Best Turmeric Supplements to Fight Inflammation

Best Turmeric Supplements to Fight Inflammation

Inflammation is such a buzz word right now and rightfully so! Most of us are walking balls of inflammation from lack of sleep, stress, poor quality food, and an abundance of antibiotics and NSAIDs over the years. 

Science has proven that food and herbs can fight nasty inflammation and if you’re wondering where to start, I’d like to introduce you to a close friend of mine, turmeric.

Turmeric is a spice that is used around the world for its unique flavor and potent medicinal properties. Taking it one step further, it’s important to understand what curcumin is, the naturally occurring compound in turmeric that is mainly responsible for tackling inflammation. 

In this post, we review the difference between turmeric vs. curcumin, turmeric side effects, the best turmeric supplement to fight inflammation and share our favorite turmeric recipes.

What is Turmeric? 

Turmeric is best known as a spice but turmeric goes way beyond just adding flavor to your favorite curry dishes.

Bushel of turmeric plants with roots and leaves.
Bushel of turmeric!

There are around 40-45 species of turmeric. However, while turmeric is a safe and wonderful spice, it is not quite as beneficial to our bodies without curcumin. Curcumin is recognized as the principal anti-inflammatory and healthful component of turmeric but unfortunately only makes up 2-8% of turmeric. Curcumin is best known for its ability to fight inflammation in the form of metabolic syndrome, poor digestion, pain, and impaired cognition.

Fun fact: Turmeric is what makes your mustard yellow and this lovely spice has been used for the past 4,000 years!

Turmeric vs Curcumin: What is the Difference?

A question we’re often asked is to compare turmeric vs curcumin and explain how they’re different.

Turmeric’s main active compound is curcumin. Turmeric is a plant but more specifically a root while curcumin is a naturally occurring compound within the turmeric root. Curcumin is actually the main component that gives turmeric its beautiful bright yellow-orange pigment. This powerful plant originates from Southeast Asia but is most commonly found in India today.[1]

Detailed analysis of turmeric shows its components can be mostly divided into various compounds including curcuminoids, sesquiterpenoids, and volatile oils. To no surprise, curcumin is one of the three major “curcuminoids” found in turmeric.[2]

The macronutrient composition of turmeric reveals a 100g dose consists of ~21g of fiber, 69g of carbohydrate with 3g of sugar and 21g of fiber, and 8g of protein. Remember, this is per 100g. We use sprinkles of it, 100g is equal to 1/5th of a pound or 0.1kg![2] 

While there is significant research suggesting curcumin is the all-star packing the most powerful benefits in turmeric, other research states there are benefits to many of the other compounds in turmeric. Throughout the rest of this post, we will be referring to both turmeric and curcumin at different times depending on what the research analyzed.  While some studies used supplements which only contained curcumin, others used turmeric. So, bear with us as we go back and forth between the two.

While it’s not a bad idea to take supplements with curcumin only, when analyzing whether to take turmeric vs curcumin, it may be beneficial to take a supplement that uses turmeric to allow you to benefit from all of its mighty components.  

What are the Benefits of Turmeric?

Curcumin and turmeric both have numerous benefits.  Turmeric’s abundance of antioxidants can help improve many chronic health conditions. In fact, there are over 3,000 publications on the topic of turmeric/curcumin and their ability to improve chronic health conditions.

Curcumin is known to increase the serum activities of antioxidants. This means it increases the abundance and effectiveness of antioxidants floating around in our blood which is critical for long term health. 

While small amounts of Inflammation in acute injuries/situations can be helpful to the body, chronic inflammation is NOT beneficial. In fact, chronic inflammation is known to the main contributing factor in cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, joint pain, type II diabetes, depression, and autoimmune conditions. 

Anti-inflammatories like curcumin can help reverse the type of chronic inflammation that leads to disease. Curcumin is such a strong anti-inflammatory that it matches the effectiveness of certain anti-inflammatory drugs but without the nasty side effects.

