Beware Cheap Turmeric

Turmeric is the best-selling supplement in the U.S. since 2013. It is used mainly for its anti-inflammatory qualities. Turmeric has been shown to benefit a wide range of organs including the liver, brain, intestines, and heart. Due to its popularity and high cost, unscrupulous manufacturers have begun to alter it. As a supplement purchaser, you will want to choose companies that have high integrity in their raw material procurement and the necessary raw material testing tools to back this up.

Turmeric is the recent subject of a Botanical Adulterants Bulletin put out by the Botanical Adulterants Protection Program (BAPP). This program was started by a not-for profit organization whose purpose is to aid raw materials purchasing departments in identifying adulterated botanicals. Adulterated botanicals may be ineffective, or worse, cause harm to consumers. BAPP is a joint venture including the American Botanical Council, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Products Research. The curcumin bulletin, like all others they put out, is peer reviewed by 18 industry and academic experts.

The recent bulletin noted the following: It is relatively easy to adulterate curcumin that is received in powdered form. However, it is not so easy to detect this adulteration. Ingredients such as starch, cassava, chalk powder, and synthetic dyes have been found in “turmeric” supplements. Colorants such as lead chromate and metanil yellow have also been detected. Metanil yellow has been connected with serious conditions such as neurotoxicity, liver cancer, tumor development, negative effects on gastric mucin (protects the lining of the gut), and lymphocytic lymphoma. Certain physical and colorimetric tests can be used to identify adulterants, and HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) can be used to make sure the correct species of turmeric is used.

The second significant issue with turmeric quality is its bioavailability. Curcuminoids are the compounds in turmeric that are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Because the curcuminoids in turmeric are not readily used by the body, absorption and use by the body must be enhanced by combining turmeric with another substance. Companies may use a phospholipid complex, turmeric essential oil, black pepper, fenugreek fiber, or some other method to improve bioavailability. You will want to make sure that the turmeric has been treated in some way to address this issue.

For these reasons, it is best to use a turmeric supplement that comes from a reputable manufacturer with sophisticated testing equipment, strict raw material review processes, and that contains effective levels of curcuminoids. Companies that employ these methods have very high quality, but not the lowest prices. Here is a sampling of our best-selling turmeric/curcumin and how the manufacturer ensures quality:

Thorne’s Meriva—Thorne tests every batch of raw materials for identity and purity. It also tests every finished product for identity, potency, and purity. Thorne uses a phospholipid complex to ensure bioavailability. Meriva has also been the subject of numerous clinical trials supporting its efficacy.

Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme—Whole turmeric rhizome must arrive at their organic processing facility intact to ensure species verification. This eliminates the opportunity for raw materials suppliers to alter product that arrives as a powder. Gaia uses a black pepper extract to ensure that the turmeric can be used by the body. Testing is also done for identity and purity of finished product.

Curamed or Curamin by Terry Naturally—These products use a patented extract of turmeric call Curcugreen (formerly known as BCM-95) made by Arjuna Naturals. Arjuna employs strict testing procedures and the BCM-95 (now Curcugreen) has 33 published clinical studies behind it. Curcugreen uses turmeric essential oil to improve bioavailability.

Theracurmin by Natural Factors—This turmeric extract was the subject of a recent AARP article. The raw material is made by a company called Theravalues that is ISO and GMP certified in the U.S.. It also undergoes the more stringent requirements of Japan’s regulatory agencies for food ingredients. Theracurmin uses a vegetable gum to reduce the particle size of curcumin to increase its solubility and bioavailability.

Turmeric forte by Standard Process–Standard Process sells herbs under its MediHerb arm, an Australian manufacturer of quality herbs. MediHerb has a pharmacuetical grade manufacturing facility. It uses high performance liquid chromatography to ensure proper identity of herbs and their active ingredients. Proper levels of curcuminoids, the compound that give turmeric its anti-inflammatory properties, are also measured. A fiber from fenugreek seed is used to increase the amount of turmeric available to the blood.

The bottom line is this: if you are going to use turmeric or the curcumin extracted from it, make sure you use a quality brand. The brands we carry may not be the least expensive ones you can find, but they are safe, effective, and have clinical science behind them. The moral of the story is that cheaper does not mean better!

Please stop by and let us help you choose one that is right for you.