Curcumin Vs. Cumin

Curcumin Vs. Cumin

Culinary spices have been used for thousands of years to season and preserve food and in traditional medicine. The medicinal properties of spices are due to their phytonutrients, including polyphenols and flavonoids, which are the subject of modern medical research. 

Today’s article will dive into two spices, turmeric with its active constituent curcumin, and cumin. Both have a deep tradition of culinary use and modern research suggesting profound health benefits, but one may be a better choice than the other in terms of supplemental use. Keep reading to find out which one!

This article will cover: 

  • The difference between curcumin and cumin
  • The benefits of turmeric and curcumin
  • The benefits of cumin and culinary herbs and spices
  • Curcumin supplements
  • Curcumin plus resveratrol
  • How to increase spices in your diet
  • Liposomal curcumin resveratrol supplements

Let’s jump in! 

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is an active component that comes from turmeric root (which is a rhizome) or turmeric powder.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the bright yellow spice that’s a member of the ginger family. It originates from India and is a component of curry powder. To this day, it’s a staple in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Indian cuisine

Turmeric has a 4,000-year history in cooking, religious and cultural ceremonies, cosmetics, and Ayurvedic medicine. India still produces almost all the world’s turmeric supply. (Source 1)

Turmeric contains over 100 compounds, of which curcumin is the most well-known, most studied, and likely the constituent with the most medicinal power. Standard turmeric is 5 to 6.6% curcumin. (Source 2

What is Cumin?

Although cumin sounds a bit like curcumin, they come from different plants. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is in the Apiaceae plant family, along with carrots, coriander, caraway, fennel, and others. Curcumin and cumin come from flowering plants; Curcumin comes from the rhizome and cumin from the seed. The cumin seeds are ground into a spice or distilled into an essential oil. (Source 3)

Cumin is also known as Jeera and is used in cooking around the world. Cumin is found in Indian curries, Mediterranean dishes, and Mexican stews

Cumin and curcumin are both antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties but differ in terms of potency and their health benefits. Let’s look at some of the research. 

“Cumin and curcumin are both antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties but differ in terms of potency and their health benefits.”

Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is most well-known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Many studies show curcumin supplements reduce inflammation, pain, and symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions, including:

  • Osteoarthritis, a common degenerative joint disease (Source 4, 5)
  • Oral lichen planus, an inflammatory skin condition in the mouth (Source 6)
  • Ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease of the colon and rectum (Source 7)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease affecting joints (Source 8)

Because inflammation is a factor in chronic disease, the anti-inflammatory benefits extend into metabolic syndrome and heart disease. In a meta-analysis of curcumin’s effect on lipids, curcumin was shown to reduce LDL cholesterol. It also lowered total cholesterol in those with metabolic syndrome. (Source 9)

In Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, turmeric is a treatment for diabetes. In animal studies, curcumin supplementation reduces blood sugar levels and lipids, suggesting it could be a complementary treatment for metabolic disease and help promote weight loss. (Source 10)

Curcumin also shows promise for use in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, another chronic metabolic disease. Curcumin reduces neuroinflammation and suppresses beta-amyloid plaque formation in the brain. (Source 11)

The yellow color of curcumin corresponds with its antioxidant properties and ability to attenuate oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals to protect cells in the body. Therefore, it’s not surprising that curcumin also has potential anti-cancer benefits. Although, further research is needed to back up this claim. (Source 1)

Studies suggest curcumin’s ability to suppress cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis of tumors, making it a potent compound to consider for cancer prevention and part of a treatment approach. (Source 12)

In addition, curcumin is supportive for stress and depression because of its anti-inflammatory and brain-protective capacity. (Source 13, 14

In several randomized controlled trials, curcumin supplementation was shown to have significant antidepressant effects in people with major depression compared to medication. (Source 15, 16)

The research on curcumin is robust and supportive of many conditions and areas of health. 

Health Benefits of Cumin

Cumin, like turmeric, has many health benefits when used culinarily as a spice in food. It contains polyphenols and antioxidant compounds and has anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike curcumin; however, cumin seeds and their extracts aren’t as well studied for their medicinal benefits. Overall, we know less about cumin than curcumin, and there are currently fewer clinical applications. 

