Healing properties are the difference between the isolate for curcumin and turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the main culinary spice in curry sauce, which is a staple in many dishes that are prevalent throughout India, as well as other parts of Asia, including Japan, Thailand, and China. As a member of the ginger family, turmeric’s golden yellow color and sharp, pungent flavor and aroma are quite distinctive.
Like many culinary spices in Asia, turmeric also is prized for its medicinal properties. It has been used within Ayurvedic medicine for at least 5,000 years to treat a wide variety of ailments.1-2 It has also seen a recent resurgence of interest within Western medicine, particularly as a tea to treat arthritis, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol, among other conditions.3
As often happens when traditional medicine becomes adapted for the modern world, means of production must also become modernized to keep pace with demand. This is certainly the case for turmeric supplements and the difference between curcumin and turmeric.
Traditional turmeric processing methods
The oldest known method for processing turmeric for medicinal purposes involved using cow dung extract and lead chromate base. However, this method proved to be extremely biohazardous.
As a result, traditional turmeric processing instead turned to a curing method, in which the fresh rhizomes are cooked in boiling water for approximately one hour, prior to drying. This method of curing the turmeric rhizomes by first boiling them avoids any odor, reduces drying time, and results in a product that is uniformly colored.4-5
However, this method has some drawbacks:
- Rhizomes may not be uniformly cooked during boiling process
- Damage to rhizomes may occur during boiling process
- Boiling process is very labor intensive
- Boiling process is not very fuel efficient
- High handling losses5
Turmeric processing using steam
Modern alternatives to traditional curing methods have been tried. A paper presented at the 2016 International Conference on Environmental and Agriculture Engineering reported on a steam cooker that the authors designed, built, and tested. They then conducted a number of experiments to see how their steam cooker compared to traditional water boiling methods of curing turmeric.5
In the steam-cooking method the researchers used, very little water vapor was lost. Instead, the steam was equally distributed throughout the rhizomes, which ensured that they were all uniformly cooked and less prone to damage from handling compared to traditional cooking methods. Furthermore, it took less time to process the turmeric rhizomes by steam cooking than by boiling in water, which also required half as much labor and fuel.
The number of days needed for the turmeric rhizomes to dry was also cut in half.5 The researchers concluded: “By considering the advantages of reducing the losses of fuel, labor, time, quality and difficulties in turmeric processing, steam-cooking method is beneficial to the turmeric growers and processing industries.”
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, and is only approximately 2% by weight of the turmeric root when examining the difference between curcumin and turmeric.
Pure curcumin isolate can be taken in pill form, but the bioavailability or absorption rate is poor. Absorption can be increased by combining curcumin with pepper, good fats and particular foods such as berries, red grapes, apples and green tea.
Studies have shown that consuming curcumin can reduce inflammation throughout the body, and could possibly help prevent cancer and heart disease. Scientists continue to study curcumin for its immense potential as a healing remedy.
- Kiefer D. Turmeric and curcumin. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-turmeric. Updated Oct. 17, 2017 Accessed Sept. 17, 2019.
- Turmeric. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662&activeingredientname=turmeric. Accessed Sept. 17, 2019.
- 7 ways turmeric tea benefits your health. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/turmeric-tea-benefits. Published April 14, 2017. Accessed Sept. 17, 2019.
- Ettannil J, Zachariah T. Processing of turmeric (Curcuma longa) by different curing methods and its effect on quality. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences. 2016;86(5):696-698.
- Shinde GU, Kamble KJ, Harkari MG, More GR. Process optimization in turmeric heat treatment by design and fabrication of blancher. International Conference on Environmental and Agriculture Engineering 2016 IPCBEE. IACSIT Press, Singapore.