Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin

Main Difference – Turmeric vs Curcumin

Spices are essential flavoring agents mainly used in South Asians diet. Turmeric belongs to the spice group, and it is also used as a medicinal plant as well as a cosmetic item. Rhizome of the turmeric is an edible component, and it is yellow in color. The reason for yellowish color is curcumin, a chemical compound. However, turmeric is often referred to as curcumin or vice versa by the most of the consumers in the world. But turmeric is a rhizome whereas curcumin is a colored chemical constituent mainly found in turmeric. This is the main difference between turmeric and curcumin. Although both turmeric and curcumin are derived from the same plant, turmeric and curcumin have different properties, and this article explores this difference between turmeric and curcumin.

What is Turmeric

Turmeric is a herbaceous plant species which belongs to the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. The plant is around 1 m tall and highly branched. It is a perennial herb with yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic edible rhizome. It is native to the southwest India but has become extensively naturalized in many parts of the world, particularly on dry to intermediate wet soils. It is considered as a highly colorful, aromatic and flavorful herb with cooking and medicinal uses. This is one of the most used spices in Indian and Sri Lankan cooking. India is the largest turmeric producer and consumer in the world. The turmeric extracts are also used in Indian weddings and other religious rituals.Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin

What is Curcumin

Curcumin is the major curcuminoid (natural phenolic compound) that are responsible for the yellow color of turmeric. Chemically, curcumin is a diarylheptanoid which was first identified by Vogel and Pelletier. Curcumin can exist in two major forms known as keto form and enol form. The enol form is more energetically steady in the solid phase as well as in organic solvents, whereas the keto form mainly dominates in water. Curcumin has a particularly simple, somewhat bitter, a little hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.Main Difference - Turmeric vs  Curcumin

Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric and curcumin may have substantially different properties and applications. These differences may include,


Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant.

Curcumin is a natural chemical phenolic compound that is accountable for the yellow color of turmeric.

Nomenclature and Classification

Turmeric‘s binomial name is Curcuma longa L. Scientific classification is as follows;

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Zingiberales
  • Family: Zingiberaceae
  • Genus: Curcuma
  • Species: longa

Curcumin‘s IUPAC name is (1E,6E)-1,7-Bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione


Turmeric is yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizome.

Curcumin is a bright yellow-orange powder

Biochemical composition

Turmeric contains three types of curcuminoids such as curcumin (diferuloylmethane), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. In addition, turmeric also contains volatile oils including turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene and sugars, proteins, and resins.

Curcumin only contains diferuloylmethane.


Rhizomes of the turmeric plant are used in followings. They are;

  • Commonly used as a spice in South Asians cuisine
  • Used as a natural dyeing agent (to color saris and Buddhist monks’ robes)
  • a main herbal compound in Siddha medicine
  • As a preservative ingredient (to protect food products from sunlight)
  • Turmeric paper as an indicator for acidity and alkalinity
  • Turmeric is believed auspicious and holy in India and used in wedding and religious ceremonies.

Curcumin is distinguished by its characteristic color. It is used for boron quantification and used as a food coloring (E number is E100).

Health Benefits and Adverse Effects

Although little reliable evidence is available, turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antifungal and antibacterial properties. In folk medicine, it is used to treat stomach and liver illnesses, as well as to heal wounds.

High doses of curcumin can cause mild nausea or diarrhea and alter iron metabolism by chelating iron atoms.

In conclusion, curcumin is the major chemical constituent found in turmeric. Turmeric is mainly important as a spice and herbal supplement. Curcumin is mainly important as a coloring agent.Difference Between Turmeric and Curcumin - infographic


Goel, Ajay; Kunnumakkara, Ajaikumar B.; Aggarwal, Bharat B. (2008). Curcumin as “Curecumin”: From kitchen to clinic. Biochemical Pharmacology 75 (4): 787–809

Vogel, J. Pelletier, Curcumin-biological and medicinal properties, Journal de Pharmacie. 1815;I:289.

Herbs at a Glance: Turmeric, Science & Safety. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), National Institutes of Health. 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.

Image Courtesy:

“Curcuma longa roots” by Simon A. Eugster – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons

Kurkumina” by BroviPL – Own work. (Public Domain) via Commons

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