Generally speaking, the longer someone takes turmeric, the greater its health benefits. [3,4,5]

Many of my clients will often ask, “How is it humanly possible that turmeric can target such a wide variety of disease states that seem totally unrelated i.e. Crohn’s disease, obesity, and urinary tract infections?”

Outstanding question. 

Answer: Prescription drugs typically target a single pathway. The pro is that the drug typically works quickly and effectively by being so specific. The con is that there are frequently adverse side effects when a single pathway is attacked so intensely.

Turmeric, on the other hand, supports a variety of pathways involved with the activation of NF-kB, a primary conductor of stress, immune and inflammatory responses throughout our body. [3]

Remember, disease does not occur without the manifestation of chronic inflammation (or the accumulation of chronic damage/immune stress) first. 

It’s just that the vast majority of people feeling exhausted, or in pain chalk it up to aging or overtraining. When inflammation is ignored for years, we often wake up with a very serious diagnosis that seemed to have come out of nowhere.

Curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at the molecular level. Arthritis is a chronic joint condition associated with both chronic and acute inflammation. Curcumin has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. [6]

Benefits of Curcumin and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur in the body at once which can include insulin resistance, hypertension, low HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, and obesity. Curcumin has been known to improve these conditions as well.[7]

Benefits of Curcumin and Heart Disease

Heart disease, which is also a part of metabolic syndrome, can be beneficially impacted by both curcumin and turmeric. They both can reduce the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides in the body as well as reduce the overall risk of heart disease. Lastly, turmeric and curcumin have strong antibacterial effects that can reduce the growth in many disease-causing bacteria.[7]

Benefits of Curcumin and Obesity

The obesity epidemic is a major concern and it is well established that the activity of curcumin can promote weight loss. Curcumin and turmeric may inhibit inflammatory pathways that regulate body fat. In adipose tissue (body fat), curcumin can inhibit the macrophage infiltration that causes weight gain.[8]

Benefits of Curcumin and Muscle Recovery and Performance

From a sports performance standpoint, curcumin has been shown to alleviate post-workout muscle soreness and enhance recovery of muscle performance. My husband Michael swears by it and takes a Theracurmin HP before and after all long runs and intense workouts.  

A simple search in Pubmed on “curcumin for muscle recovery“ returns dozens of articles discussing various benefits of curcumin or turmic for athletes.  A couple of highlights include:

What is the Best Turmeric Supplement to Fight Inflammation?

There are hundreds upon hundreds of turmeric/curcumin supplements on the market now. What’s a consumer to do?!

Lucky for you, we’ve spent an incredible amount of time digging through the research and testing a number of turmeric supplements on ourselves, elite athletes, and many individuals who are suffering from a chronic health condition. 

Here is the final verdict for the best turmeric supplements:

Best Turmeric Supplement to Fight Inflammation in Elite Athlete

Meriva- SF by Thorne 

Thorne Meriva-SF turmeric curcumin supplement

Meriva-SF is a sustained release curcumin developed by Thorne, one of the most respected professional-grade supplement brands out there.  It is extremely well absorbed and it is arguably the most clinically studied curcumin available.

The research behind Meriva is excellent, especially when it comes to joint pain and osteoarthritis, relieving intermuscular pain in athletes, and helping to maintain lean muscle mass. [9,10,11] As a sports dietitian, I feel confident recommending Meriva to elite athletes as well as all my clients since it goes through 3rd party supplement purity testing and has the NSF Certified for Sport approval as a clean supplement. 

Best Turmeric Supplement to Fight Inflammation in All Active Individuals 

For those who are not likely to be drug tested and may want to look at other brands or more affordable options, below we have a list of other top-notch turmeric and curcumin supplements. 

Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin HP

Integrative Therapeutics Theracumin HP turmeric curcumin supplement

I love Theracurmin HP because of its incredible effectiveness. It is hands down the best turmeric supplement with black pepper (which helps absorption. We explain later).  Because it is so strong, I use it regularly with athletes and active individuals who do not experience drug testing.  While its unlikely there would be any banned substances in here, I only use NSF Certified for Sport supplements with elite athletes.  

