It is critical that the turmeric curcumin supplement we take contains sufficient curcuminoids in order for us to receive any health benefits.
In this review article I’ll share what I think are currently the best curcumin products in terms of potency & purity on the market today.
All of the curcumin supplements discussed in this article have been third-party tested to verify that their labels accurately reflect how much curcumin is in the product.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.
These top curcumin supplement picks of mine featured in this article do not include my top picks of curcumin products that are made with the patented formula Longvida®.
I dedicated an article specifically to Longvida-based curcumin supplements that you can read here on heydayDo, and this is its link:
This “7 Best Curcumin Supplements” article features:
* 4 turmeric extract curcumin products that have the highest verified potency of typical “standardized to 95% curcumin” supplements, and
* 3 products that are using patented phospholipid formulas — 2 with BCM-95® and 1 using Meriva®.
I’ll be sharing all of the relevant product information I gathered for each of these top curcumin supplements, and we’ll be looking in detail at their:
- Supplement Facts labels
- Curcumin amounts
- Curcuminoids* potency
- Other ingredients
- True cost of the curcumin itself
How to get the right amount of curcumin
In addition to the product reviews, I’ve prepared a section that shows you how to determine the actual dosage of curcumin you’re getting in any of the hundreds of turmeric curcumin supplements flooding the market these days.
What are the effective curcumin doses
And later I’ll discuss what the doses were in the clinical studies where the health benefits of curcumin supplementation have been demonstrated several times over.
This will save you from wasting your money on all of the products out there that are diluted with fillers, despite having big numbers and exaggerated marketing claims on their packaging.
What actual medical & nutrition science has proven
Finally, I will also share with you several examples from published, peer-reviewed research studies where curcumin has demonstrated effectiveness in a number of areas:
- Antioxidant protection
- Anti-inflammatory benefit
- Arthritic relief
- fight some types of heart disease
And although very early in the proving stage, curcumin supplementation research has found potential benefits for:
- improving brain function (including with Alzheimer’s)
- fighting cancer
What’s the ideal turmeric curcumin supplement?
As you’ll learn later (if you didn’t already know)…
…you need to be taking specific ingredients at specific levels of potency if you want to reap any of those benefits that can come with turmeric curcumin supplementation.
Just any old yellow turmeric supplement won’t cut it, and there are literally hundreds of those littering every product search you land on after typing in turmeric or curcumin:
To help dial all that in, let me now share a few tips on how to understand a curcumin Supplement Facts label, so you’ll know how to spot a product that’ll work.
Turmeric root, where those curcuminoids we want come from…
Most common curcumin supplement ingredients
Turmeric and its beneficial curcumin are showing up in all kinds of supplements these days, given the word is now out on what nutrition science has uncovered as far as curcumin’s health-improving properties.
Many of these products provide no benefit to you however, with some manufacturers no doubt banking on you seeing the word “turmeric” and the familiar orange-yellow powder and figuring they’re all about the same as far as quality goes.
Well, after reading this article you’ll easily tell the difference between an effective curcumin supplement and a piece of crap, and thus avoid throwing good money down the drain.
Let’s start by going over the three most common ingredients you’re likely to come across in anything being marketed as a turmeric curcumin supplement.
Two of these are absolutely essential must-haves — in sufficient quantity too — in order for the supplement to have any chance of providing you benefits.
And one, although the most well-known of the three:
- is not necessary,
- is the least important,
- & provides minimal health benefits compared to the other two.
Since it gets the most press & marketing hype, let’s start with it first.
Turmeric root powder
Turmeric root is from a plant in the ginger family whose biological name is curcuma longa.
When the roots are crushed & dried, we end up with the yellow turmeric powder that’s a heavily-used spice in Indian cooking. (2)
Not enough of the good stuff
As you’ll learn in a bit, the powder from turmeric has an extremely low percentage of the extremely important curcumin in it (3%).
This makes it impossible to consume enough every day in order to receive ANY of the health improvements that medical science trials have demonstrated.
Still, the orange-yellow powder looks good and helps sell the product, and you may see it in a high-quality curcumin supplement.
But turmeric root powder is not required in order for you to get the adequate daily dose of the compounds that do the work, the curcuminoids.
Note that the Supplement Facts labels will have a byline that goes with the turmeric extract, saying something like:
“95% Standardized Curcuminoids”
“Standardized to 95% Curcuminoids”
or just “95% Curcuminoids”
This is an important distinction.
It is letting you know that this extract has been concentrated to the point where 95% of it is made up of curcumin.