The essential oils, or volatile oils, are distilled from cumin seeds. The oils are free radical scavengers and have antimicrobial properties. The oils protect against pathogens and help reduce the inflammation caused by an infection. (Source 17)

The oils found in cumin and other herbs and spices show therapeutic benefits to the:

  • Digestive system
  • Skin
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Nervous system
  • Metabolism (Source 17)

Cumin in its ground form and cumin seed oil have been studied regarding cancer cells. Both have shown anti-cancer actions. In an animal study, cumin powder was given to rats and shown to inhibit estrogen-positive breast cancer. (Source 18, 19)

Curcumin Supplements

Given the state of the research and availability, curcumin is a better choice for anti-inflammatory supplementation. Of course,you should discuss new supplements with your functional medicine doctor for personalized guidance. 

While turmeric and curcumin supplements are safe at recommended dosages of 200 mg to 1000 mg daily without many side effects, the main downside is poor absorption. 

In some supplements, you’ll see black pepper or piperine, a black pepper extract combined with curcumin. Some research shows that black pepper enhances curcumin absorption. In traditional Indian cooking, you’ll often see turmeric and black pepper used together in spice blends. 

However, piperine may also increase intestinal permeability and cause unintended drug interactions. Piperine may also damage the liver and affect liver detoxification. Black pepper extract as a supplement deserves some caution. (Source 20, 21)

Liposomal curcumin solves the issue of poor absorption without the addition of black pepper extracts. Curcumin is packed into a liposome, a microscopic sphere made of phosphatidylcholine. The liposome resembles the cells in the body and promotes increased absorption and bioavailability of curcumin in the body. Because of the increased absorption, some people will see greater benefit from lower dosages. 

“Liposomal curcumin solves the issue of poor absorption without the addition of black pepper extracts. Curcumin is packed into a liposome, a microscopic sphere made of phosphatidylcholine. The liposome resembles the cells in the body and promotes increased absorption and bioavailability of curcumin in the body. Because of the increased absorption, some people will see greater benefit from lower dosages.”

Curcumin + Resveratrol

Resveratrol is another plant polyphenol with medicinal properties. Resveratrol is the famous compound in red wine known for its cardiovascular and other health benefits.

You can take curcumin and resveratrol together for synergistic benefits. Research suggests the neuroprotective effects of curcumin and resveratrol may lower the risk of dementia. (Source 22) As another example, turmeric and resveratrol offer chemoprotective, anti-cancer benefits. (Source 23)

How To Use Spices for Their Health Benefits

Turmeric and cumin are just two of a myriad of herbs and spices that contain polyphenols and other medicinal plant compounds. Here are some ways to get the benefits in your day-to-day life: 

  1. Spice up your cooking. Add fresh herbs, dried herbs, or spice blends to meat, veggies, dressings, and sauces. Throw out spices that are more than a year old and treat yourself to new bottles of turmeric, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, oregano, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, ginger, as well as your favorite blends. 
  1. Think variety. Try to include a variety of herbs and spices each week. Make a pesto out of parsley and cilantro, add curry powder to chicken, and doctor up a simple vinaigrette with mustard seed and thyme. Try making your favorite meal with a different spice blend each week. 
  1. Incorporate more turmeric. Add turmeric to smoothies, make golden milk lattes, and add a pinch to nut and fruit bars or baked goods. The possibilities are endless. 
  1. Supplement with curcumin and resveratrol. For anti-inflammatory benefits for various symptoms and conditions, curcumin and resveratrol are a winning combination. Core Med Science Liposomal Curcumin and Resveratrol provides 200 mg of curcumin and 75 mg of resveratrol in each liposomal dose, designed for superior absorption. 

Increasing herbs and spices in the diet is an important nutrition strategy for longevity and overall health. Regarding the question of curcumin vs. cumin in terms of supplements; however, curcumin is the obvious choice. There is more research and support for curcumin’s use in a variety of instances to prevent and treat disease. In addition, combining it with resveratrol and a liposomal delivery system will enhance its benefits even more. 

“Regarding the question of curcumin vs. cumin in terms of supplements; however, curcumin is the obvious choice.”


References

  1. Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition journal16(1), 68. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5637251/ 
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  3. Merah, O., Sayed-Ahmad, B., Talou, T., Saad, Z., Cerny, M., Grivot, S., Evon, P., & Hijazi, A. (2020). Biochemical Composition of Cumin Seeds, and Biorefining Study. Biomolecules10(7), 1054. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7407589/ 
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  9. Qin, S., Huang, L., Gong, J., Shen, S., Huang, J., Ren, H., & Hu, H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition journal16(1), 68. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5637251/ 
  10. Zhang, D. W., Fu, M., Gao, S. H., & Liu, J. L. (2013). Curcumin and diabetes: a systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2013, 636053. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857752/ 
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