I grew up eating meals seasoned with turmeric. It is a commonly used spice in Malaysian cuisines. If you make curry, it’s a must-have ingredient. You may have heard that, as with most other herbs and spices, turmeric also supports good health.

Turmeric is a root. The magic inside is rich yellow curcumin, which comprises less than 3% of the turmeric root. Curcumin is responsible for most of turmeric’s health benefits. It’s important to understand that turmeric and curcumin are not the same thing.

Hundreds of scientific studies have been done on curcumin. We have strong evidence that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and helps with pain relief. It supports the immune system and may one day play a role in fighting cancer.1  There are also studies indicating that curcumin may help support brain health and lighten your mood.

There are a lot of reasons to consider supplementing your diet with curcumin, and a few reasons to be very cautious about potentially wasting your money on the wrong form of this supplement.

That’s because the body absorbs less than 10% of the curcumin in extracts. Most of it is broken down by the liver then it quite literally goes down the toilet. It never reaches the bloodstream or your cells where it can do its job.

But there is a way to get more curcumin into your body, so you can get the health benefits. Because curcumin is a fat-soluble molecule, the best way to encourage the body to absorb it is to encapsulate it in protective lipid (fatty) micelles. That way, it can bypass the liver and enter the bloodstream. You get the benefits of curcumin without having to take mega doses. I know of just one curcumin supplement on the market, CoreCumin, that is currently using this technology.

So, bottom line: Enjoy turmeric in the kitchen but I don’t recommend using it as a supplement because you are very unlikely to get enough of its active ingredient (curcumin) to get a health benefit. And if you want to try supplementing curcumin, choose one with micelle technology so enough of it will actually get delivered into your cells.