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Understanding Curcumin (AKA Turmeric)

TOTAL HEALTH Nutrition Center Supplement Facts

 Understanding Curcumin (aka Turmeric)   Dec 2016

          Turmeric or tumeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae).[3] It is native to southern Asia, requiring temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder[5] commonly used as a coloring & flavoring in cuisine and curries or for dyeing.  Turmeric has been used in Asia for thousands of years and is a major part of Siddha medicine.

             The question is can we get the medicinal benefits of curcumin from simple curcumin capsules?  The answer is yes & no.  Curcumin is poorly absorbed in the digestive system, where it is rapidly metabolized & quickly eliminated.  Eating a high fat meal may slow the transit time, making curcumin more effective (lasting longer).  Standardized curcumin (95%) may be metabolized in as little as 1 hour, while phospholipid forms could last 2-7 hours depending on the processing.  The challenge has been to find ways to stabilize curcuminoids in the gut & deliver them to the plasma without the use of synthetic agents (or undesirable substances).  There are a number of ways to increase the bioavailability, which are using BioPerine (black pepper extract), phospholipids (lecithin, ‘phytosome’ or PC > aka phosphatidyl choline), nanoparticles or modified forms of curcumin.  BioPerine is the easiest way to enhance curcumin, with 5-10 mg being added to a 95% curcumin capsule.  With phospholipids, the phytosome form is done by combining 2 parts of PC with 1 part curcumin.  The PC is usually from lecithin (soy or sunflower) and it could be in liquid form or a capsule.   

             To compare the different forms of curcumin, we will use a ‘base’ that is a standardized 95% curcumin.  TOTAL Health stocks a 665 mg Curcumin (95%), which would yield 630 mg of the 3 compounds.  Within a 95% curcumin capsule, the breakdown of the 3 compounds is curcumin (50-60%), demethoxycurcumin (20-25%), and bisdemethoxycurcumin (20-25%).  Unless a formula specifically showed a specific component in another ratio, it is assumed that every curcumin would have these components in this approximate ratio.

             With the 665 mg curcumin as a base, TOTAL Health compared about 20 curcumin formulas for their variation from the base.  In some cases, a formula may not be significantly above base due to its low strength even though it has an enhanced absorption.  This is the case of Meriva, which shows a 250 mg cap yielding 50 mg curcuminoids (at 18-20%).  When you multiply the 50 mg by a factor of 15x (for it being a phytosome), the Meriva 250 mg gets a comparable of 750 mg.  The confusion would come from reading about the 15x + absorption & thinking the yield would be higher.  Meriva 250’s lower 750 mg comparable is due to the 18-20% standardization.  The main point to realize is there may be 2-3 math problems to consider in looking at a product.

             A comparative study of the main forms or curcumin was published by Ralf Jager in January 2014.  The study looked at 4 forms of curcumin, which compared the appearance of curcuminoids in the blood.  They also referenced absorption, which does NOT directly correlate with blood levels.  The literature from the manufacturers references absorption, so we will focus on this for our comparisons.

            The CS form (standardized 95% curcumin) was the base with curcumin yield, absorption or blood levels being expressed as a % over (or under).  Here are the results:

  • CP > Phytosome (Meriva), phospholipid or PC forms.  Absorption claims for CP forms range from 5-15x higher & the Jager study claimed 19.2x better absorption.  We will use 15x.  [Blood Levels in the Jager study were 7.9x higher than with CS forms.]
  • CTR > this is a formulation with volatile oils of turmeric rhizome.  The products are identified by BCM-95 (trademarked curcumin), which showed a 6.93x higher absorption ever CS forms.  In formulas, absorption is stated as 400 mg of BCM-95 equivalent to 2774 mg of CS form.  This factor makes BCM-95 forms much higher in yield than standardized forms with a much lower actual mg/cap.  [The Jager study showed a 1.3x higher blood level.]
  • CHC > this is a formulation of curcumin with a combination of hydrophilic carrier, cellulosic derivatives & antioxidants, which showed a 5.8x higher absorption than CP & 34.9x higher absorption than CTR.  The trademarked raw material is CurcuWin and is shown to have plasma levels of curcumin for up to 12 hours. [The blood levels were 45.9x higher than CS forms.]           