To be more specific Theracurmin has 5.6x greater bioavailability compared to. Meriva. Also, one capsule of Theracurmin amounts to 2 capsules of Meriva. Theracurmin supplementation has been shown to improve visual memory, long term recall, depression, cardiovascular health, pain, ulcerative colitis and more.

Wellevate

You can find both of these products on Amazon, however, our insider secret is to check out Wellevate. Wellevate offers professional-grade supplements at the best prices. FWDfuel readers will receive 20% off all orders and free shipping over $49. Unfortunately, we cannot provide direct links to products with Wellevate, but a quick search is all you need to find great products at an amazing price.

Best BUDGET Turmeric Supplement to Fight Inflammation in All Active Individuals

A1 Vitality Turmeric Curcumin

A1 Vitality brand turmeric curcumin supplement

The best option for the cost-conscious consumer is Turmeric Curcumin by A1 Vitality.  In an analysis by Consumer Labs, an independent company that tests supplements, Turmeric Curcumin was one of the lowest cost options per dose and arguably has the best absorption with the use of NovaSOL.  

More research is needed to compare whether NovaSOL, black pepper extract, or BioPerene, is the best ingredient to include in a turmeric or curcumin supplements to improve absorption.  For now, we encourage all our athletes and active individuals to stick with one of the three options above.  

How to Take Turmeric for Inflammation

The recommended dietary allowance or RDA dosage is 500-2000mg of turmeric per day. An RDA (recommended daily allowance) for curcumin has yet to be established.  This should be taken in the form of an extract or supplement with a curcumin concentration.

When reading supplement labels, look for an extract standardization of 95% turmeric and one that has BioPerine, black pepper extract, or NovaSOL on the label. BioPerine is a special black pepper extract that improves the bioavailability while NovaSOL is a way of processing curcumin to a form that is in a “water-soluble and stable pH form” that improve absorption into the bloodstream. 

If taking a supplement with BioPerine, an ideal ratio is 5 mg for every 500 mg of turmeric. Speak with your doctor if you are taking prescription medications as sometimes >15mg a day of piperine can interfere with the interaction.

Since turmeric has very low levels of curcumin, usually between 2-8%, curcumin has a very low absorption rate in its raw form. Typically, less than 1% of curcumin is absorbed when taken orally.

Curcumin is fat-soluble and if taken with a healthy fat it can stimulate improved absorption. I always, always, always encourage my athletes to take their supplement with a meal or blend their extract/open their turmeric capsules into their balanced smoothie. Coconut is a great flavorful fat to pair with the spicy turmeric flavor.

Most individuals notice their health improve after 4-8 weeks of consistent supplementation. However, after taking a professional grade supplement supported by research, many of our athletes and clients report a noticeable difference in 10-14 days. 

Precautions with Turmeric 

In general, most people feel well taking 500mg turmeric twice a day.  Once in the morning and once in the evening. Dosages may vary based on brand and the type of processing or added components to help with absorption, however. As mentioned, taking it with a meal helps the absorption of turmeric but turmeric/curcumin also helps with the digestion of your meal!

Speak with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is still not enough research to determine that turmeric supplements are safe for pregnancy and or breastfeeding.

Those suffering from gallbladder disease taking turmeric may cause gallbladder symptoms to worsen. Turmeric is high in oxalate which when combined with calcium in the body, may cause kidney stones to form. This means that people who suffer from frequent kidney stones should refrain from taking turmeric.

Individuals diagnosed with bleeding disorders such as anemia, leukemia, HIV, vitamin K deficiency, and hemophilia to name a few are recommended to avoid turmeric because it may slow down the ability for blood to clot and may lead to worsening bleeding problems.

