For centuries, turmeric has been known for its vibrant colour and potent health benefits. This golden spice, a staple in kitchens and traditional medicine worldwide, holds immense potential for promoting well-being. However, navigating the world of turmeric and its key component, curcumin can be confusing. This blog post aims to demystify the golden spice, unravelling the differences between turmeric, curcumin, and bioavailable curcumin, and helping you choose the best fit for your health goals.

Turmeric vs. Curcumin vs. Bioavailable Curcumin. What's the difference? 


This widely recognised spice is derived from the ground rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant. It contains a complex mixture of curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active component. While turmeric is readily available and enhances culinary experiences, its bioavailability is limited. This means that the body struggles to absorb and utilize a significant portion of the curcumin present.


Extracted from turmeric, curcumin offers a more concentrated form of this powerful compound. This concentrated form provides a more potent dose of curcumin, but its absorption remains a challenge. Standard curcumin supplements often suffer from poor absorption due to factors like low solubility and rapid metabolism.

Bioavailable Curcumin

This category encompasses various formulations designed to overcome the absorption limitations of curcumin. These advanced formulations employ various strategies, such as micellarization, nano-encapsulation, and solid dispersion, to enhance curcumin's solubility and bioavailability. This significantly increases the amount of curcumin absorbed by the body, maximizing its therapeutic potential.


tumeric vs. curcumin

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Can Curcumin Help With Inflammation? 

Curcumin's prowess lies in its multifaceted approach to combat inflammation. It operates on various molecular levels, disrupting inflammatory pathways and signalling molecules. The key lies in its ability to inhibit the activation of NF-kappaB, a molecule that plays a pivotal role in inflammation. By blocking NF-kappaB, curcumin helps regulate the body's inflammatory response.

Moreover, curcumin is known for modulating cytokines, the regulatory proteins that govern immune responses. This modulation contributes to a balanced and controlled inflammatory environment, preventing the chronic inflammation implicated in various health conditions.

Can Curcumin Improve Gut Health? 

Beyond its anti-inflammatory abilities, curcumin has been heavily researched for its ability to support a healthy gut microbiome:

  • Promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria: Curcumin can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, which play essential roles in digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function.

  • Reduces harmful bacteria: Curcumin possesses antibacterial properties that may help combat the overgrowth of harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, which can contribute to various digestive issues.

  • Improves gut barrier function: Curcumin helps strengthen the intestinal barrier, preventing the leakage of harmful toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream. This can protect against inflammation and other gut-related disorders.

  • Reduces gut inflammation: Curcumin's potent anti-inflammatory properties can directly address inflammation within the gut, alleviating symptoms of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How Much Curcumin Do You Need for Inflammation?

For those seeking significant anti-inflammatory effects, a daily intake of 400-500mg of curcumin is recommended. This dosage, when achieved through bioavailable formulations, ensures that an ample amount of curcumin reaches target tissues, maximizing its therapeutic impact. It's essential to be discerning when choosing a curcumin supplement, avoiding products with misleadingly low curcumin content that may compromise the desired benefits.


curcumin in pills

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Which Form of Curcumin is Right for You?

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different forms of turmeric and curcumin, it's time to choose the one that best aligns with your individual needs and preferences. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of each.





Readily available and affordable

  • Enhances culinary experiences and adds vibrant color

  • Supports microbiome health

  • Natural and familiar form


  • Limited bioavailability, requiring larger quantities for significant effects

  • May not be suitable for those with specific health concerns requiring high curcumin intake

  • Absorption may be further hindered by factors like diet and digestive issues




  • More concentrated form of curcumin than turmeric

  • Offers a potent dose of curcumin in a smaller quantity

  • May be suitable for those comfortable with taking higher doses


  • Still suffers from limited bioavailability due to absorption challenges

  • May be less effective than bioavailable curcumin for individuals with specific health needs

  • Higher doses may cause side effects in some individuals


Bioavailable Curcumin



  • Superior absorption and bioavailability, maximizing curcumin's therapeutic potential

  • Delivers higher levels of curcumin to target tissues, leading to faster and more pronounced results

  • Ideal for individuals seeking optimal benefits from curcumin

  • May be the preferred choice for those with specific health concerns requiring significant anti-inflammatory effects


  • More expensive than turmeric and standard curcumin supplements

  • May contain additional ingredients, like piperine, which may not be suitable for everyone

  • Limited availability compared to other forms of curcumin

Ultimately, the best form of turmeric/curcumin for you depends on your individual needs and preferences. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • Your health goals: Are you seeking general health support, or do you have specific health concerns requiring significant anti-inflammatory effects?

  • Your dietary preferences: Do you enjoy incorporating turmeric into your cooking, or do you prefer taking supplements?

  • Your budget: Bioavailable curcumin is the most expensive option, while turmeric is the most affordable.

  • Your tolerance: Some individuals may experience side effects from higher doses of curcumin.

By weighing the pros and cons of each form and considering your individual circumstances, you can confidently choose the golden ally that best supports your journey towards optimal well-being.



Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10), 92.

Jurenka, J. S. (2009). Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of turmeric: A review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative Medicine Review, 14(2), 141-153.

Gupta, S. C., Patchva, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2013). Therapeutic roles of curcumin: Lessons learned from clinical trials. The AAPS Journal, 15(1), 195-218.

Curcumin: A review of its effects on physical and mental health. (2018). Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(6), 744-752.

Panchal, S. K., Kumar, V., & Modi, H. A. (2010). Therapeutic potential of curcumin in inflammatory bowel disease. The AAPS Journal, 12(1), 523-536.

Written by Clare Gibson 

Bsc Nutrition & Dietetics