Turmeric, Curcumin, BCM-95: Which Should I Take?
Consumers believe that fruits, vegetables, and herbs are important components of a healthy diet. Curcuma longa, better known as Turmeric, is a flowering plant native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Turmeric is in the same family as ginger (Zingiberaceae), and just like ginger, the use of turmeric is focused on the roots.
Although the over 600 studied benefits of Turmeric are just now getting international attention and recognition in recent years, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 6,000 years.
The roots of turmeric are chock full of bioactive compounds, the most studied class of which are the curcuminoids. Within the class of curcuminoids, many are often concentrating on a single compound called Curcumin, which besides being a bright orange pigment, also has a plethora of health benefits.
Turmeric has been used for centuries for both culinary, textile dyeing and supplement applications. It is most known for its bright orange color and pungent earthy flavor in Indian cuisine. The flavor of turmeric can be attributed primarily to its essential oil content with the main essential oil being alpha-turmerone. In addition to being used as a staple spice in cooking, the anti-inflammatory* benefits have become a major attraction for the supplement world. However, no one can really understand the difference between the different supplements available out there in the market unless we understand some basics of the industry that produces these products.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbal Powders vs Extracts!
This discussion will become important when considering the different forms of Turmeric products and their routes of administration.
POWDERS: Powders are natural and produced from the dehydration of the plant’s parts, usually by using the SpraSpray Dryingy Drying technique, that transforms plants parts into dried powder by means of a drying chamber, where the droplets pass through a stream of hot air. Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders generally contain no artificial colors or preservatives and are low moisture, low-fat and low sodium. In the process, heat and mass transfer occurs rapidly between the air and steam films that are around each drop under the saturation temperature. In this way, it is possible to preserve the herbs essential characteristics. The same technique and drying system are widely used in the production of milk powder, instant coffee, and powdered juices, and is considered ideal for cases where a high standard of quality and nutrient preservation must be maintained.
EXTRACTS: To obtain the extracts, the Spray Drying technique is the same; however, the total process is a bit more complex, less pure and more time consuming.
Generally, the extracts are obtained from dried plants, which remain in a liquid or solvent (chemical) for a long time. Subsequently, the product goes to the atomization, which allows the liquid to evaporate and the material to settle to the powder extract.
Fruit, vegetable, and herbal extracts offer a higher phenolic content compared to natural powder; however, they carry residual chemicals, therefore they are not considered natural.
Advantages of Fruit, Vegetable, and Herbal Powders
- Powders are natural
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders can compensate for lost flavor or mouthfeel, correct bitterness or promote better texture.
- Powders could even make them suitable as a bulking agent in products targeting sugar replacement
- Powders provide color and make the products more acceptable to the target audience.
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders are rich in fibers, antioxidants, flavonoids, nutrients that were present in the original fruit or plants as they preserved in the powder form. Therefore, just like the fresh fruits, vegetables or herbs the powder promote all the original bowel function, elimination of toxins, lowering of cholesterol absorption, among other benefits.
Disadvantages of Fruit, Vegetable, and Herbal Powders
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders are generally not standardized, meaning they haven’t been tested to determine how much of certain chemical components they contain, which makes it hard to judge the potency of their active ingredient(s)
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders have some indigestible plant fiber and less specific active phytochemicals than extracts. As a result, you may not absorb everything in the powder.
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal powders are considered less concentrated hence possibly less potent.
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal extracts have higher concentration of certain active ingredients than the original plant itself, their use is made in a smaller quantity.
- Fruit, vegetable, and herbal extracts have gone through strong chemical solvents and are less likely to have presence of bacteria, also making them easier to store and transport.
- Extracts are very concentrated; therefore, you may notice their effects sooner.
Disadvantages of Extracts
- Due to usage of chemicals during the process of extraction, filtration, and purification, extracts are not natural.
- Extracts are concentration of certain active ingredients within the original product and do not have the entire spectrum of flavonoids and phenols of the original product.
- Companies use harsh chemicals as solvents that can be unsafe for consumption, and always there are residual solvents in all extracts. Residual solvents in pharmaceuticals are defined by the ICH as organic volatile chemicals that are used or produced in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, or in the preparation of drug products. In general, solvents are not completely removed by standard manufacturing techniques.
