Supplements containing the herb turmeric or its key constituent, curcumin, are popular for inflammation. However, ConsumerLab.com reported that three of nine turmeric/curcumin supplements recently selected for testing failed to pass its quality review. One of the failing products provided only 8 milligrams of curcuminoid compounds (hundreds of milligrams are typically recommended) and another was contaminated with small amounts of lead and cadmium. In brands of turmeric spice used in cooking, ConsumerLab.com found large numbers of insect parts, suggesting insanitary storage. One of the "organic" turmeric spices contained a whole larva of a cigarette beetle, a known storage pest.
Turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. Recent research has focused on turmeric's curcuminoid compounds, such as curcumin, which give turmeric its orange-yellow color. Studies suggest a role for curcuminoids in the treatment of a range of diseases including ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis (an autoimmune disease of the eye), as well as for indigestion. According to Nutrition Business Journal, sales of turmeric and curcumin supplements grew 30.6 percent in 2012 to $108 million.
Commenting on the findings, Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of ConsumerLab.com said, "Consumers need to select turmeric or curcumin supplements carefully to be sure they are getting a quality product. Some of the products that failed our testing delivered only a fraction of the dose expected from their labels and that dose may not be clinically useful. We also found a disgusting amount of filth from insects in some turmeric spices which, although not a safety concern, can largely be avoided."
To help consumers get the best value from a supplement, ConsumerLab.com calculated the cost to obtain a 500 mg dose of curcuminoids, which ranged from 21 cents to $1.64 among products that passed testing, some of which included bioavailability enhancers. ConsumerLab.com also identified one turmeric spice which was exceptionally clean and not contaminated with Salmonella, lead or cadmium.
The ConsumerLab.com report includes findings for nine supplements and five spices selected by ConsumerLab.com, as well as for seven supplements that passed ConsumerLab.com's Quality Certification Program. Two products similar to one that passed testing are also identified. Products covered in the report are Advanced Physician Formulas Curcumin, Curcumin Extreme, Doctor's Best Best Curcumin C3 Complex, Eclectic Institute Turmeric, Finest Nutrition (Walgreen) Turmeric, Jarrow Formulas Curcumin 95, Life Extension Super Bio-Curcumin, McCormick Ground Turmeric, Nature Made Turmeric Curcumin, Nature's Bounty Turmeric, NOW Curcumin, Organic India Turmeric Formula, Planetary Herbals Full Spectrum Turmeric Extract, Progressive Labs Curcumin BCM-95, Puritan's Pride Turmeric Curcumin, Simply Organic Turmeric, Solgar Turmeric, The Spice Hunter Ground Turmeric 100% Organic, The Spice Hunter India Turmeric (Ground), Thompson Turmeric Curcumin, Vitacost Turmeric, Vitamin World Turmeric Curcumin, and Whole Foods Market Organic Fair Trade Ground Turmeric.
The report also provides information about the use of turmeric and curcumin supplements, including suggested dosages, bioavailability issues, and potential side effects.