Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory phytochemical found in turmeric, the bright orange rhizome we powder into a spice. Not everybody suffers from a disease which is linked to inflammation, but chances are everybody could benefit from the effects curcumin provides, which include anti-cancer, pro-healing, and antioxidant activities.
Curcumin is only a small fraction of the turmeric root—on average around 3%–and it is poorly absorbed (although when consumed in whole form from turmeric it appears there are other phytochemicals present which help increase total absorption). While we could certainly get enough curcumin from ground turmeric alone, it would require commitment. To get the standard 500 mg dose, you would need to use a little over 3 tablespoons in one sitting!
Curcumin from a capsule is easier to do, and has the added benefit of being convenient to carry around (in case you get a headache when you’re not at home) and being more highly bioavailable (at least when the supplement comes from a high-quality manufacturer using technology like phytosome-delivery).
Curcumin is only effective for a short period of time because our liver eventually breaks it down. When it is active, though, it has superb anti-inflammatory effects, can relieve temporary pain in a similar manner to NSAIDs like ibuprofen, and is a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests it might help prevent the development of many diseases with an inflammatory link, such as Alzheimer’s, so even if you currently don’t have any inflammatory conditions, it is a potentially useful means to reduce risk.