Note: It is the curcuminoids within the supplement that provides almost all of the health benefits, NOT the plain turmeric powder that makes up the bulk of the product.
95% is the standard (or benchmark) of curcumin concentration that health professionals recommend you insist on when looking for a turmeric curcumin supplement. (3)
And that’s important because our bodies do a really (really) poor job of absorbing curcumin’s bioactive compounds*, those being the ones who have all of the nice health benefits.
* – Reminder > they’re called curcuminoids
Black pepper extracts like BioPerine®
Black pepper extracts — like the BioPerine® featured in that video above — are included in many curcumin supplements because it has been shown in clinical trials to improve our body’s absorption of curcumin.
That particular ingredient BioPerine® is a patented extract formula made out of the bioactive compound piperine, which is found in the black pepper fruit we sprinkle on food. (4)
But it’s not included in this supplement for its taste.
It’s here for only one reason: improve our body’s absorption of the curcuminoids that are in the curcumin.
Insist on curcumin that has bioavailability enhancers like BioPerine
Here’s the lay of the land from well-informed researchers regarding trying to get your curcumin from just plain old turmeric:
“The medicinal properties of curcumin obtained from Curcuma longa L. (the turmeric plant) cannot be utilized because of poor bioavailability due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall.”
And on why a bioavailability enhancer like BioPerine — made from the black pepper compound, piperine — is necessary in order to benefit from taking curcumin:
“…piperine enhances the serum concentration, extent of absorption and bioavailability of curcumin in…humans with no adverse effects.” (6)
Fats & oils (phospholipids) increase absorption too
Many supplement manufacturers may not use a black pepper extract to boost absorption of their curcumin, but instead turn to what are known as phospholipids.
These are a type of fat molecule, and several studies have shown that taking curcumin with phospholipids boosts its absorption beyond what pepper extracts can do.
A few of the turmeric curcumin supplements in this review article use phospholipids, and I’ll mention that when those products are looked at individually.
Along those lines…
In the phospholipid category of curcumin supplements is a patented formula created by neurologists at UCLA working on Alzheimer’s disease.
Several human clinical trials have been conducted with it that produced some very encouraging results.
The formula is called Longvida®, which I mentioned earlier has its own article here on heydayDo.
And I suspect that at least one other unique formula — BCM-95® — will get its own article too, due to the strength of the clinical research behind it.
Until then, there are two BCM-95 products listed here among my 7 Best Curcumin Supplements, and I’ll point them out in the review section.
Know the right curcumin dosage
You have to know the right curcumin dosage(s) or you won’t get all of the benefit — or even any of it — if the product you bought doesn’t have the potency used in successful research trials.
Notice I called it curcumin dosage, not turmeric dosage; this is important.
I want to make sure you know what to look for in your turmeric curcumin supplement.
If you don’t understand the importance of correct dosing you may be duped into buying & using a weak product that doesn’t give you enough of the bioactive curcuminoids needed.
The result is wasted money and not as much benefit (if any) that you should be enjoying.
Here are some curcumin “must-knows”:
*The amount of curcumin you’re taking — NOT the amount of turmeric — determines if your turmeric curcumin supplement is strong enough to provide you with any of the benefits you’ve heard about.
*Turmeric extract, if properly standardized, is 95% curcumin while turmeric root powder is made up of only 3% curcumin. (7)
*Therefore, the most important ingredient to insist on seeing & then paying attention to its quantity is the:
Turmeric Extract standardized to 95% curcuminoids
And so the turmeric (often listed as turmeric root or powder) you see listed in the supplement is a far less important ingredient.
Here’s that score again:
Turmeric Extract 95, Turmeric Root Powder 3
This therapeutic use of the 95% extract came about because the curcumin inside “regular” turmeric powder is so poorly absorbed by our digestive systems. (8)
You’d have to be eating a turmeric-rich traditional Indian diet 24/7/365 to get even a fraction of the curcumin used in the clinical research trials. (9)
Curcumin’s effective clinical trial doses
In this brief section before the curcumin supplement reviews, I’ll be sharing what the effective clinical dosages for curcumin are.
You’ll want to know how much to take every day before you plunk down any moolah on a turmeric curcumin supplement.
Below are curcumin dosage ranges that were successfully used in multiple clinical studies for each of their respective health issues, courtesy of Healthline.
For osteoarthritis, inflammation, joint pain:
500 mg of turmeric extract twice daily for 2–3 months.
Assuming its standardized to 95%, then the amount of curcumin per day is:
500mg x .95 = 475mg; 475mg x 2 = 950mg curcumin per day
For high cholesterol:
700 mg of turmeric extract twice daily for 3 months.
