Beyond Yellow Curry: Assessing Commercial Curcumin Absorption Technologies

J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(4):347-58. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2014.950392. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Background: Few natural products have demonstrated the range of protective and therapeutic promise as have turmeric and its principal bioactive components: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Success in translating this potential into tangible benefits has been limited by inherently poor intestinal absorption, rapid metabolism, and limited systemic bioavailability. Seeking to overcome these limitations, food ingredient formulators have begun to employ a variety of approaches to enhance absorption and bioactivity. Many of these strategies improve upon the age-old practice of consuming turmeric in fat-based sauces, such as in a fat-rich yellow curry. However, there exists uncertainty as to how the various commercially available offerings compare to each other in terms of either uptake or efficacy, and this uncertainty leaves physicians and nutritionists with a dearth of data for making recommendations to interested patients and consumers. Further complicating the issue are recent data suggesting that formulation strategies may not equally enhance the absorption of individual curcuminoids, a significant issue in that these curcuminoids exhibit somewhat different physiologic properties.

Objective: This review introduces needed order to the curcumin marketplace by examining bioavailability studies on a number of commercial curcumin ingredients and evaluating them on a level playing field.

Methods: The comparative analysis includes standard pharmacokinetic parameters and a new metric, relative mass efficiency (E). Relative mass efficiency allows for the comparison of different formulations even in cases in which the weight percentage of curcuminoids is vastly different.

Results: A hydrophilic carrier dispersed curcuminoid formula exhibits 45.9 times the bioavailability of the standard purified 95 percent curcuminoid preparation and, based on relative mass efficiency, 1.5 times the bioavailability of the next best commercial ingredient, a cyclodextrin complex.

Conclusions: Delivery strategies can significantly improve the bioavailability of curcuminoids. Total formula mass is important for making practical formulation decisions about dosing, cost and space.

Keywords: bioavailability; curcuma longa; curcumin; curcuminoids.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Commerce*
  • Curcuma / chemistry*
  • Curcumin / analogs & derivatives
  • Curcumin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacokinetics*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Curcumin