manufacturers are responsible for evaluating the safety of their own products – so you’ll want to choose your supplements carefully. It’s a good idea to look for third-party verified products that have been independently tested for safety and efficacy.
Additionally, you’ll want to look at the ingredients list on the label to find clean turmeric supplements. Whether you’re opting for powders, pills, gummies or liquids, it’s common for turmeric and curcumin to be mixed with other ingredients. Clean and simple is the best option.
There is one particular ingredient that you do want to look for, though. Piperine, or black pepper, can increase the effectiveness of a turmeric supplement. This addition can help your body absorb turmeric’s curcuminoids better, which means you’ll likely take in more of the beneficial compounds.
Of course, taking a turmeric supplement each day isn’t the only thing you need to do if you’re seeking anti-inflammatory benefits. Sticking with a healthy, balanced diet is also important, and you can always increase your turmeric intake through food in addition to supplements. Check out these turmeric-rich ideas: