Curcumin is the up and coming antioxidant supplement. There is solid evidence for the use of curcumin for treating indigestion, curcumin for treating skin problems, and even curcumin for supporting colon cancer and curcumin for heart disease. Curcumin is not a cure-all, but it is reliable part of programs for nutritional support for many kinds of disease treatment and many kinds of disease support. But which are the best brands of curcumin?
What Is the Difference Between Curcumin and Turmeric?
Turmeric is a spice. Curcumin is an antioxidant.
Turmeric naturally contains about 3% curcumin. The curcumin in turmeric gives turmeric its distinctive orange-yellow color. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine almost always combines turmeric with black pepper.
About 30 years ago, scientists discovered that an alkaloid in black pepper called piperine helps the body absorb the curcumin in turmeric. Piperine was chemically modified to make "biopeperine," a proprietary ingredient to make curcumin supplements more fully absorbed.
There are also some manufacturers who make a curcumin phytosome by combining curcumin and lecithin. The phytosome form is slightly better absorbed than the piperine form, and both are better absorbed than the curcumin in turmeric used in cooking. It is only possible to get a low dose of curcumin by eating foods cooked with curry powder or even by eating raw turmeric.
To get a 500 mg dose of curcumin, you would need to consume about 30 grams (a little over an ounce) of turmeric powder. That's equivalent to a huge bowl of curry. Preventing and treating cancer require up to 8,000 mg of curcumin, which is equivalent to a little over half a pound (about 240 grams) of turmeric, each and every day. That's the equivalent of maybe 10 pounds (over 4 kilos) of curry powder, not curry, each and every day. There's just no way to get high doses of curcumin unless you take a supplement.
Price Differences Among Curcumin Supplements
It is a general rule that the most expensive supplements provide the fewest nutrients, and curcumin is no exception. The cost of a 500 mg dose of curcumin ranges from $0.33 for Swanson Superior Herbs Curcumin Extract, which includes bioperine, to $1.33 for Paradise Herbs & Essentials Turmeric, which doesn't.
If you are taking curcumin to support a chronic condition like cancer, you could spend about $2 a day for the lower-priced products that work well or about $20 a day for high-priced products that don't work as well. And while I'm not free to disclose the results of proprietary testing, I can tell you that the least expensive products typically deliver exactly what they claim on the label and some of the most expensive products don't. I'll just stick to the brands that get good lab reports. If I have left a product off this list, it doesn't mean it's inferior, but if I've put a product on the following list, it's because I know it works.
Swanson's Superior Herbs Curcumin C3 Complex is a reliable formula from a reliable company, and at $0.33 for a 500-mg dose, the price is hard to beat. There have been some reports of consumers receiving product that apparently had been stored in heat and humidity on the way from the company to the consumer--but that's something you can avoid by choosing a reliable online vendor with a good returns policy.
In general, Swanson's makes good, reliable product at very low cost. That's both a plus and a minus. Retailers don't make a priority of selling low-cost products. They want you to pay as many dollars as you will. That's why some retailers don't store or update their Swanson's products quite as frequently as they should. That's not the fault of the company, but it might be something you have to deal with.
Doctor's Best Curcumin C3 Complex with Bioperine costs about $0.03 a dose more than Swanson's, but there are no reports of any problems with dated product. Doctor's Best has a reputation for providing exactly what's on the label and only what's on the label. The only thing you may not like about this product is that the capsules are made with gelatin. They are kosher and hallal but not vegan.
If you have a bare-bones budget and the total you pay per bottle right now is critical to you, then I might go with Swanson's. But if you sign up on Amazon for their discounted monthly purchase program, you will be able to get Doctor's Best for a little less even than Swanson's. However, if $5 right now isn't critical, I'd buy the Doctor's Best Phytosome product listed below because it's just a little more effective.
At the time I'm writing this article, Doctor's Best Meriva Phytosomes with Curcumins is an especially good buy. It's made with Meriva, their lecithin formula. This makes the product more a completely absorbed than either of the piperine-added formulas above. And when it's 50% off on Amazon, it's only about $0.25 a dose.
Another good brand, Thorne Research Meriva-SR (Curcumin Phytosome) Formula, is just a few pennies more. Doctor's Best also makes a product of the same formula. When bought online, it's about $0.38 per capsule, but each capsule contains as much curcumin as two $0.25 500-mg capsules. If you are taking larger doses of curcumin for a chronic condition, this is the better buy. It just costs more per bottle.
There are many other perfectly good brands of curcumin that only suffer by virtue of the size of the capsule. Douglas Labs makes a perfectly good formula called Ayur-Curcumin. The issue with Ayur-Curcumin is that because the capsule contains just 275 mg of curcumin, I couldn't find any deals that brought the price below $0.41 per 500-mg dose.
Natural Factors Canada makes a combination proudct that costs just $0.26 per 500-mg dose, but if you are allergic to pineapple, you probably need to be careful with bromelain. On the other hand, if you are taking curcumin for ulcerative colitis or joint pain, the Natural Factors product is a good choice.
Solgar makes a curcumin product that provides 372 mg of curcumin per capsule or about $0.25 per 500-mg dose. My only concern with this product is you have to do a little math to figure out higher doses. It's a good product in a smaller dosage. Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin stands out as the product made with vegan capsules. It's a good formulation, made with bioperine, slightly less absorbable than the phytosome, and the company that makes it is known to be a stickler about quality.