Curcumin is a component of the tumeric plant, like Vitamin C is part of an orange. Curcumin is the extract or part of the whole tumeric herb. Just as it would be difficult to ingest daily the number of oranges you would need to get the potency of one Vitamin C capsule, you would need a multitude of daily dishes made with tumeric to equal the potency of a curcumin extract supplement.
Curcumin is a natural polyphenyl, a photochemical compound that gives tumeric its appealing vivid yellow to brown color. It is also the primary curcumoid and active ingredient of more than 300 compounds found in Turmeric, a whole herb with antioxidant properties. Turmeric comes from the ground, dried root of a plant called Curcuma Longa that grows throughout Southern Asia and is a member of the ginger family. There is about 2-4% curcumin in every pound of tumeric. This means that unless you have been born into a culture where turmeric is commonly used in most curry dishes, you probably have to supplement with curcumin to get an adequate amount of this polyphenol in your body to do any good.
The distinct earthy flavor of this spice was used, like many Asian spices and chilies, to hide the taste of stronger tasting meats and fish. It even protected against tainted foods that might have gone a little off in such hot climates. Like many such spices, it also performed a necessary and functional role as a cleanser and a bacteria-killer in the stomach.
Are curcumin and cumin the same?
Another spice found in curry is cumin that should not be confused with curcumin. Although the two compounds sound similar and cumin has been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, not as much research has been done on this element. Curcumin appears to have more health benefits than cumin, but this could be because more research has been done on the former than the latter.