Assuming its standardized to 95%, then the amount of curcumin per day is:
700mg x .95 = 665mg; 665mg x 2 = 1330mg curcumin per day
For inflammation-related itchy skin:
500 mg of turmeric extract three times daily for 2 months.
Assuming its standardized to 95%, then the amount of curcumin per day is:
500mg x .95 = 475mg; 475mg x 3 = 1425mg curcumin per day
High dosage note from Healthline: short-term only or not?
“High doses of turmeric and curcumin are not recommended long-term since research confirming their safety is lacking.” (10)
I’m guessing they’re talking about doses up well above 1000mg per day, since they’re also on record for saying
“For the dosage, (the) Arthritis Foundation recommends 500 milligrams twice a day”. (10a)
While verifying that, I discovered that the Arthritis Foundation has a page dedicated to non-drug approaches for dealing with arthritis, which you can read here.
No surprise, curcumin is listed…and the daily recommended dose is indeed 1000mg of curcumin per day.
What about curcumin supplements currently available?
Bottom line: A few curcumin supplements are sold with effective doses in a single serving, like 1-3 capsules. Most turmeric supplements on the market now aren’t strong enough to duplicate the successes of the nutrition clinical trials…buyer beware.
I can tell you in advance that the first three of these seven curcumin supplements I’m reviewing have a daily dose that is within the clinical dosing ranges, and I’ll point that out when I share the info on each of them.
Understand that the vast majority of those hundreds of available turmeric curcumin supplements we saw listed on Amazon & elsewhere these days are much weaker than these clinical doses.
If you bought one of those, you’d have to swallow a lot of pills every day just to hit the effective dose range.
And you’d be paying way too much money for your curcumin.
Regarding my curcumin supplement review
The seven supplements I selected for this review are what I currently think are the best** turmeric curcumin supplements that are also easily available at Amazon, Walmart, Costco, etc.
Without a doubt, my top three in the typical Standardized to 95% Curcuminoids category are:
- Vitacost’s Root2,
- Doctor’s Best, &
The fourth regular turmeric extract product, Puremark Curcumin 95, isn’t in the same league as those three because it doesn’t use an absorption enhancer of any kind.
Then there are three with phospholipid formulas:
- Life Extension
- Terry Naturally CuraMed
- Thorne Research Meriva
My criteria for selecting the 4 “typical” turmeric curcumin supplements was pretty simple:
*they had the highest amount of curcuminoids per serving among the popular products,
PLUS THEY ALSO
*have been third-party tested** for purity & to verify that the amount of curcumin in their product is the same as they claim on their label.
**third-party tested – Independent lab testing conducted by ConsumerLab.com.
I chose the three (non-Longvida) phospholipid products because they were also third-party tested by ConsumerLab.com.
One thing to note: Prices keep changing (a lot) nowadays
Like every multi-product review I do here on heydayDo, I’ll be comparing these curcumin supplements by cost, and I’m going with the prices I see today as I’m writing this.
But I can tell you that prices for supplements (& fitness products too) are really bouncing all over the place these days…I’ve never seen anything like it in my nearly 40 years of fitness training.
So you may very well see different prices for these curcumin supplements by the time you do your own comparisons.
My picks for:
Best curcumin supplements in 2020
(Blue product names & product pics throughout this review have links to their respective Amazon product pages that open in separate tabs.)
Cost of 1000mg of curcumin comparison
I’ve created a table that lists all seven of these turmeric curcumin supplements, along with their:
- current product cost
- servings per product
- curcuminoids per serving
- cost per 1000mg
My cost of curcumin takeaways
*At current prices, Doctor’s Best has the lowest true cost of curcumin, at 45¢ for every 1000mg, followed by Vitacost @ 63¢, Puremark @ 70¢, GNC @ 72¢, etc.
*Vitacost Root2 delivers the most curcumin per serving at 1102mg, followed by GNC @ 1000mg, & Doctor’s Best @ 800mg.
(Those numbers are why they’re my top3 by a decent margin. The 4th-ranked supplement has only 500mg in it.)
*The Meriva mystery – see below the product listings for details.
Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements
Here are individual looks at each of these curcumin supplements.
Note: They are listed from cheapest to most expensive. So they are not ranked in terms of my preference or in a rank of most-to-least potent.
As a reminder, none of these products use the patented formula Longvida® as their absorption & bioavailability enhancer (more on this below).