Turmeric or curcumin may cause blood sugar levels to drop too low in those who suffer from diabetes as well. Lastly, turmeric binds to ferric iron in the gut and therefore has the potential to cause iron-deficiency anemia in some individuals. [12]

Turmeric Side Effects

If taken according to the product label and in combination with a balanced meal, it is rare to experience negative side effects from turmeric consumption. The reason? Turmeric is not well absorbed in the small intestine and the amount your body does actually absorb, is quickly metabolized by the liver.

However, the most common turmeric side effects of extreme overdose include stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea. Be sure to consult your doctor and consider speaking directly to the supplement company from which you purchased if you feel poorly after supplementation. 

Disclaimer: Always notify your physician before starting any new supplement(s). Certain medications cannot be taken with turmeric, consulting your doctor before starting to take the supplement is necessary to ensure that they are safe for you to use. Medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), Aspirin, and drugs that reduce stomach acid such not be taken with turmeric. Turmeric may interfere with the action of these drugs and can especially then increase the production of stomach acid.  If taking over the highest recommended amount, which is 2000 mg, and abnormal heart rhythm may occur. Always speak with your physician before taking a turmeric supplement or any new supplement as they can help you determine the right amount that should be taken or if you should be taking it at all.

Turmeric root and turmeric powder

Where Can I Find Turmeric?

The popularity of turmeric has risen in recent years, and as a result, you can find it in a variety of forms from the whole root in the produce section, as a spice in a powdered form, and various areas in supplement and health food section.  Not only will you find turmeric in the latest smoothie or soup recipe, but even in beauty products! 

As a spice, turmeric is extremely versatile which allows it to be added to many meals in a variety of ways.

Turmeric is used primarily in two forms: ground or fresh. When ground and adding it to a meal, consider 1 teaspoon of turmeric provides a subtle flavor while anything above 1 teaspoon provides a more intense flavor.

Adding black pepper to turmeric, which contains a compound known as piperine, helps to boost curcumin’s absorption in the body. So, it is a good idea to add a dash to any recipes you may be using it in. The piperine in black pepper also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties similar to turmeric, hence why you will see black pepper or piperine in most recipes and supplements involving turmeric.

Ground turmeric brings a warm flavor to curry dishes, color to rice dishes, and can also be used in other ways like topping your hummus with turmeric and sesame seeds.

Fresh turmeric in its root form, on the other hand, requires a little more work (but totally worth it!) 

First, the fresh root needs to be peeled. Next, either grate with a micro-plane grater or cut into pieces. Lastly, you can tightly wrap the unused part and keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. You can add turmeric to your favorite curry recipes, barbecue rubs, marinades, dressings, soups, smoothies, and so much more!

FYI, a lot of our clients save time and money by chopping fresh turmeric root into one-inch cubes, freezing it, then pureeing it later into their smoothie or soup/sauce.

Turmeric is also available as a supplement in a powder that can be used in various ways including capsules, fluids, extracts, and tinctures. Bromelain which is a protein extracted from pineapple, increases the absorption and effects of turmeric so you will often see it combined with turmeric in these products.

The BEST Turmeric Recipes

Let’s be real here. It can be quite intimidating shopping for turmeric root and attempting to prepare a meal or snack with it for the first time. 

For starters, most people don’t even know where to look for the root in the grocery store. (It’s usually refrigerated in the produce section.)

And then for the kicker, turmeric root looks a little bit like a creature you might find nesting on a jungle floor. But, fear not. Just grab 3 or 4 hunks of the root, throw it in a bag and keep rolling.

KB’s Famous Golden Milk

Looking for a new way to relax before bed at night, perhaps a replacement for your bedtime snack routine? Or maybe you’d like a deliciously warm cup in the a.m. that does not contain caffeine. Look no further than the golden milk recipe I developed for our elite athletes. 

Mango Tumeric Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened almond, coconut, or macadamia nut milk
  • 2.5 inches of sliced fresh turmeric root
  • 1 inch sliced fresh ginger root
  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 2 Medjool dates
  • Dash of cinnamon

Directions:

Pour all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Strain into your favorite mug, sprinkle a dash or two on cinnamon on top and enjoy!

