Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric (Curcuma longa). It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high… it’s around 3%, by weight (2).
Most of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods.
Therefore, if you want to experience the full effects, then you need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin.
Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine… a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000% (3). Black pepper is not a true pepper and some people have low tolerance to it. It is known to irritate the gastric mucosa (4)
Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it should be dissolved in fat or taken with a fatty meal.
Some people with stomach or intestinal sensitivities, IBS, or Crohn’s disease cannot tolerate spices, turmeric included. In these cases you could try taking the extract curcumin where a little can go a long way. Sometimes you need to experiment, take turmeric and see if you feel any intestinal irritation.