A penny or two of my thoughts
For what it’s worth (2¢ 😄), I had been taking the Vitacost Root2 turmeric curcumin supplement listed in this review religiously for a couple of years.
I believe it did a great job at reducing joint pain caused by my age (61 now) and my weightlifting & exercise programs.
It probably did a great job at other things too, since my health in the two years since my latest heart surgery has steadily improved — and I’d been taking that Vitacost curcumin since I got out of the hospital.
(There’s no way for me to measure those benefits like I can regarding joint pain though, given the severity of my condition before the successful heart operation. I just feel a helluva lot better then I did back then.)
My curiosity & research into curcumin’s benefits that has led to this & other articles has recently turned its attention to the curcumin formula Longvida®.
Its recipe using fat molecules to enhance absorption is unique, much different than the black pepper-enhanced curcumin extracts.
And that’s one of the reasons why I feature (what I consider are) the best Longvida curcumin supplements in their own “Best of” article.
As an experiment I decided to try out Longvida® for myself for at least 6 months, to see for myself if I can detect any improvements over what Vitacost’s Root2 has done for me these past couple of years.
So I switched over from my BioPerine-enhanced Root2 to a Longvida brand just this week; we’ll see how it goes & I’ll let ya knowz.
All of the curcumin amounts I list were independently verified by qualified third-party testers (ConsumerLab.com), as mentioned earlier.
Reminder >> if you want to read buyer reviews on AMZ, click the links or product pics.
Curcumin per serving: 800mg
*Cheapest curcumin cost as of today
*3rd highest dose available @ 800mg (avg.)
*BioPerine is the absorption enhancer
*Very highly rated by buyers – 4.7⭐
Curcumin per serving: 1102mg
*2nd cheapest curcumin cost as of today on Amazon, cheaper from Vitacost directly
*Highest dose available @ 1102mg
*BioPerine is the absorption enhancer
*Very highly rated by buyers – 4.7⭐
Curcumin per serving: 475mg
*Does not use an absorption enhancer which is a flag for me personally.
I have read a physician’s recommendation that regular curcumin like this should be taken with a fatty meal to improve its absorption chances.
This is a DIY approach mimicking the turmeric formulas that are made with fat molecules (phospholipids), but I couldn’t track down any facts on how successful this strategy is.
Curcumin per serving: 1000mg
*2nd highest dose available: 1000mg
*Piperine is the absorption enhancer
*Very highly rated by buyers – 4.6⭐
Curcumin per serving: 412mg
*Uses phospholipids (type of fat) as the absorption enhancer in a patented formula known as BCM-95®
*Highly rated by buyers – 4.5⭐
*Has ginger in it, for better or for worse
Curcumin per serving: 500mg
*Uses the BCM-95® phospholipid formula to enhance its curcumin absorption
*Very highly rated by buyers, lotsa reviews – 4.6⭐
Curcumin per serving: 191mg
*Meriva formula uses phospholipids (lecithin) as absorption enhancer
*Highest rated curcumin (in this review) by buyers – 4.8⭐
*My Meriva issue is below
The Meriva® mystery (to me anyway)
At first glance at my Curcuminoid Cost chart above someone might think I included the Thorne Research Meriva 500 simply to illustrate my earlier point that there are a ton of overpriced-yet-weak-as-heck curcumin supplements on the market.
That’s not the case though.
You see, Meriva® is a lecithin-based curcumin proprietary formula that has research behind it saying that its curcumin is absorbed 29 times better “than an ordinary curcumin extract”.
This type of superior absorption result is typical of the unique patented formulas I’ve mentioned in this article: Longvida, BCM-95, and this Meriva.
Lots of research done in Italy
While trying to verify or debunk that claim of “29x better” — neither of which I was able to do — I found multiple research studies using Meriva that demonstrated its effectiveness in health-related areas typical of other curcumin studies:
*improved osteoarthritis symptoms using 200mg per day for 3 months; (26)
*improved DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) indicators in a running test, over just 4 days’ time at 400mg per day. (27)
And there are a number of other studies too.
That implies you don’t need to take as much…
…as a regular curcumin-extract supplement that’s been standardized to 95%, like many ‘regular’ curcumin products are.
Doing some rough math while looking at my chart, that would reduce Thorne Research Meriva 500’s per day cost:
- at 200mg per day, it would be $1.10,
- and at 400mg per day, $2.20.
So you see at its true dose it isn’t anywhere near as expensive as my chart showed, which is geared for typical curcumin products — not unique patented formulas like Meriva & Longvida.