- Extracts often have a very strong, bitter, and unpleasant taste.
- A lot of alcohol is used during most extraction processes, which their consumption may cause conflict with individuals religious or medical issues.
Natural nutrients are obtained from whole food sources in the diet as seen in form of powders.
Synthetic nutrients refer to as isolated nutrients, these are usually made artificially, or in an industrial process in form of extracts.
Since you’re consuming the entire herb as dried powder, you get its full spectrum of plant chemicals, also known as phytochemicals, which is a good thing, because the herb’s phytochemicals work in synergy together, and we don’t always know how a single plant chemical performs on its own or in our bodies. Hence this is the ultimate advantage of taking an herbal powder vs. a singular extraction or extract.
Turmeric/Curcumin Poor Oral Absorption
The biggest issue of Turmeric or Curcumin intake is its poor absorption. In a study on rats showed only 60% of a high dose was absorbed and some human studies fare even worse. As Turmeric or Curcumin are absorbed by the intestine, they are poorly absorbed due to the fatty content of Turmeric and its root where Curcumin is mostly concentrated. Due to such high fat content the herb should be taken with a fatty meal to improve its absorption. After intestinal absorption the liver performs what is called first pass metabolism, which is the bodies defense against any ingested toxin but it also causes major deactivation and degradation of the good products found in Turmeric and its major known active ingredient Curcumin. Another way to help with the absorption of Turmeric is to take it with black pepper. The compound piperine, which is responsible for the pungent flavor in black pepper, is also a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism. One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is by making them water soluble so they can be easily excreted. The piperine molecule, however, prevents that process. The bioavailability of curcumin (turmeric) will shoot up when taken with piperine (black pepper). Since after intestinal absorption the liver as stated performs a first pass metabolism piperine allows Curcumin and Turmeric to survive the first pass metabolism of the liver and be secreted into the blood stream. However, this is not at all needed if the Turmeric is taken under the tongue (sublingually) since it is completely bypassing the intestinal absorption and the liver first bypass metabolism.
BCM-95 (or Curcugreen) is a high-potency turmeric extract that overcomes the main challenge of taking a curcumin supplement, which is the relatively low absorption and bioavailability of curcumin in the human body once isolated from turmeric.
BCM-95 has tried to improve this absorption with increasing the extraction and purity content of the main component of Turmeric, Curcumin, with a high extraction ratio of 25:1. This is a wholly trade marked product of Arjuna Natural. There are other such high concentrated extracts such as TurmXTRA 60N, which is promoted as a high dose extract which will allow bioavailability by starting off with a high dose and high extract ratio.
These extraction methods are meant to provide the consumer with a high level of curcumin to eventually be absorbed considering the low blood levels of Turmeric biproducts when any form including pure curcumin is consumed.
But as mentioned above, due to use of the chemicals during extraction and concentration (filtration, purification, …) following unnecessary residual solvents such as Ethyl Acetate, Hexane, Methanol, Dichloromethane, Acetone, Toluene, and n-Butanol can be remained and stayed in final extract (in very low amount).
Under the Tongue Turmeric!
Sublingual, meaning literally 'under the tongue' refers to a method of administering substances via the mouth in such a way that the substances are rapidly absorbed via the blood vessels under the tongue rather than via the digestive tract. The route of absorption via the highly vascularized buccal mucosa of the mouth under the tongue allows the substances a more direct access to the blood circulation, thus providing direct systemic administration. This method has been used in the pharmaceutical industry to provide rapid and high rate of absorption for many drugs such as sublingual nitroglycerin.
There are today companies that provide such Turmeric under the tongue products which are meant to be taken under the tongue and since the dried powder is devoid of any fats by itself due to Spray Drying techniques, the rate of absorption is expected to be very high similar to other under the tongue water soluble products.
Knowing what you know from the above discussion you can understand that a natural Turmeric powder product under the tongue that can bypass intestinal absorption and liver first bypass metabolism and can directly absorb into the blood stream is far more superior to any unnatural extraction that is made with chemicals only to overcome absorption issues in the intestine. Such a supplement provides the entire benefit of the plant with excellent absorption directly into the blood stream and avoids the chemical processes involved in unnatural herbal extraction and avoids only providing one ingredient from the entire plant or herb’s slew of beneficial nutrients.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
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