Mango Turmeric Smoothie:

Mango turmeric smoothie
  • 1/3 cup plain coconut yogurt
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • ½ inch peeled fresh ginger
  • ¾ cup frozen mango
  • ¼ cup of pineapple 
  • ½ inch peeled fresh turmeric root
  • ¼ avocado (frozen avocado gives a nice milkshake consistency)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. This will make 1-2 servings.

This creamy turmeric chicken skillet is so good!!! The only gut-friendly suggestion I would make is to replace the cream with canned coconut milk. This recipe is excellent for making in bulk and freezing for an easy reheat throughout the week. 

And if you prefer to use powdered turmeric vs. the root, these turmeric scones are a fabulous little portable, sweet treat!

Pro Tip: After rinsing the dirt off your turmeric root, take the inside of a metal spoon and use that to scrape off the skin. It actually works a lot better than a vegetable peeler. 

Does Turmeric Help with Muscle Pain? 

Curcumin supplements are beneficial to individuals during exercise. The effects of oral curcumin ingested before and or after eccentric exercise on markers of muscle damage and inflammation have been looked at in a variety of studies.

In a recent study on male athletes, it was concluded that taking curcumin supplementation before and after heavy unconventional exercise in healthy men will likely lower the pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness(DOMS).[14] 

Further research reveals ingesting curcumin pre-exercise showed signs of weakening the early inflammatory markers. Whereas post-exercise curcumin ingestion showed improved signs of muscle damage markers [15]

Other studies have concluded that short-term curcumin ingestion can be useful in facilitating an effective recovery from high-intensity exercise. Although, more research needs to be performed on the long-term effects. 

Lastly, research has revealed that taking dietary supplements with high levels of curcumin may allow for faster recovery time after competition level training. Various studies have also shown a decrease in performance with blunt related training. 

In other words, type the phrase “curcumin turmeric exercise” into PubMed and you will find yourself sifting through titles for hours!

How to use Curcumin to Help Everyday Life and Training 

Incorporating curcumin in your everyday training protocol has been studied extensively. Numerous studies suggest supplementation with 6g of curcumin and 60mg of piperine each day between 48 hours before and 48 hours after exercise-induced muscle damage and also showed a positive effect on the recovery of certain aspects of muscle function within 24 to 48 hours after exercise.[13]

By incorporating turmeric into your everyday training routine, you can fight exercise-associated soreness and inflammation. Muscles need adequate recovery after a workout. Solidifying a proper nutrition and supplement protocol with turmeric/curcumin as a staple is the best way to attenuate damage and inflammation.

Taking curcumin 2 days before and 3-4 days after exercise improves DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Needless to say, curcumin can serve as an integral component to an athlete’s everyday training protocol. [14]

Final Thoughts on Turmeric and Curcumin 

Clearly curcumin and turmeric both have many useful properties that may be beneficial to nearly everyone, especially active individuals and elite athletes. Fortunately, today, we can find various forms of turmeric and curcumin to easily incorporate them into our daily lives through smoothies, snacks, meals, and supplementation. While curcumin only makes up 2-8% of turmeric, it has many incredible, disease-fighting properties. 

By experimenting with the best turmeric recipes and choosing the best turmeric supplement to incorporate into your routine, inflammation will begin to decrease and symptoms of health ailments may be reduced. After consulting your doctor, it’s time to see how turmeric and curcumin can impact your life today!

References 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22593922
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5624808/
  3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/iji/2018/5023429/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23847105
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28735823
  6. https://www.oarsijournal.com/article/S1063-4584(16)00652-X/abstract
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29621160
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23339049
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21194249
  10.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29164565
  11.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26957282
  12.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414192/
  13.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31025894
  14.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25795285
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4307740/

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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Kylene Bogden Sports Nutrition Dietitian

Kylene Bogden Sports Nutrition Dietitian

Kylene Bogden, RDN

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