You may have noticed that I’m not including this article’s two BCM-95 supplements (Terry Naturally & Life Extension) with this decreased cost per day allowance I’m giving Thorne’s Meriva.
This is because most of the effective clinical trials using BCM-95 used high doses that were 1000mg & up.
I have a conflict of interest question though
There are lead investigators on several of these Meriva studies who work for the company that invented Meriva® — Indena — which Thorne Research the supplement company is licensing:
That’s a potential conflict of interest red flag for me.
And I know a bunch about this topic because the missus here at Casa heydayDo has been heavily involved in pharmaceutical clinical research trials for 25+ years.
So I included the Thorne Research Meriva 500 since it did qualify as one of the best curcumin supplements, but I couldn’t buy it for myself given what I know (& don’t know) about the Meriva formula.
A turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) in bloom.
Curcumin & curcuminoid research
Curcumin & its bioactive curcuminoids now have a solid & growing body of positive research evidence, thanks to its impressive showing in clinical trials in several different therapeutic applications.
I’m sharing a only little bit of that here, but there is way more medical & nutrition information available on the benefits of curcuminoids than I’m covering in this article.
And what I am sharing is good, real good.
Put simply, when used with the correct doses of the correct ingredients, a curcumin-based supplement can improve the quality of life for someone in a few key disease-related areas.
Curcumin’s fitness benefits
This blog here on heydayDo.com is about my “fitness after 50” journey, and that journey centers mostly around my strength training and my nutrition choices.
So I’m most interested in the good things curcumin provides that help that journey along, specifically its:
Curcumin provides health benefits too
Beyond fitness benefits there are a number of other areas where the science research has demonstrated health improvements provided by curcumin / turmeric supplementation, and I will include a couple of those biggies too.
If you need some science reading material to help you doze off…😄
…the blue number links that follow the research study title open a separate tab to one of the clinical studies that has studied that particular curcumin benefit.
Curcumin is anti-inflammatory
Medical authorities consider chronic inflammation to be at the heart of many (most?) serious health problems found in our culture today, thanks to our diet & lifestyle.
Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can effectively fight inflammation of all kinds found in our bodies.
Here are the titles of a couple:
Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma Longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. (12)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ… (13)
Curcumin reduces arthritic pain
Arthritic joint pain can really get in the way of us older people who want or need to exercise, exercise we have to do to slow down our body’s aging process. (14)
Curcumin to the rescue again, as it has been demonstrated many times that curcumin supplementation can reduce arthritic issues:
A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. (15)
Product-evaluation registry of Meriva®… for the complementary management of osteoarthritis. (16)
Curcumin boosts your antioxidants
Oxidants here on planet Earth do one thing really well: they make things age & decay fast, whether it’s a car rusting, your face’s pretty looks, or your body tissue weakening.
As the old song says
“Time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me.”
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. (18)
On the antioxidant mechanism of curcumin. (19)
Curcumin boosts brain function hormones
It looks like it’s in the early stages of research, but I did find evidence of curcumin’s antioxidative & anti-inflammatory power having a positive effect on brain function.
One such application I came across was in the clinical research paper The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. (20)
The study noted that Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, and that curcumin has shown it
“improves the cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease”
by weaving its antioxidant magic.
Curcumin can help fight heart disease
According to the World Health Organization, for the last 15 years heart diseases are responsible for the most deaths in the world every year.
I bring that up as a lead-in to the research that’s been done with curcumin and its potential effect on heart disease.
The antioxidant & anti-inflammatory benefits curcumin provides have shown the ability to protect & improve certain heart functions. (21)
And a study of coronary bypass patients found that curcumin supplementation reduced the risk of heart attack by nearly 60%. (22)
Curcumin helps kill cancer cells
An old cliché to sarcastically describe some new gizmo was
“They say it does everything — it even kills cancer.”
…adding to the list of good things curcumin can do for us is a belief that it might have the potential** to kill certain types of cancer cells in humans.
Multiple clinical trials testing curcumin in this area found it had the ability to reduce “cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level”. (23)
**potential – Most of the cancer studies thus far have used lab animals, not humans, so the jury is still out (for me anyway) until they demonstrate strong evidence on human cancer.
Here are a a couple of examples of curcumin’s success against cancer cells.
Phase IIa clinical trial of curcumin for the prevention of colorectal neoplasia. (24)
Curcumin and cancer: an “old-age” disease with an “age-old” solution. (25)
I hope that my review article on the best curcumin supplements is useful to you, and that the sections on understanding curcumin labels & the research results regarding the health benefits of curcuminoids is helpful too.
I wish you well on your fitness journey.