If you have never heard of turmeric before, it is a spice derived from the rhizome of the turmeric plant. Using turmeric in cooking is not new. In fact, it has been found in Asian kitchens for thousands of years! Recently it has gained immense popularity, not for its pungent flavour in cooking but for its medicinal properties.
It can be said that turmeric is one of the most effective nutritional superfoods in the world. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and is commercially available in different forms such as a spice, powder, root, capsule, tea and extracts.
Now, before you get tempted to visit the spice aisle and stock up on this magic spice, here’s everything you need to know about it to make the right choice for you.
What Is Curcumin?
There are numerous chemical compounds found in turmeric, with curcumin being the most important compound. It is the main active ingredient in turmeric and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin makes turmeric a functional food; the food that has potentially positive health effects. However, the amount of curcumin found in turmeric is not that great.  Thus, it becomes extremely difficult to get sufficient curcumin intake by using turmeric as a spice in the meals. That’s why it’s highly recommended to take turmeric supplements that comprise of a substantial quantity of beneficial curcumin in it.
What Is the Nutritional Value of Turmeric?
As suggested by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one tablespoon of turmeric powder contains: 
- Calories - 29
- Protein - 0.91 g
- Fat – 0.31 g
- Carbohydrates – 6.31 g
- Fibre – 2.1 g
- Sugar – 0.3 g
The same 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder provides: 
- 16 % of daily iron needs
- 26% of daily manganese needs
- 5% of daily potassium needs
- 3% of daily vitamin C needs
The Issue of Curcumin & Its Bioavailability
Curcumin tends to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer & neurotrophic activity, helping in preventing and treating several ailments. Although it works wonders on health, the poor bioavailability of curcumin becomes a major barrier to its clinical efficacy.
So, what is bioavailability and why it is so important?
Bioavailability (BA) is the rate at which the part of the substance is absorbed by the body’s circulatory system to have an active effect on it. This concludes that turmeric contained curcumin is very poorly absorbed in the body and the bioavailability of turmeric capsules needs to be improved. There are several reasons that contribute to the poor bioavailability of turmeric capsules. It includes:
- Its swift metabolism and excretion from the body.
- The way it is distributed throughout the body tissues.
- Its short-life decreases its activity in the body.
- Its low solubility in water.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to improve the bioavailability of turmeric and turmeric capsules.
- Combine turmeric with black pepper. Black pepper is rich in piperine, a natural substance which helps in boosting the curcumin absorption rate by 2000%. 
- You can mix turmeric with fats such as olive oil, flaxseed oil or coconut oil.
- The micronized powder and the liquid micellar formulation of Curcumin help in increasing its oral bioavailability. 
All in all, using any of the above methods can significantly increase the bioavailability of turmeric.
Important Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin:
It is Anti-Inflammatory
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps in maintaining healthy inflammation responses. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
People suffering from arthritis should consume the spice on a daily basis to relieve themselves of inflammation and mild joint pain. One can also dissolve the powder turmeric in water and apply it on the swollen area. This can provide you with immediate and long-lasting relief.
If you are suffering from a digestive problem, consuming raw turmeric might help manage the ailment. The major components of the spices stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile which instantly makes the digestive system more efficient. It is also proven to be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of gas and bloating.
It Has Healing Properties
One of the major health benefits of turmeric is its healing properties. Its natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties make turmeric an effective disinfectant. It also helps in accelerating the healing of wounds. For very minor cuts and scrapes, applying a paste of curcuma powder and water can work as a quick remedy.
Helps in Diabetes
There’s good news for people suffering from pre-diabetes. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action of curcumin helps in delaying the inception of Type 2 Diabetes. Additionally, it also helps in lowering the insulin level and boosts the effect of medications that treat diabetes. Nevertheless, it is essential to consult a physician before taking turmeric capsules with any other strong medicines.
Turmeric is enriched with Lipopolysaccharide, a compound known for its antiviral, antifungal and anti-bacterial agents which helps in stimulating the immune system. Consuming turmeric milk on a daily basis can work wonders for your health. All you need to do is add a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk and consume it on a daily basis. You can also give a try to turmeric tea.
Improves Liver Function
Turmeric is popular for its antioxidant action. This helps in increasing the production of the vital enzymes that helps to reduce the toxins while detoxifying the blood in the liver. By boosting blood circulation, turmeric also helps in supporting the health of the liver.
What Are The Possible Side Effects of Turmeric?
Both turmeric and curcumin (its main active ingredient) are generally considered safe and with no known side effects.et, when taken in large doses as supplements, it may cause some common side effects in a few people. This may include nausea, dizziness, stomach upset or diarrhoea. This is because a high dosage of turmeric increases the secretion of stomach acid, which can cause digestive distress.
When used in small amounts though, turmeric can be both safe and effective. However, when taken in the supplemental form it might not be suggested for pregnant women as it may possibly trigger contractions. The golden rule here is moderation. It’s the key to enjoy the numerous health benefits of curcumin while not worrying about the possible side effects.
Recommended Dosage of Turmeric:
Usually, studies use doses of 500-2,000 mg of turmeric/day in the form of a curcumin extract. This is much higher than the amount found in the natural turmeric. Let’s understand this with the help of an example.
When used as a spice, the average Indian diet provides around 2,000–2,500 mg of turmeric which is 60–100 mg of curcumin per day. When extracted, the same amount can provide up to 1,900–2,375 mg of curcumin. 
On the other hand, when used as a spice, turmeric is still filled with numerous benefits. There’s still no official agreement on the recommended doses of turmeric or curcumin, however, listed below is the dosage used in research which exhibits promising results. 
- Itchy skin: 500mg of turmeric extras twice daily for 8 weeks
- High Cholesterol: 700mg of turmeric extra twice daily for 3 months
- Osteoarthritis: 500mg of turmeric extra twice daily for 2-3 months
It is highly recommended to not take daily doses of turmeric and curcumin for the long-term. However, the WHO (World Health Organization) has determined that the intake of 1.4mg of turmeric and curcumin/pound of body weight is acceptable. 
That said; always remember that all herbal supplements should be used with caution. Always take medical advice prior to taking any supplement, including curcumin and turmeric capsules.
Common FAQ's Related To Turmeric Capsules
Aren’t turmeric and curcumin the same?
No, they are not. Curcumin is not the same as turmeric. It is the main active ingredient of turmeric responsible for most of its health benefits. It also gives turmeric its characteristic yellow colour.
What precautions should I take while consuming turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice and is often considered as safe. Intake of 1-1.5 tablespoon of turmeric powder a day is considered extremely safe. Curcuma capsules contain high % of curcumin and an overdose can cause side effects.
Can I take Curcuma capsules during pregnancy and lactation?
Many mothers consume turmeric as a part of their diet throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, it is highly recommended to consult a medical practitioner prior to taking any supplements.
Are curcumin supplements safe?
Derived from turmeric extract, curcumin supplement has been labelled as safe with no known side effects. That said always ensure to buy supplements of organic quality.
Turmeric, and especially curcumin (its most active compound), has numerous scientifically-proven health benefits. The golden spice has proven to be extremely beneficial in improving immune health, controlling blood pressure and helping relieve pain. Its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help in improving the symptoms of arthritis and depression as well.
However, as with any alternative therapy, it’s wise to speak to your doctor prior to taking turmeric curcumin supplements to treat any ailment. Make sure to buy only organic turmeric capsules and to use only organic turmeric powder in recipes.
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- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, April 2018
- Self-Nutrition Data
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