               One novel form of Curcumin is called TheracurminR , which is a trademarked form of Curcumin that uses a patented, natural colloidal dispersion to enhance bioavailability & increase blood levels.  It shows a 27x higher bioavailability than standard curcumin (95%).  While TheracurminR was not included in the Jager study, it was compared to Curcum-Evail, which claims to have a 4x higher mg of curcumin per comparable dose than Theracurmin.

                     So, where does this leave the puzzle?  Curcumin is poorly absorbed by itself in the GI system & is rapidly metabolized.  To be useful for treatment, it needs to be enhanced & would benefit by a slower transit time (half life).  There are variations in strength of curcumin formula measured by the mg of curcumin (factored by percentage of standardization), bioavailability (we use the manufacturer’s numbers for comparison) & blood levels (by Jager study).  Below are the formulas we are using at Total Health based on their benefit (strength & cost). The ‘estimated’ mg of comparable curcumin are in shown in brackets for each product listed below based on the enhancement factors previously mentioned.

            Standardized Curcumin (95%) > this is the BASE.

      • Protocol for Life Balance Curcumin ~ 60 caps @ 665 mg ~ $27.95

            CP / Phytosome / Liposomal [factored @ 15 x]

      • Thorne Meriva 250 SR ~ 120 caps @ 250 mg [750 mg] ~ $41.60
      • Thorne Meriva 500 ~ 120 caps @ 500 mg [1,500 mg] ~ $54.10
      • Davinci Labs Liposomal Curcumin Liquid ~ 30 (2 tsp) @ 475 mg [7,125  mg] ~ $42.00
      • DFH Curcum-Evail ~ 60 gels @ 380 mg [3,800 mg] ~ $45.50

            CTR / BCM-95 [factored @ 6.93 x]

      • Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin ~ 60 caps @ 380 mg [2,633 mg] ~ $36.10
      • EuroMedica CuraPro 750 ~ 60 gels @ 750 mg [3,465 mg] ~  $60.95

            CHC > Hydrophilic [factored @ 46x]

      • Vibrant Health Maximized Turmeric 46X – 60 caps @ 400 mg [3,680 mg] ~ $49.95
        • o   Note > this is 400 mg @ 20%, so 80 mg x 46 = 3,680

            Theracurmin [factored @ 27x with the curcumin standardized @ 30% / 600 x .3 = 180 mg]

      • Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin HP ~ 60 caps @ 600 mg [4,860 mg] ~ $53.00

 In looking at the cost/benefit for TOTAL Health’s curcumin formulas, we are using these factors:

  • # Caps/servings per bottle
  • Yield of curcumin (mg per cap or serving / x % standardization)
  • Total mg per bottle (# caps/servings x yield) / 1,000 = servings @ 1,000 mg
  • Cost per 1,000 mg (based on everything above)

 And our most cost effective products are below.  The CS (base) is $.74 per 1,000 (665 mg @ 95%)

1.      Theracurmin HP ~ $.18 per 1,000 mg (in 600 mg caps yielding 180 mg)

2.     Curcum-Evail (CP) ~ $.20 per 1,000 mg (in 380 mg caps yielding 380 mg)

3.     Liposomal C3 Complex (liquid) (CP) ~ $.20 per 1,000 mg (with 2 tsp yielding 475 mg)

4.     Maximized Turmeric 46x (CHC) ~ $.23 per 1,000 mg (in 400 mg caps yielding 80 mg)

5.     Super Bio-Curcumin (CTR) ~ $.23 per 1,000 mg (in 400 mg caps yielding 280 mg)

6.     Cura-Pro 750 (CTR) ~ $.29 per 1,000 mg (in 750 mg caps yielding 500 mg)

7.     Meriva 500 (CP) ~ $.30 per 1,000 mg (in 500 mg caps yielding 100 mg)

8.     Meriva 250 SR (CP) ~ $.46 per 1,000 mg (in 250 mg caps yielding 50 mg)


To order or for additional information, call Jeff at (919) 781-9994 or jeff@totalhealthnutritioncenter.com

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  Any products mentioned above are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. [Prices are current 12/1/2016 > Call or e-mail for update]